Recommended listenings - bouzouki at work.

(Version 3.0 - Jun 20, 2005)

NOTE: I have given the appropriate details for album releases on CD as much as possible. Where the given details refer to a version on vinyl it is noted in the text. The year given with each record is that printed on the album. In case of CD this may not always be the year the original record was issued.

Donal Lunny

Probably the best known player of the Irish bouzouki, left-hander Donal is responsible for a huge amount of albums, either as a musician or as a producer, and often both. He was at the basis of top Irish bands Planxty, the Bothy Band and Moving Hearts. During part of his career he used to play a huge 10-string bouzouki, which was nicknamed "Blarge" (= bouzouki, large). Lateron he returned to the 8-string version of the instrument. He made one (much too short - only 45 minutes, but 45 minutes of fantastic music) solo album. He also participated in the making of a few major TV series on Irish music, "Bringing it All Back Home", "A River Of Sound", and recently for the Gaelic-speaking TV station Telefis na Gaeltachta (TnG) "Sult".

Recently he formed his own band, Coolfin, loosely based on the group of musicians that worked with him on the "Sult" shows, and did a very successful tour in the US and some other parts of the world. They also have an album out.

"Live in Dublin", Christy Moore, Donal Lunny & Jimmy Faulkner, Tara, TARA2005, 1978 (LP)
"Prosperous", Christy Moore, Tara, TARA2008, 1972 (**)
"1975", The Bothy Band, Mulligan, LUNCD002, 1975
"Old Hag You Have Killed Me", The Bothy Band, Mulligan, LUNCD007, 1976
"Out of the Wind, Into the Sun", The Bothy Band, Green Linnet, GLCD3013, 1977/1985
"Afterhours", The Bothy Band, Green Linnet, GLCD3016, 1978/1984
"Live in Concert", The Bothy Band, Windsong, WINCD060, 1994
"Andy Irvine & Paul Brady", Andy Irvine & Paul Brady, Mulligan, LUNCD008, 1976*
"The Connachtman's Rambles", Martin O'Connor, Mulligan, LUN027, 1979 (LP)
"Matt Molloy", Matt Molloy, Green Linnet, GLCD3008, 1984
"Heathery Breeze", Matt Molloy, Shanachie, 79064, 1993
"Stony Steps", Matt Molloy, Claddagh Records, CCF18CD, 1987
"Planxty", Planxty, Polydor, 2383 186, 1973 (LP)
"Cold Blow and the Rainy Night", Planxty, Polydor, 2383 301, 1974 (LP)**
"Words & Music", Planxty, WEA Ireland, 24-0101-1, 1983 (LP)
"The Well Below The Valley", Planxty, Shanachie, 79010, 1988
"After The Break", Planxty, Tara Records, CD3001, 1979/1992
"The Woman I Loved So Well", Planxty, Tara, TARACD3005, 1980/1992
"Donal Lunny", Gael-Linn, CEFCD133, 1987
"Common Ground", (subtitle: Voices of Modern Irish Music), EMI/Premier, 7243 8 37691 2 4, 1996
"The Land of Love", Noel Brazil, DARA, TORCD 090, 1996
"Sult - Spirit of the Music", various artists, Hummingbird, HBCD 0009, 1996
"Coolfin", Coolfin, EMI/Metro Blue, 7243 4 93542 2 7, 1998
"The Diamond Mountain Sessions", Sharon Shannon & friends, Grapevine, GRACD 289, 2000
"Journey - The best of Donal Lunny", Donal Lunny e.a., Keltia/Hummingbird, KMCD105, 2000
"Libertango", Sharon Shannon & Friends, The Daisy Label, DLCD009, 2003
"Live from the Powerhouse", Mozaik, Hummingbird Records, HBCD0036, 2004
*) has Andy on mandolin and vocals, but Donal on bouzouki.
**) has both Johnny Moynihan and Donal on bouzouki.

Andy Irvine.

Also associated with "Planxty", but more for his vocals and mandolin work, here's a player who's best known for his song accompaniment, usually to his own singing. Andy is credited by (bouzouki/cittern maker) Stefan Sobell as the one who pioneered the GDAD tuning. His works has also shown Eastern European influences, even back in his "Planxty" days. This culminated in his cooperation with piper Davy Spillane on the album "EastWind". Andy also was a founder-member of "Patrick Street".

All albums by Planxty, see above.
"Rainy Sundays, Windy Dreams", Andy Irvine,
"EastWind", Andy Irvine & Davy Spillane, Tara, TARACD3027, 1992
"Rude Awakening", Andy Irvine, Green Linnet, GLCD1114, 1991
"Patrick Street", Kevin Burke, Arty McGlynn, Andy Irvine & Jackie Daly, Green Linnet, GLCD1071, 1988
"No.2 Patrick Street", Kevin Burke, Arty McGlynn, Andy Irvine & Jackie Daly, Green Linnet, GLCD1088, 1988
"Patrick Street 3 - Irish Times", Patrick Street, Special Delivery, SPDCD1033, 1990
"All In Good Time", Patrick Street, Special Delivery, SPDCD1049, 1993
"Corner Boys", Patrick Street, Green Linnet, GLCD 1160, 1996
"Rain on the Roof", Andy Irvine, ????, AK-1, 1996
"Live from Patrick Street", Patrick Street, Green Linnet, GLCD 1194, 1999
"Way Out Yonder", Andy Irvine, ????, AK 2, 2000
"Live from the Powerhouse", Mozaik, Hummingbird Records, HBCD0036, 2004

Alec Finn.

Alec is one of the original members of De Danann/Dannan (somehow that one "n" got moved over the years), and his typical style on the 6-string Greek bouzouki is part of the band's special sound. He also worked with others every now and then, and in 1995 finally produced his first solo album.
Alec (and Frankie Gavin as well) can also be heard on Kevin Macleod's first solo album, which has a lot of interesting bouzouki and mandolin stuff.

"Frankie Gavin and Alec Finn", Shanachie, 34009, 1977/1994
"Noel Hill and Tony Linnane", same, Tara Music, TARACD 2006, 1979
"Feadoga Stain", Mary Bergin, Geal-Linn, CEFCD071, 1979
"The Best Of De Danann", De Danann, Shanachie, 79047, 1987
"The Star Spangled Molly", De Danann, Third Floor, TFCDBLB5006, 1990
"Anthem", De Danann, Dara, DARACD013, 19??
"Song for Ireland", De Danann, Sugar Hill, SH-CD-1130, 1990
"Ballroom", De Dannan, Green Linnet, 1987
"A Jacket of Batteries", De Dannan, Harmac, HMCD48, 1988
"1/2 Set in Harlem", De Dannan, The Bee's Knees, BKCD002, 1991
"Blue Shamrock", Alec Finn, Celtic Heartbeat, , 1995
"The Wind among the Reeds", Tommy Keane & Jacqueline McCarthy, Maree Music Co., MMC CD 51, 1995
"Springwell", Kevin Macleod, Greentrax, CDTRAX 178, 1999

John Faulkner.

Here's a man who is both well versed in backing up instrumentalists and in providing a tasteful accompaniment to Dolores Keane's singing. A prime sample of him doing the latter is "Green Grow The Laurels" on "Sail Og Rua". Unfortunately he has recently recorded more playing guitar than with his bouzouki. So stick to his older work.

"Kind Providence", John Faulkner, Green Linnet, GLCD1064, 1986
"Sail Og Rua", Dolores Keane & John Faulkner, with various guests, Gael-Linn, CEFCD101, 1983
"Broken Hearted I'll Wander", Dolores Keane & John Faulkner, with Eamonn Curran and Kieran Crehan, Green Linnet, GLCD3004, 1981
"Farewell to Eirinn", Dolores Keane & John Faulkner, with Eamonn Curran, Wundertute, CD-TUT 72.4004
"Re-Joyce", Maire O'Keeffe/John Faulkner/Jackie Daly/Donal O'Connor, , , 2003

Tom McDonagh.

Tom is best known for his work with the band "Oisin", unfortunately defunct for quite a while now. His close duets with his brother Brian were really fascinating, and brother Brian has revived this type of duets with his new band "Dervish".

Tom also made an album with Scottish cittern player(multi-instrumentalist, actually) Brian McNeill, who for years was a member of "The Battlefield Band".

"Oisin", Oisin, Tara, 19.. (LP)
"Over The Moor To Maggie", Oisin, Tara, TARA2012, 1980 (LP)
"Celtic Dream"(Compilation of "Winds of Change" and "The Jeannie C."), Oisin, Ossian Publications, OSSCD85, 1993
"Horses for Courses", Brian McNeill & Tom McDonagh, GreenTrax, CDTRAX071, 1993

Eoin O'Neill.

He has recorded a number of albums with musicians from Ennis and West Co. Clare, including 2 absolute classic albums with fiddler Mary Custy. He is well worth listening to, since these albums show a very interesting style of Irish bouzouki playing, sort of an in-between of Alec Finn and Donal Lunny (using A,DAD' tuning), and, if I may say so, combining the best of both. Here is displayed a versatility on 8 strings, intricate and flexible, sometimes following, sometimes countering the melody that makes him one of my favourite players.

"With a lot of help from their friends", Mary Custy & Eoin O'Neill, Celtic Music, CMCD064, 1991
"The Way of the World", Mary Custy & Eoin O'Neill, Celtic Music, CMCD065, 1991
"John Williams", John Williams, Green Linnet, GLCD 1157, 1995
"An Ceoltoir Fanach", Cathy Custy, , , 1996
"Traditional Irish Music from Doolin", Terry Bingham, Ossian, OSSCD 108, 1998
"Down in Doolin", Kevin Griffin, Ossian, OSSCD 109, 1998
"The Ceili Bandits", The Céilí Bandits, , CBCD001, 1998
"Hangin' at the Crossroads", The Céilí Bandits, , CBCD002, 1999

Dave Richardson.

He's not Irish (he's from Northumberland), but that doesn't really matter - he plays in the same style, though he succeeds in creating a bouzouki sound very much his own, due to his tuning D'DAD', where the two outer D' pairs are tuned in unison, and the leftmost pair is used as a drone. And let us not forget that he contributed to Irish music a wonderful piece of music, "Caliope House", that is now played at sessions and gigs all over the world. Unfortunately, per album made by the Boys there's usually only one or two tracks where you can hear the bouzouki, so don't buy them just to hear him play.

"Far from Home", Boys of the Lough, Shanachie, 79065, 1986 (LP)
"Sweet Rural Shade", Boys of the Lough, Shanachie, 79068, 1988 (LP)
"Farewell and Remember Me", Boys of the Lough, Shanachie, 79067, 1987

Brendan O'Regan.

Not associated with a band, but a much-asked studio musician. Based in Galway, where he was part of the group of session musicians in the "Tigh Neachtain" pub. He also was one of the initiators of the album that was made by this session bunch back in 1989. As far as I know he only has one solo album out, on which he demonstrates his abilities on bouzouki, guitar and mandolin. He is joined on this album by many of the great musicians the Galway region has produced.
He plays a Foley bouzouki in various tunings (GDAE, GDAD, ADAD), and uses the first 2 of these on mandolin as well.

"Ceol Tigh Neachtain", (subtitle: Music from Galway), Gael-Linn, CEFCD145, 1989
"A Wind Of Change", Brendan O'Regan, Mulligan, LUNCD056, 1992
"Nomads - Fanaithe", John Faulkner, Clo-Iar Chonnachta/MOR Music, CICD071, 1992

Ciaran Curran.

He is the bouzouki player of the Irish top band Altan, and was with Mairead ni Mhaonaigh and Frankie Kennedy from the very beginning, even before they used the name "Altan". In fact, some of the better tracks of these three together are on the "Ceol Aduaigh" album, which pre-dates "Altan" by several years. He still does good work on the Altan albums, but often his bouzouki playing is rather low in the mix, and overpowered by the guitar player.

"Ceol Aduaigh", Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh & Frankie Kennedy, Gael-Linn, CEFCD 102, 1983 (recently re-released in US as: Green Linnet, GLCD3090)
"Altan", Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh & Frankie Kennedy, Green Linnet, GLCD1078, 1987
"Horse With A Heart", Altan, Green Linnet, GLCD 1095, 1989
"The Red Crow", Altan, Green Linnet, GLCD1109, 1990
"Dog Big and Dog Little", Ben Lennon/Seamus Quinn/Ciaran Curren, Claddagh Records, 4 cc 51, 1992
"Island Angel", Altan, Green Linnet, GLCD1137, 1993
"The Best of Altan", Altan, Green Linnet, GLCD 1177, 1997

Michael Holmes.

Plays the bouzouki, and sometimes guitar, with Sligo-based band "Dervish". His style is often compared to that of Ciaran Curran. They seem to use the same licks and chord progressions a lot, but Michael's sound is lighter, even though he uses a rather big-bodied instrument (made by Paul Hathway).
Latest news: Michael has recently switched to using a bouzouki made by Phil Crump, who also gets a mention as "sponsor" on the new "Live in Palma" double CD (makes you wonder...). This new album has a really good separation of the bouzouki and mandola over the 2 stereo channels, so if you want to learn some of his licks, get this one.

"The Boys of Sligo", Dervish, Sound Records, SUNCD 1, 19??
"Harmony Hill", Dervish, Whirling Discs, WHRL001, 1993
"Playing with Fire", Dervish, Whirling Discs, WHRL002, 1995
"At the End of the Day", Dervish, Whirling Discs, WHRL003, 1997
"Live in Palma", Dervish, WHRL004, 1997

Cyril O'Donoghue.

Plays a 1980 Manson bouzouki and a newer Foley bouzouki with a Baggs pickup, both 8-string. He also plays guitar and sings.
Currently he is a member of the Clare-based band "Damp in the Attic".

"To Meet A Friend", Josephine Marsh & Cyril O'Donoghue, , ,
"Setting Free", Tola Custy & Cyril O'Donoghue, Clo Iar-Chonnachta, CICD 098, 1998
"Ace & Deuce", Conor McCarthy & Annemarie McCormack, , TRICD 001, 1998
"The Trip Over The Mountain", Michael Queally & Cyril O'Donoghue, , , 1998
"I Was.... Flyin' It", Damp in the Attic, , , 1999

Roger Landes

Formerly of Scartaglen, a band well-known (in the US) for the fantastic singing of Connie Dover. He still performs regularly with Connie. Roger plays a long-scale 10-string bouzouki made by Steven Owsley Smith of Taos, NM.

The Narada sampler "Celtic Odyssey" includes one track by Scartaglen.
"Dragon Reels", Roger Landes, Ranger Music, RMCD 4321, 1997.

Niall O'Callanain

Best known for his part in the jazz/folk band Deiseal (with Cormac Breatnach on low whistle and Paul O'Driscoll on double bass), but also much in demand as a studio musician.
He is also one of the authors of the Irish Bouzouki book.

"The Long, Long Note", Deiseal, Starc, SDC 193, 199?
"The Voyage of Bran", Maire Breatnach, Celtic Heartbeat, 7567-82734-2, 1995
"Sunshine Dance", Deiseal, Starc, SCD 596, 1996
"From The Edge Of Memory", Phil Callery, Tara Records, TARACD 4007, 1999
"Musical Journey", Cormac Breatnach, Peer Music, CD 001, 1999

Aaron Jones

Aaron has been a member of Craobh Rua for quite a while, and has done many a tour with them. He is quite prominently featured on their latest (3rd ?) album "If Ida Been Here, Ida Been There", both as a cittern and guitar player and as a singer. He plays a long scale 10-string cittern made for him by luthier William Kelday.
He can also be heard on box player Leo McCann's new, first album, where his cittern is the main backing instrument.

"Soh It Is", Craobh Rua, BTB Records/Lochshore, CDLDL 1259, 1997
"If Ida Been Here, Ida Been There", Craobh Rua, Lochshore Records, CDLDL 1296, 2000
"If Anyone Can !", Leo McCann, Canndhu Productions, CANNDHU 001, 2000

Jamie McMenemy

Though a one-time member of the Battlefield Band, he is probably best known for his work with the Breton band Kornog. He also was (until the recent re-formation of Kornog) a member of the Brussels-based band Orion.
Jamie still plays a very old Sobell bouzouki (his only), which he tunes ADAD.

"Premiere", Kornog, Green Linnet, GLCD, 198?
"On Seven Winds", Kornog, Green Linnet, GLCD, 198?
"Restless Home", Orion, Keltia, , 1998
"Korong", Kornog, Green Linnet, GLCD 1209, 2000

Tony Gibbons

Formerly a member of Garva, now touring quite frequently with fellow ex-Garva member Terry Coyne. Tony plays a 10-string Sobell he tunes GCGCG, though he often uses a capo at the 2nd fret. He's quite a good singer too.
He is featured quite prominently on Terry Coyne's new solo album.

"The Other Side", Terry Coyne, , COY 113, 2000

Joseph Sobol

Joseph Sobol plays his long-scale citterns with his fingers, as you would a classical guitar. This gives him a totally different sound from the other players listed here. He does however play mostly Irish tunes, at least on his first album.

His album has been chosen as "Acoustic Guitar Homegrown Winner" by the renowned "Acoustic Guitar" magazine.

"Citternalia", Joseph Sobol, Kiltartan Road, 1005, 1999

Women who play the bouzouki.

Funny enough there are only very few women who play the bouzouki, not to mention those that gained the attention of a wider public. I know of only 4:

Clodagh Warnock

She plays bouzouki, and also does she play the bodhran and sing, with the young band "Deanta" from Co. Anthrim.

"Deanta", Deanta, Green Linnet, GLCD1126, 1993
"Ready For The Storm", Deanta, Green Linnet, GLCD1147, 1994
"Whisper of a Secret", Deanta, Green Linnet, GLCD 1173, 1997

Margit Bazilewski

She plays a huge 10-string bouzouki with the German(!) band "Limerick Junction", a band that is not too well-known, since they only have one album out, but who did get a chance to do a gig at the Ballyshannon festival a couple of years ago, which is quite exceptional for a non-Irish band.

"Burren Wind", Limerick Junction, Seydenfaden, SYMC 565060 (Cassette), 1986
"With Friends Like That...", Limerick Junction, Black Head Music/Fanore Records, LJ002, 1990

Beth W. Patterson

She plays a 10-string Owsley Smith bouzouki (and sometimes an 8-string Foley bouzouki) with two New Orleans based bands, "The Poor Clares" and "Legacy", and she has recorded with both. She has a very lively and technically advanced playing style.

"Resurrected Lover", The Poor Clares, Irish Bayou Music, IBM00, 1995
"Change of Habit", The Poor Clares, Centaur Records, CRC 5020, 1997
"Songs for Midwinter", The Poor Clares, Centaur Records, , 1998
"Navan", Legacy, , , 1998
"Hybrid Vigor", Beth Patterson, Little Blue Men Records, LBM102, 1999

Anne Briggs

Probably the first woman to record with a bouzouki. She was a personal friend of Johnny Moynihan (of Sweeney's Men, and later a member of Planxty), who is held responsible for introducing the bouzouki in Irish music.
She has her very own style of playing, sometimes reminiscent of a mountain dulcimer. Her guitar style has many similarities to the playing of Bert Jansch, with whom she also spent some time.

"The Time Has Come", Anne Briggs, Sony/Columbia, ???, 1998
"A Collection", Anne Briggs, Topic Records, TSCD504, 1999
"Sing A Song For You", Anne Briggs, Fledg'ling Records, FLED 3008, 1996

Related instruments

Short-scale 10-string instrument (cittern ?) players

Brian McNeill

Best known for his work with the Battlefield Band, this multi-instrumentalist (viola, cittern, English concertina) also has several solo projects and one-off cooperations with others from the Scottish and Irish music scene to his name.

"Monksgate", Brian McNeill, Fenn Music Service (originally on Free Reed Music), FMS 2045, 1992
"The Back o'the North Wind", Brian McNeill, Greentrax, CDTRAX047, 1991
"Horses for Courses", Brian McNeill & Tom McDonagh, GreenTrax, CDTRAX071, 1993

Gerald Trimble

Although inspired by several Celtic musicians, Gerald Trible now makes music that is all his own. He is bringing the cittern in the spotlight, trying to go where a jazz guitarist would go - always trying to extend the instrument's scope. Trimble's current instrument is a Monteleone cittern, which is very similar in construction and power, but not in sound, to most high-end archtop jazz guitars, and quite different from the typical Sobell sound of his original citterns. But then, that sound is very much associated with Celtic music, and Gerald has gone way beyond that.

"First Flight", Gerald Trimble, Green Linnet, GLCD 1043, 1983
"Crosscurrents", Gerald Trimble, Green Linnet, GLCD 1065, 1986

Octave Mandola players

Robin Bullock

A very talented flatpicker, on guitar, mandolin and on (Sobell) octave-mandola. He uses the octave-mandola as a melody instrument, usually in arrangements where one or more guitars provide the chordal backing. The result is usually tasteful, relaxed music, though he can also jump into an up-tempo old-timey fiddle tune. It is pretty hard to classify his music - there are both Celtic and American elements, and the result, especially on his latest album, sometimes tends slightly to what some would call "New Age" music. But the result is definitely worth checking out.
He also performs as a member of the trio "Helicon".

Robin has his own homepage at

"Green Fields", Robin Bullock, Dorian Discovery, DIS 80112, 1993
"Midnight Howl", Robin Bullock, Maggie's Music, MMCD 213, 1995
"Between Earth and Sky", Robin Bullock, Maggie's Music, MMCD 2??, 1998

Mary Shannon

Though best known as a tenor banjo player, she has recently recorded some nice stuff on mandola and what is referred to in the sleeve notes as "Bass mandola" (which I assume to be a mandocello, but tuned the same as the tenor banjo) with her current band "Bumblebees".

"Bumblebees", Bumblebees, Hummingbird records, HBCD0012, 1997

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