St. Patrick’s Day is approaching, a time in which many casual listeners decide to indulge in a bit of Irish music. Most gravitate towards old recordings by The Chieftains, The Irish Rovers, and The Clancy Brothers. There’s nothing wrong with that. The Chieftains have been outstanding global ambassadors for Irish music, and the Rovers and Clancys brought Celtic exuberance to North America. But contemporary Celtic music owes more to The Bothy Band than any other source.

The Bothies formed in 1974 and broke up around 1980. Unlike previous most bands, The Bothies took advantage of amplification to mix instruments in unique combinations. They did the same with the music, always true to tradition, but never afraid to mix and match genres. At their height the lineup consisted of Kevin Burke (fiddle), Paddy Keenan (uilleann pipes, tin whistle), Matt Molloy (flute, whistles), Donal Lunny (bouzouki, guitar), and siblings Triona Ni Dhomhnaill (harpsichord, clavinet, vocals) and Micheál O’ Domhaill (guitar, vocals). Liz Carroll recalls feeling as if the entire world shifted when the Bothies blew into Chicago in the mid-70s. Lots of folks feel that way. The band’s seminal 1979 release After Hours: Recorded Live in Paris (Green Linnet 3016) has been much emulated but seldom paralleled.

Here’s a dozen others—in alphabetical order--playing in the spirit of The Bothy Band that you can check out for St. Patrick’s day.

1. Altan, Harvest Storm (Green Linnet 1117)—Not their best-selling CD, but one that crackles with energy and lets singer Mairéad Ni Mhaonaigh air out her delicate vocals a bit.

2. Kevin Burke & Micheál O’ Domhaill, Portland (Green Linnet 1041). After the Bothies broke up and scattered, Burke and O’ Domhaill reconvened in Oregon to make a 1982 record that remains pathbreaking.

3. Liz Carroll, Lost in the Loop (Green Linnet 1199). With the possible exceptions of Scotland’s Alisdair Fraser and Burke himself, there is no finer active Celtic fiddler than Carroll. Add John Doyle to the mix and this is as good as it gets.

4. Karan Casey, Songlines (Shanachie 78007). Casey is the heiress apparent to Triona Ni Dhomhnaill as a mighty mite with a voice that seems like it can’t possibly come from such a tiny frame.

5. De Dannan, A Jacket of Batteries (Green Linnet 3053). And those batteries would light up a village. Traditional tunes with new material and a cover of The Beatles. Now that’s the Bothies’ spirit.

6. Dervish, Live in Palma (Compass 7-4340-2). Put a premier and innovative band in front of a huge audience and let the magic happen.

7. Frankie Gavin, Frankie Goes to Town (Green Linnet 3051). This is an album that deserved much more attention than it got, a fiddle masterpiece of mostly traditional tunes, many of which were resurrected from scratchy 78s.

8. Gráda, Cloudy Day Navigation (Compass 7-4451-2). This band is the logical projection of what the Bothies started. Their mash-up of jazz, pop, and trad defies categories.

9. Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, Live in Seattle (Green Linnet 1195). And how are they live! This duo is known for their casual pacing, but they burn down the house with this release.

10. Lunasa, The Kinnitty Sessions, (Compass 7-4377-2). Anything from Lunasa will delight, but this intimate live, one-take session proves there are no studio tricks. Instrumentally they are the closest thing to The Bothies and Kevin Crawford is Matt Molloy’s doppelganger.

11. Solas, Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers, (Shanachie 78010). This 1997 effort from best-loved Irish-American ensemble captures Solas with its most simpatico lineup and before they got slick.

12. Thunderhead, Thunderhead (Flying Fish 70266). This hidden gem from Grey Larsen and Malcolm Daiglish marries Irish, French, Belgian, Greek, and American tunes. Find out why the title track is so often covered.

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