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St Brigid’s Day: A revolution in equality.

With the introduction of a new Bank Holiday this year St. Brigid, Mother Saint of Ireland, finally finds herself on equal footing with St. Patrick.

The recognition of the patroness of ‘poetry, learning and healing’ in such a manner is a victory for all Irish women.


Ireland has often been an inhospitable place for female musicians who have played second-fiddle to their less talented male peers, but there is a rich heritage of Irish female musicians that simply can’t be denied.

From the ground-breaking work of Enya to the Avant-garde disco chic of Roísín Murphy to the decade defining songs of Dolores O’Riordan’s work with The Cranberries to Imelda May’s soaring vocals. Here are some of The Record Hub’s favourite Irish female acts.


Rebel Irishwomen

Rebel Irish Women pack shot

Now that we are well and truly into the Decade of Centenaries, revaluating the past has highlighted the important roles played by many lesser-known heroes in the formation of the state.

Originally released in 1966, Rebel Irishwomen gives voice to the generation of women that fought for a free Ireland via the thoughts and songs favoured by prominent revolutionaries Helena Molony, Maud Gonne McBride and Kathleen Behan.

Those original recordings and performances have been added to by new recordings from contemporary folk group Landless and solo artist Niamh Bury.

Ensconced in the new wave of traditional Irish music that has reinvigorated the genre, they are the perfect supplement to this important document of the 1916 Rising.



Enya Watermark Album

Following several years working with her legendary family band Clannad, Enya went solo in the early 1980’s in search of new sonic boundaries.

Film work soon arrived for The Frog Princess (1984) and The Celts 1985. The latter would be released as her debut album ‘Enya’ in 1987.

Buoyed by the success of Enya, she was keen to release an album that was entirely of her own vision as soon as possible.

Following signing with Warner Music UK, she began working on her debut proper, Watermark, which would ultimately define her as an artist and produce her signature song, the enchanting and bewildering ‘Orinoco Flow’.

The velvety quality of the track was created by recording hundreds of tracks of Enya’s voice to create atmospheric chords and eerie motifs augmented by a 30-piece orchestra.

The repeated use of exotic locations in the lyrics also gives the song a mysterious feel. The Orinoco flow in question refers to both the South American river and Orinoco Studios in London, where the sessions were taking place.

Enya would go on to release six studio albums, winning four Grammys to date. Songs such as ‘Boadicea’ would go on to find favour with hip hop artists like The Fugees, who sampled it in their hit single ‘Ready Or Not’, while modern artists such as Weyes Blood cite Enya as a major influence.   


The Cranberries

The Cranberries Everybody Else is doing it So why can't I?

Next month sees The Cranberries’ debut album ‘Everybody Else is Doing It So Why Can’t We?’ turn 30.

Propelled by smash hit singles ‘Dreams’ and ‘Linger’, it would turn the Limerick quartet - led by Dolores O’Riordan - into one of the biggest bands in the world in the ‘90s.

Stephen Street (The Smiths, Blur) was the obvious choice of producer and he returned for their second album ‘No Need to Argue’ (1994), featuring the controversial single ‘Zombie’, inspired by the 1993 IRA bombing of Warrington.

‘To the Faithful Departed’ (1997) continued the darker approach of its predecessor with chunky single ‘Salvation’ sitting alongside ‘When You’re Gone’, which harked back to the band’s ethereal beginnings.

More albums followed before the group went on hiatus, during which Dolores O’Riordan released two solo albums, ‘Are You Listening?’ and ‘No Baggage’.

The Cranberries returned in 2012 with their sixth album, ‘Roses’, before O’Riordan joined D.A.R.K with Andy Rourke of The Smiths, releasing their debut album ‘Science Agrees’ (2016).

It was while working on the band’s second album in London, that Dolores tragically died aged 46 in January 2018. The Cranberries used demo recordings of O’Riordan’s voice to complete their final album ‘In The End’.   


Imelda May

Imelda May 11 Past The Hour

Following a recent segue into poetry, Imelda May returned to her first love, music, with the release of her sixth album ‘11 Past The Hour’, featuring appearances from Noel Gallagher (Oasis), Ronnie Wood (The Rolling Stones) and Miles Kane.

Originally coming to prominence in the ‘00s with tracks such as ‘Johnny Got A Boom Boom’, Imelda May soon attracted the attention of Jools Holland and was invited to perform on his television show thanks to her unusual rockabilly sound, which was the complete antithesis of the pop charts of the day.

Following four rockabilly-focused albums, Imelda May embraced a more mature sound with ‘Life Love Flesh Blood’ showcasing her vocal range in a new light, leaning into country and jazz standard style arrangements with the help of Jeff Beck and the aforementioned Jools Holland.

‘11 Past The Hour’ sees Imelda May further showcase her versatility as a performer embracing another side of rock‘n’roll.


Róisín Murphy 

Roisin Murphy Roisin Machine

Wicklow’s Róisín Murphy helped define the sound of the late ‘90s and early noughties with hits such as ‘Sing It Back’ and ‘The Time is Now’ as part of Sheffield-based dance duo Moloko.


Murphy stood out from the crowd thanks to her unusual lilt and flamboyant dress sense. A solo career was there for the taking and following the group’s disbandment in 2004, Murphy quickly delivered her debut ‘Ruby Blue’ in 2005. ‘Overpowered’ arrived in 2007 with dancefloor hits ‘You Know Me Better’ and ‘Overpowered’ securing Murphy’s place at the forefront of modern electronica.


More experimental albums ‘Hairless Toys’ and ‘Take Her Up To Monto’ followed before Murphy delivered her magnus opus, ‘Róisín Machine’, a sprawling homage to the dance scene that originally inspired her to make music in the first place. 

Lisa Hannigan

Lisa Hannigan Passengers

Lisa Hannigan started her music career as part of Damian Rice’s band, adding her distinctive vocals to his albums ‘O’ and ‘9’.

A successful solo career was never in doubt. Her debut ‘Sea Sew’ (2009) received a Choice Music Prize nomination. Hannigan’s second album ‘Passenger’ was produced by modern country music legend Joe Henry (Madonna’s brother-in-law) and featured the hit single ‘Knots’.

Hannigan’s songs became popular with film and television, and she provided vocals for Hollywood movies ‘Gravity’ and ‘Fury’. Hannigan would later voice a character in the Academy Award nominated animated feature ‘Song of The Sea’.

Lisa Hannigan returned with ‘At Swim’ in 2017 which saw her lean into Americana like never before with the help of The National’s Aaron Dessner. This collaboration proved so fruitful that Hannigan provided vocals on four tracks on The National’s 2019 album ‘I Am Easy to Find’.

Stephen Byrne