The 10 Best Irish Acts

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Best Irish Musicians

Editor’s Note: Thanks to a long-awaited return from the great Damien Rice, we thought it timely to re-post our ten favorite Irish acts.

Being a quarter Irish and from a family that treats St. Patty’s day like Easter, I thought it only appropriate that I would write and advocate for the Celts in the music. So in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, a time of year for Lucky Charms, excessive whiskey drinking, and green ketchup, we offer you up the ten greatest Irish musicians of all time.

10. The Pogues

I read plenty about the Pogues but had never listened to them until writing this list, and we felt they definitely deserved to make it. The Pogues were essentially the Celtic Sex Pistols, with bands like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphy’s no doubt being birthed from what the Pogues fertile loins.


9.       
The Frames/Glen Hansard

Glen Hansard from Swell Season and the Frames

Glen Hansard broke big with his little-film-that-could, Once, but the Dublin singer/songwriter had been fronting a pretty respectable Irish band in The Frames for a full 15 years before Once. Though, I have only listened to my share of the Frames, I do have to say his songs as Swell Season (his project with Czech songstress Markéta Irglová) stand as his strongest work.

8.       Flogging Molly

Flogging Molly band photo

I admittedly constantly mix up Dropkick Murphy’s (a band from a very Irish town in Boston playing Irish punk) with Flogging Molly (a band from an actual Irish town in Dublin, though formed in the LA, playing Irish punk). Flogging Molly though no doubt makes brash, fun music perfect for dude times.

7.       Thin Lizzy

Thin Lizzy
One of the more underappreciated 70’s hard rock bands, Thin Lizzy packed some serious punch with their two lead guitars as well as had surprisingly poignant lyrics for a heavy metal band. On top of that, how can you not love a band that has a black Irish bassist (Phil Lynott) as its frontman playing heavy metal, a predominantly white genre of music, especially in the 70’s.

6.      The  Cranberries

Oh sweet, sweet nostalgia. In the 90’s, the best song on the radio to sing along to was by far “Zombie”, and others like “Linger” and “Dreams” stand tall against the rest of the 90’s chick rock field.

5.       Damien Rice

Damien Rice, Irish singer

When putting this list together, we have to admit we had a difficult time finding a ton great Irish musicians (we blame the potato famine), but unlike the famine, the country has no shortage of great singer/songwriters. Damien Rice is no exception as his small, earnest voice has the power to move even the coldest heart. Unfortunately, beside his incredible debut O, Rice has very little else to shout about.

4.       Sinéad O’Connor

Sinead O'Connor, best female singer from Ireland

While she may be bald, controversial, and a wee bit crazy (how else do you explain someone coming out as a lesbian and then retracting the statement?), that should in no way take away from who is surely Ireland’s leading lady in music. Sinéad’s voice is arrestingly beautiful in a way few others are.

3.       My Bloody Valentine

Noise, noise noise. This Dublin foursome helped birth the shoegaze movement and also released one real masterpiece in Loveless, which is definitely among my favorite albums from the 90’s.

2.       Them/Van Morrison

Van Morrison, singer/songwriter from Ireland

From being the front man of Them giving riveting performances in classics like “Mystic Eyes” and “Gloria”, to being one of the best singer/songwriters in the late 60’s/early 70’s, Belfast-born Van Morrison has remained one of the most iconic voices in rock music history.

1.       U2

U2-Best Band from Ireland

Love them or hate them, U2 has arguably been the biggest band in the world over the past 30 year stretch, maintaining the luck of the Irish. Sure they can seem a bit pompous at times especially considering they come from such humble Celtic roots, but the band has given us some incredibly great songs (“I Will Follow”, “Pride”, “Wild Honey”, ) and albums (Joshua Tree, War, Achtung Baby), and put on a spectacular live show.

Three musicians who couldn’t seem to find the pot of gold:


Todd-Enya

When Todd was a wee-child, he would be rocked to sleep by his father and mother, who were equipped with plenty of jay bones and music from the mother of New Age, Enya. To this day, “Only Time”, “China Rose”, and other Enya classics exist deep in Todd’s subconscious, constantly calming him in amongst hectic Hollywood.

Wes- Dexy’s Midnight Runners

Dexy's Midnight Runners, band from Ireland

Sure the band may lack a depth of catalog, but Dexy’s Midnight Runners released what I would argue as the greatest one hit wonder of all time, the rallying cry of “Come On Eileen”. Plus, nothing gets the blood flowing more than belting out ‘toora ta loo rye aye’ while singing karoake.

Austin-Michael Flatley, Lord of Dance

Michael Flatley of the Riverdance

While Michael Flatley of Riverdance fame doesn’t make music in the traditional sense, no one makes handsomer sounds with their feet then the Lord of Dance. Austin gets transported to the evergreen valleys of Wicklow County when he hears the majestic sounds of Flatley’s sweet feet.

So there is the list. Let us know what we unforgivably missed, or got right, but still feel free to just rip on us in general …

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Author: Wes

Hoosier. Writer. Music Buff. Media Man. Tourist. Polar Bear.

8 thoughts on “The 10 Best Irish Acts”

  1. Are there any bands comprised of “little people” that happen to dress up like ye leprechauns? If so, that should for sure top ye lads fine list.

    1. As a whole, our blog covers Rock and Roll and everything that has stemmed from it (contemporary pop included), so that is why we didn’t include traditional Celtic acts like the Chieftains and the Dubliners. If we covered traditional music as well, those two would most likely make the list.

  2. And it’s also interesting that two acts in your list released new albums recently. I like the new Cranberries record, but it’s Sinead O’Connor’s album that I’m very excited about

      1. NPR had streamed the entire album (I had included a link to that in one of my recent posts). I checked that link now but unfortunately, the audio is no longer available there.

  3. Can’t argue with the top three. And glad you’ve given U2 top slot – has to be right. Too easy to diss them on account of Bono’s mouth and occasional grandiosity. I’ve a lot of affection for Thin Lizzy – they didn’t just rock, Phil Lynott could sing a tender love song. Could have been the Irish Springsteen had he lived.

    While strictly Scottish, I count the Waterboys as Irish favourities; “Fisherman’s Blues” and “Room to Roam” are real celtic classics.

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