Aly Bain  
Renowned for his Shetland style of fiddle playing, Aly Bain was born in the Shetland town of Lerwick in 1946. He began learning the fiddle at the age of 11, and earned money playing around the local area. He recorded two albums in the mid-'70s with his mentor Tom Anderson, and has also recorded with Richard Thompson and Bert Jansch. Bain is well-known in England as a TV presenter for his series Down Home (and its accompanying albums), which examined the spread of fiddle and folk music from the British Isles to North America. His first solo album appeared in 1985, and the many follow-ups also explore common roots, including not only Scottish folk, but songs from France, Ireland, Canada, and on Aly Meets the Cajuns (1988), the music of Louisiana. Bain joined the Boys of the Lough in 1988, and has hosted two other English series, Push the Boat Out and The Shetland Set. The solo Ruby followed in 1998. John Bush, All-Music Guide

The Battlefield Band  
The Glasgow-based Battlefield Band is one of Scotland's foremost folk-revival bands. Their older albums are quite traditional in style and content, but their later ones are tinged with pop. Along the way, they were among the first bands to incorporate the sounds of electric keyboards and the great Highland bagpipe into a folk-pop setting. Steve Winick, All-Music Guide

Brendan Begley  
The younger brother of influential accordion player Seamus Begley, Brendan Begley is as much a master of traditional Irish accordion playing. Begley showcased his talents on the albums, "Seana Choirce", released in 1987 and "We Won't Go Home `Til Morning", released in 1997, performing traditional Irish dance tunes solo and with accompaniment by piper Liam O'Flynn, pianist Brid Cranitch or guitarists Stephen Cooney and Frankie Lane. Begley, who has guested on albums by the Chieftains and the Boys Of The Lough, hosts a traditional music program on Irish-language television. Together with flute player Paul McGrattan, fiddler Paul O'Shaughnessy and bouzouki player Noel O'Grady, Begley is a member of Beginish, an Irish superband formed in 1996. In a review of a performance by Beginish, "The Belfast Telegram" wrote, "The peerless singing of Brendan Begley literally breathed new life into that well worn Donegal standard, `The Rose Of Arranmore'. Irish music doesn't get much better than this". ~ Craig Harris, All-Music Guide

Derek Bell  
Although best known as the harpist with the Chieftains, Derek Bell's career includes a raft of musical achievements and credits extending into the worlds of both classical and folk music -- and he didn't begin playing the harp until he was in his 30s. A major figure in music education as well as music performance, Bell is perhaps the leading Irish harpist in the world, and has done more to elevate the instrument to a level of international respectability before a wider audience than any other musician today.

Born George Derek Fleetwood Bell in Belfast in 1935, Bell was the son of a traditional Irish fiddler, from whom he received his earliest musical training. His own musical inclinations, beginning at age nine, were originally directed in formal classical direction. As a boy, he considered the harp to be "a reward for goodness to be played in heaven." He took up the piano and learned the xylophone, and became a highly proficient reed player, excelling on the oboe and cor anglais. Bell received a degree with honors from the Royal College of Music in London in 1957, and a Bachelor of Music degree from Trinity College in Dublin two years later.

His first musical post was behind the scenes, as manager of the City of Belfast Symphony Orchestra in 1957. He began his performing career on the oboe and the English horn (cor anglais), with which he worked as a soloist with various ensembles thru the mid-'60s. Bell took up the harp in his early 30s with the encouragement of Alan Tongue, the musician/composer/arranger who later introduced him to the Chieftains. He took his first lessons from Sheila Larchet-Cuthbert in Dublin, on an instrument he borrowed from the Irish Arts Council, and later studied with Gwendolyn Mason in London. During this time, he also served as chorus repetiteur and deputy chorus master of the Northern Ireland Radio and TV Orchestra, under his former teacher David Curry (1899-1971), a post he held from 1965 until 1976. In 1970, he joined the faculty of the Belfast Academy of Music and Dramatic Art as a Professor of Harp and Irish Harp. In 1975, Bell also began a career as a harp soloist, touring internationally.

But it was in 1972 that Bell took on the most visible musical activity of his career, when he joined the line-up of the Irish folk group the Chieftains, just in time for the recording of their album Chieftains 4. Bell's arrival -- which coincided with the decision by the Chieftains to become a full-time occupation after years of semi-professional activity -- and his presence on harp, oboe, and dulcimer greatly extended the range of the group, which had acquired a large following in England and, during the mid-'70s, became an international phenomenon. Their next album, Chieftains 5, their first released by Island Records in England and America, received more exposure than any of their previous work, aided by the group's appearance on the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon that same year, which earned them heavily radio play. A tour of the United States allowed the Chieftains to establish themselves on a new continent with hundreds of thousands of new fans.

Partly thanks to his association with the Chieftains, Bell's solo albums, which date from the 1970s onward, have been readily available in America, not only at shops catering to Irish and general Celtic interests but better general interest record stores as well. With the arrival of the compact disc, his older albums have been picked up for license in America by the ethnic specialty label Shanachie Records.

Bell's prominence was such that he became the focus and subject of several television shows in England, including Derek Bell's Concert Party for the BBC, in which he was featured playing ten instruments. His interest in Irish folk music has led to his writing numerous arrangements of traditional Irish folksongs for different size ensembles. He has also composed many classical works, and arranged others derived from various ethnic sources, including Hungarian and Peruvian dances; the Tocatta Burlesca (a recording of which, with Bell playing eight instruments, has been made), two symphonies, and suite entitled The Violet Flame, many works for solo harp and orchestra.

His work with the Irish harp, in repertory ranging across many centuries, has helped elevate it from near-extinction to one of the most beloved of folk instruments. Along with his work with the Chieftains, Bell has continued in his academic work, teaching and playing into the 1990s. Bruce Eder, All-Music Guide

Frances Black  
A pure vocal tone and an energetic, pop-minded delivery has made Frances Black one of Ireland's top vocalists. In 1995 and 1997, Black was named by the Irish Record Industry Awards (IRMA) as Ireland's Best Female Artist. She also received the Most Popular Artist award at the National Awards ceremony.

A former member of Arcady and The Black Family, in 1993 Black made her solo debut with two tracks on the million-selling, multi-artist compilation Woman's Heart. An album-related tour with Maura O'Connell, Dolores Keane, Sharon Shannon, Sinead Lohan and her sister, Mary Black, broke all of Ireland's box office records. While Black's debut solo album, Talk to Me (released in 1994), sold over 100, 000 copies and spent eight weeks at the top of Ireland's music charts, her releases The Sky Road (1995), The Smile on Your Face (1996) and Don't Get Me Wrong (1998) further established her as an internationally known performer. Black has proven as effective interpreting the songs of American singer/songwriters as she is with Irish music. Talk to Me featured four songs by Nanci Griffith ("On Grafton Street," "Talk to Me While I'm Listening, " "Always Will" and "Time of Inconvenience." Among Black's most successful singles are re-recordings of Acker Bilk's "Stranger on the Shore" in October 1996 and the Yvonne Elliman-popularized tune "Love Me, Please" in August 1997.

Black made her professional debut in 1986 with The Black Family, a group that also featured her three brothers (Michael, Shay and Martin) and her sister (Mary). In addition to singing on the group's two albums (The Black Family in 1986 and Time for Touching Home in 1988) -- Black sang on her brothers' album, What a Time. Shortly after recording Time for Touching Home, Black joined Irish trad-folk band Arcady, which also featured accordion players Shannon and Jackie Daly and bouzouki player Johnny Moynihan. Black remained with the band until 1994, when she formed a duo with Irish singer/songwriter Kieran Goss. In 1994, Black performed a benefit concert and recorded an EP, Fear Is the Enemy of Love and Children, for the Aoibhneas Women's Refuge that featured her children, Eoghan and Aoife, singing background vocals. ~ Craig Harris, All-Music Guide

Mary Black  
Mary Black is a performer equally at home singing traditional Irish folk tunes and contemporary music including blues, rock, jazz, country and soul. She was born into a musical family the daughter of a fiddler and a singer. She started out professionally with her brother and sister in Dublin nightclubs and then performed with General Humbert, a folk group until 1982 when she released her eponymous solo debut. The album made it to the Top Five on the Irish album charts and won the Irish Independent Arts Award for Music. At the invitation of Alec Finn, Black joined the band De Dannan. A week later, she took part in the recording of Song of Ireland with them. She remained with De Dannan for three years. In 1984, Black helped produce and sang back-up on the Black's Family Favourites album. She was still performing with De Dannan when she launched her solo career with the Declan Sinnott-produced largely pop album Without the Fanfare. Many of the tracks went gold and for both 1987 and 1988 she was named Best Female Artist in the Irish Rock Music Awards Poll. Black's music crossed the Atlantic in 1990 when her 1989 album No Frontiers, debuted in the U.S. and climbed to the Top 20 of the New Adult Contemporary charts. It was also a top seller in Ireland. That year Black began a successful concert tour of Japan. Though her music is firmly based in Irish tradition, Black is interested in performing all kinds of music. Her first influences included Sandy Denny and the Fairport Convention. Other influences include Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin and Bonnie Raitt. Sandra Brennan, All-Music Guide

Luka Bloom
aka.  Barry Moore 

Before making his American debut, Barry Moore recorded three albums in Ireland. Perhaps because his brother is the revered Irish singer Christy Moore, he changed his name to Luka Bloom -- Luka is taken from Suzanne Vega's song, Bloom from James Joyce's Ulysses. With his literate, melodic original songs and impassioned live performances, Bloom earned a devoted following in the New York area, which led to his record contract with Reprise. While he can occasionally suffer from over-worked lyrics and a cloying cuteness, Bloom is one of the best post-punk folk performers and songwriters. Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All-Music Guide

The Bothy Band  
In the three years the Bothy Band were together, they emerged as one of the exciting bands in Celtic history. Although much of their repertoire was rooted in the traditional music of Ireland, their enthusiasm and musical virtuosity set off ripples that continue to be felt. 

The genesis of the Bothy Band was sparked, in 1975, when bouzouki player Donal Lunny left Planxty to form his own record company, Mulligan. One of his first projects brought him together with uillean piper Paddy Keenan, flute and whistle player Matt Molloy, fiddler Paddy Glackin and accordion player Tony MacMahon. The group was soon joined by siblings Micheal O'Domhnaill on acoustic guitar and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill, on clavinet and vocals. Hailing from a musical family, with their aunt having contributed 286 songs to the Dublin University folklore collection, the two had previously performed, along with their sister Mairead, in the traditional Irish group Skara Brae. Initially calling themselves Seachtar, which translates as "seven," the group reformed as the Bothy Band after MacMahon left to become a BBC producer. The band's debut came on February 2, 1975 when they performed at Trinity College in Dublin. 

Despite their great legacy, the Bothy Band only recorded three studio albums -- The Bothy Band, Old Hag You Have Killed Me and Out of the Wind Into the Sun. A live album, After Hours, released in 1979, was recorded at the Palace Des Arts in Paris. In 1995, a second live album, Live In Concert, was released that included tracks recorded in London by the BBC at the Pares Theater in July 1976 and the Kilburn National Theater in July 1978.

The Bothy Band featured a variety of fiddlers during their three-year tenure. Original fiddler Glackin was replaced by Donegal-style fiddler Tommy Peoples on the band's debut album and by heavily ornamented fiddler Kevin Burke on the second release. 

With the breakup of the Bothy Band in 1979, the band's musicians continued to play influential musical roles. Donal Lunny returned for a while to Planxty and then helped to form the Celtic rock band Moving Hearts. He's continued to work as a record producer and has occasionally collaborated with former Silly Wizards vocalist Andy Stewart. Moving to the United States, Triona Ni Domhnaill formed the short-lived band Touchstone and, later, joined with her brother to form both Relativity and Nightnoise. Matt Molloy and Kevin Burke continue to work together in Patrick Street.  

The Boys of the Lough  
A fun-loving approach to Celtic music has made the Boys of the Lough one of folk music's most influential groups. In the three decades since they were formed, the Ireland-based band has been instrumental in the evolution of traditional Irish music.

The Boys of the Lough initially came together in 1967 as a trio featuring Cathal McConnell (who had won the all-Ireland championship in flute and tin whistle in 1962), Tommy Gunn, and Robin Morton. When Gunn left two years later, McConnell and Morton recorded their first album, An Irish Jubilee, as a duo. After meeting Shetland fiddler Aly Bain and singer/guitarist Mike Whelan at the Folkirk Folk Festival in 1971, the two duos agreed to pool their resources.

The group continued to experience numerous personnel changes. In 1972, Whelan was replaced by guitarist and vocalist Dick Gaughan, who was replaced a year later by Northumbrian cittern, banjo and mandolin player Dave Richardson. Among the six albums recorded by this lineup were two live albums -- Live at Passim's, recorded at the Cambridge, Massachusetts coffeehouse, and Wish You Were Here, recorded while touring the Scottish Highlands.

In 1979, original member Robin Morton left the band and was replaced by Richardson's brother, Tish, on guitar. Tish Richardson remained with the group until 1983, when he died in an auto accident, and was replaced by British guitarist Chris Newman. Uilleann pipes, tin whistle and mouth-organ player Christy O'Leary, who had previously played with De Dannan, was added at the same time. In October 1997, Newman and O'Leary were replaced by accordion player Brendan Begley and guitar, mandocello and piano player Garry O'Briain. Craig Harris, All-Music Guide

Paul Brady  
Talented and prolific singer Paul Brady has enjoyed a career that has seen him pass through several major bands and on to a successful solo phase. He began performing as a hotel piano player in Donegal, Ireland at the age of sixteen and graduated to being guitarist, during the 1960s, in two rhythm and blues bands: Rockhouse and the Cult. There followed a stint with the Johnstons as a guitarist and singer that ended in 1974, and a shorter one with Planxty that saw Brady touring extensively but recording no albums. In 1976, Brady recorded an album with Andy Irvine that he now regards as his best. Welcome Here Kind Stranger, released in 1978 was the summation of his interest in Irish music and was followed in 1981 by the appropriately named Hard Station, Brady's engagement with commercial rock. Since that time, Brady has recorded a slew of albums and collaborated with Bonnie Raitt and Richard Thompson. ~ Leon Jackson, All-Music Guide

Maire Brennan  
For many years, Maire Brennan was the lead singer of the Celtic new age group Clannad. In 1992, she released her first solo album, Maire, on Atlantic Records. Three years later, she released Misty Eyed Adventures on BGM. For 1998's Perfect Time, she switched labels and signed with Word/Epic. Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All-Music Guide

Joe Burke  
One of Ireland's best-known accordion players, Burke comes out of the great Galway squeezebox tradition. Steve Winick, All-Music Guide

Kevin Burke  
Kevin Burke is a master of the highly ornamental Sligo style of Irish fiddling. A former member of the Bothy Band, Patrick Street and a duo he shared with Irish guitarist Micheal O'Domhnaill, Burke has also performed as a soloist and with his own band, Open House. 

A native of London, England, Burke inherited his love of Irish music from his parents who had emigrated from Sligo County, Ireland. His music career began shortly after moving to Ireland in 1974, when he teamed up with singer-songwriter Christy Moore. who had just left the influential Irish trad-rock band Planxty. Replacing Tommy Peoples in the Bothy Band in 1976, he remained with the group until 1979 and was featured on three of their albums -- Old Hag You Have Killed Me, After Hours (Live in Paris) and Out of the Wind, Into the Sun. 

When the Bothy Band separated, Burke emigrated to Portland, Oregon. In addition to making a guest appearance on Arlo Guthrie's album, Washington County, he joined the Bothy Band's guitarist Michael O'Domhnaill for several tours and two albums -- Promenade and Portland -- as a duo. An early-1980s tour, "Legends of Irish Music," brought Burke together with influential Irish musicians Andy Irvine (vocals, bouzouki, mandolin and harmonica) and Jackie Daly (accordion). Following the tour, they continued to perform together as Patrick Street. 

Recording a solo album, Open House, in 1992, Burke assembled the musicians -- Mark Graham (harmonica, clarinet, vocals), Paul Kotopish (guitar, mandolin, cittern, bass) and Sandy Silva (percussion) -- who became his current band. 

In 1992 and 1997, Burke toured and recorded with Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham and Breton fiddler Christian Lemaitre as the "Celtic Fiddle Festival." Burke has also recorded three instruction tapes for Homespun Tapes and Videos -- Music Instruction -- Fiddle, Twenty Irish Fiddle Tunes and Learn to Play Irish Fiddle. In Concert, his first solo recording in 15 years, followed in 1999. Craig Harris, All-Music Guide

Buttons & Bows  
This group is made up of Jackie Daly, along with brothers Seamus and Manus McGuire on fiddles. Steve Winick, All-Music Guide

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