Younger stars come of age at RTE Folk awards

Award-winners, Susan O’Neill with Mick Flannery. Susan was the only living female artist to win at this year’s Folk Awards (Photo: RTÉ)

There was something of a generational shift at this year’s RTE Radio 1 Folk Awards as younger artists carried off the prizes in the major categories: and perhaps, indirectly, it was a nod towards the Cobblestone – currently under threat due to hostile redevelopment plans – where many of these artists have been frequent performers at one or more of the regular sessions, like The Night Before Larry Got Stretched and Na Píobairí Uilleann’s Session with the Pipers.

However, while 2021 may mark a significant recognition of the new wave of younger artists, it was a disappointment for female performers, notwithstanding the heightened awareness of gender issues promoted by FairPlé and MiseFósta. The only living female artist to make it to the winners’ enclosure was Susan O’Neill, who shared the Best Original Folk Track prize with Mick Flannery. The Hall of Fame award recognised the late Sarah Makem – one of the most significant figures in the Ulster song tradition.

Ye Vagabonds repeated last year’s achievement by being named as Best Group and as creators of the Best Traditional Folk Track with I’m a Rover. John Francis Flynn, an alumnus of the young Dublin-based band, Skipper’s Alley, won the awards for Best Singer and Best Emerging Artist, while two more Skipper’s Alley graduates, Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin and Clare’s Ultan O’Brien, shared the gong for Best Album for their recording, Solas An Lae – ahead of Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi who were subsequently nominated for a Grammy for their album, They’re Calling Me Home. And just to round it all off, another more recent addition to the Skipper’s Alley line-up, Waterford piper Caoimhín Ó Fearghail, was named as Best Instrumentalist.

This year’s Lifetime Achievement award went to Christy Moore,

The Roll of Honour:

Best Folk Singer
John Francis Flynn. Nominees: Emma Langford, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, Susan O’Neill, and Declan O’Rourke

Best Folk Instrumentalist
Caoimhín Ó Fearghail. Nominees: Brian Finnegan, Martin Hayes, Ryan Molloy, and Alannah Thornburgh

Best Folk Group
Ye Vagabonds. Nominees: Greenshine, Moxie, The Whileaways, and Villagers

Best Emerging Artist
John Francis Flynn. Nominees: Bridín, Dani Larkin, Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin and Ultan O’Brien, and Alannah Thornburgh

Best Original Folk Track
Chain Reaction by Mick Flannery and Susan O’Neill. Nominees: Almost by Susan O’Neill, Bread and Wine by Adrian Crowley, Patsy Cline by Jack O’Rourke, and Taking the Wheel by Joshua Burnside and Laura Quirke

Best Traditional Folk Track
I’m a Rover by Ye Vagabonds. Nominees: An Bhuatais by Lorcan MacMathúna, Cúirt Bhaile Nua by Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin and Ultan O’Brien, Easter Snow/Sally Gally by Ryan Molloy and Padraig McGovern, My Son Tim by John Francis Fynn, and Peggy Gordon by Lisa O’Neill and Colm Mac Con Iomaire

Best Folk Album
Solas an Lae by Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin and Ultan O’Brien. Nominees: I Would Not Live Always by John Francis Flynn, They’re Calling Me Home by Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi, In the Game by Mick Flannery and Susan O’Neill, and Where I Should End by Saint Sister

Lifetime Achievement Award 
Christy Moore

Hall of Fame 
Sarah Makem

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