Top Ten folk rock songs

September 6, 2022
Top 10 Indie and Folk Rock

Turn these tunes up to 11 and get your head bopping to these tunes this St. Patrick’s Day.Turn these tunes up to 11 and get your head bopping to these tunes this St. Patrick’s Day. Photo by: Getty

Way back in the 1970s, Irish, Scottish and British bands – and the diaspora from those countries overseas – decided it was time to revive traditional Celtic music by plugging in and dialling up the volume.

It worked.

Celtic rock is a pretty broad category, and we're defining it as broadly as possible here – from classic Horslips and Moving Hearts tracks powered by electric instruments, to Celtic punk and modern sounds. Bear with us, though, it's all great stuff. Here's our top ten list, in no particular order.

Did we get it completely, utterly wrong? Miss a classic? Let us know in the comments.

1. Whiskey in the Jar – Thin Lizzy

This is the classic traditional Irish song covered by a rock band. So popular and well-known, in fact, that it was covered by Metallica years later. But it's famous for good reason – the way the traditional lyrics have been melded with that classic lead guitar hook was, and still is, brilliant.

2. King of the Fairies - Horslips

Horslips were one of the first genuine 'celtic rock' acts from Ireland back in the early 70s - in case you couldn't tell from the fashion in this video. It was shot from the top of the Bank of Ireland building on Baggot Street in 1973.
3. Dirty Old Town - The Pogues

The Pogues are usually thought of as Celtic punk more than anything else, but in this version of 'Dirty Old Town' (originally written in 1949) they bring their banjo and add a folk-rock twist with a harmonica and strings that makes it one of the best-known versions of this song.

4. Hiroshima Nagasaki Russian Roulette - Moving Hearts

Moving Hearts only stayed together for a few years, but they made a lasting impression on the Irish music scene, with Christy Moore, Dónal Lunny and Declan Sinnott all going on to have successful careers in their own right. This track has the lightning-quick tempo associated with much of the group's, and Moore's, music.

5. I'm Shipping up to Boston - Dropkick Murphys

Odds are you know this one - it's used aplenty in advertising and television, and for good reason. The crunching electric guitar goes far better than you might think with the accordion.

6. Drink the Night Away - Gaelic Storm

Gaelic Storm are based in the United States, and appeared in the 1997 film Titanic, where they played the Irish band at the below-decks party. In fact, one of their most popular tracks on streaming networks such as Spotify continues to be 'An Irish Party in Third Class.' But there's much more to the band than that soundtrack - like this cracking tune.

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