The popularity of folk music has been on a steady incline over the past few years, and with it a stream of events, festivals and shows with folk at the very core.
From every corner of the country, urban and rural folk musicians are weaving contemporary issues and concerns through the prism of ancient musical motif and song, as well as adding their own unique spark to the mix.
Folk music has a powerful ability to show us who we are, with a keen eye and ear to what’s happening in the world around us and a retrospective honouring of what has come before us.
This is nothing new to those who love and make the music of the people, however, this popular spotlight serves to give folk music a platform for more people to enjoy it. And that is a very good thing.
Here are some emerging artists of note:
Landless - The Trees Grow Tall
Unaccompanied traditional songs from Irish, Scottish, English and American traditions in close four-part harmony, sung by Ruth Clinton, Meabh Meir, Sinead Lynch and Lily Power, AKA Landless, and performed with reverence and finesse.
Hoodman Blind - Down in the Willow Garden
Contemporary folk trio Hoodman Blind are Sean O Dalaigh (fiddle), Finn Harper (accordion) and Niamh O Brien (harp), their roots in Irish music and song and their wings stretching towards the Scandinavian folk tradition.
Darragh O’Dea - Mary Robinson
This song brilliantly captures the small town limitations of gender and race labeling as well as the deep seated culture of functional alcoholism.
Laura Ní Carthaigh - Cronin’s Plough
A song about farming in the past and now, the plundered ploughman and the relentless modernisation of farming in Ireland breaking our connections to the land. Inspired by Mr Jim Cronin, an organic farmer who works his fields with horses. Laura also does gigs to raise money for planting native trees!
Brona McVittie - Under The Pines
County Down Native Brona McVittie’s music has been described as 'beautifully embroidered folk… summons up the spirits of both Talk Talk and the Unthanks'.
Niamh Regan - The Sweetest Drop
With her intriguing and intimate voice and adept guitar filigree, Niamh embodies that mix of contemporary freshness and folk richness.
Ailie - The Rocky Road To Dublin
Leitrim Native Ailie Blunnie breathes brave new life into this classic folk ballad (shortlisted for Ireland's Favourite Folk Song).
Albert Niland - Sail on Jimmy – Pagan Ritual
Having lived abroad for many years and followed his musical curiosities and wanderlust into the world of Flamenco guitar playing, rock and folk. Galway native Albert Niland is back on home ground. His song Sail on Jimmy – Pagan Ritual has recently been covered by Christy Moore.
The Jeremiahs - The Wild Barrow Road
The Jeremiahs combine traditional and contemporary sounds to create their own brand of urban folk music. Since founding in 2013 the trio have toured all over Ireland and Europe. Their 2017 album The Femme Fatale of Maine is a great collection of songs and tune sets, with sterling musicianship and Joe Gibney’s powerful vocals.
Ríognach Connolly/The Breath - Only Stories:
Armagh born, Manchester based singer and flautist Ríognach Connolly’s voice is mesmerizing. Her musical output is varied and borderless, collaborating with AfroCelt Sound System, Folk-Hoppers Honey Feet and the impressive collective Band of Burns. Here she is with Stuart McCallum and their duo The Breath:
Ruth Smith presents Simply Folk on RTÉ Radio 1 on Sundays at 10pm. Ruth is also one of the judges for Ireland's Favourite Folk Song - find out more here.