The English Ceilidh style of dance music grew from the days of folk rock when English Country dance and Morris tunes were given a flood of new energy.

Latterly the English Ceilidh bands have become more eclectic in taste, bringing in different rhythms and styles. They have continued the move away from fiddle and accordian through the folk rock additions of electronics and drum kits to saxophones, bagpipes and trombones - or rather a mix of the above.

Rule of Thumb...

Of course there is a spectrum of styles ranging from the dependable English/Irish/Scottish dance band to the out-and-out experimental. Whether you classify a band as a Ceilidh Band depends as much on the context and the dancers as the musicians. However there seem to be some, possibly light-hearted, rules of thumb for working out whether a band is an English Ceilidh Band or a Folkdance band. The rules have to do with Accordions and chairs:

If a band includes an accordion and is sitting down, then you are likely to get a barn dance, if it includes a saxophone or trumpet and they are standing up, then you will get a ceilidh

These rules have not a little to do with the energy and swing in the music, and of course as with all such rules there are exceptions.

Common aim...

If there is a common aim of the bands it is to add life to the perceived sleepy English/Irish/Scottish Folkdance Band. Different bands tackle this in different ways. Most are electric but some have developed a Rock style, others follow a Jazz route leaving plenty of room for the dancers to improvise. A third group have picked up a European flavour - French being a major influence, a fourth try to reestablish an English baseline in this diversity. Add American Contra, Cajun and Appalachian influences and the mix is wide indeed.

The following are included only as a very rough guide and not as an exercise in classification....

Green Man Reviews have reviewed quite a number of English Ceilidh and neighbouring syle recordings.

Contra Bands for Ceilidh fans

Enthusiasts for the English Ceilidh style will find some equivalents amongst the American Contra bands - recommended on CD and Tape:

  • Hillbillies from Mars, HFM CD 1301
  • Wild Asparagus Call of the Wild, WA 004
  • The Rodney Miller Band, Airplang

but would be interested in others.