NPR Music & Concerts

Music features, reviews and "first listens" from NPR.  Find more music at WUNC's  Back Porch Music.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Debuts

Sep 6, 2019

Hear musicians from both sides of the Atlantic making their first appearances on our show. Artists include Beth Malcolm, a new duo for Tony McManus and a welcomed return from a band last aired in the days of vinyl.

Hear the haunting melodies from St. Kilda that offer a last link to the "island on the edge of the world," featuring arrangements by composers including Sir James MacMillan with singer Julie Fowlis and additional music from Barrule.

We remember Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, one of Ireland's most influential artists, with the music he recorded and produced over three decades.

When the Celtic rhythms go quiet on your radio, you can always stream great songs and tunes on ThistleRadio's 24-hour music channel. Span the decades with classic tracks that are the bedrock of the playlist, together with some of the newer artist who are helping redefine the sound of today's music from Celtic roots.

It's a bit like browsing through a photo album where the memories are captured in sounds, not images.

This week, join Fiona Ritchie as she features new music from both sides of the pond, with Skipinnish, Suzy Bogguss and a brand new release of a 1982 Dick Gaughan recording.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Chansons

Jul 24, 2019

From the "chant de marin," or sea shanties, of Brittany to the songs of the voyageurs of the Canadian fur trade, enjoy the French songs that extend branches of the Celtic music tree from the old world to the new, with artists Le Vent du Nord, Hilary James and Chris Norman.

Hear the music and learn about the short life of 18th century poet Robert Tannahill, who wrote in the style of Robert Burns and composed well-loved songs that are still widely sung today. We feature artists Emily Smith, The Tannahill Weavers and Rod Patterson.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Common Currency

Jul 10, 2019

The instrumental links and song streams that connect musical traditions in far-flung lands are often invisible. Join host Fiona Ritchie to discover the connections and follow the flow with artists Joe Craven, Julee Glaub and The Paul McKenna Band.

Scottish singer, songwriter and former Battlefield Band member Alan Reid visits Traditional Song Week at the Swannanoa Gathering.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Singing The Land

Jun 26, 2019

This week's show features music from Karine Polwart's theatrical event Wind Resistance and from fiddler Duncan Chisholm's Sandwood, named for the finest and least accessible beach in Scotland.

Step into summer by tuning into some of the fresh new music recently arrived at The Thistle & Shamrock offices in the U.S. and Scotland. Fiona Ritchie handpicks newly-hatched releases from debuting artists that have caught her ear as well as the latest from musicians who frequent her playlists. Be among the first to hear what's sprouting from Fiona's music inbox.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Raise Your Voice

Jun 12, 2019

Traditional and folk songs often lend themselves to carefully crafted, multi-layered singing, with some arrangements creating remarkably beautiful, new versions of old songs, rich with voices. Join the choruses with some of your favorite bands in fuller voice.

Host Fiona Ritchie is joined by the well-loved singer of Scottish traditional and contemporary songs, Christine Kydd.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Scent Of Spring

May 30, 2019

Spring is in the airs... and in the jigs, reels, and songs as we put out a musical welcome mat for the first signs of the season. Artists featured in this episode include Nightnoise, Kim Robertson and The Whistlebinkies.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Dreamtime

May 22, 2019

Settle into an hour of soothing voices and soaring instrumentals that all go to prove this roots music business needn't always be high-energy. Featured in this episode are Davy Spillane, William Jackson, Maire Brennan and Dougie MacLean.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit

The Thistle & Shamrock: Season Of Light

May 8, 2019

Celebrate the coming of summer, the fertility of the season and the greening of the earth as Fiona Ritchie invites you to gather around the fires of "Beltane," one of four ancient, annual Celtic festivals that mark the passage from one season to the next. Artists featured include Loreena McKennitt, The Poozies, and Jim Malcolm.

The Thistle & Shamrock: The Great Tapestry

May 1, 2019

Follow the historic migration from Scotland through Ulster into Pennsylvania and on down the Great Wagon Road to a final destination in the Southern Appalachians. Artists featured in this session include Patrick Street, Cara Dillon, and Sheila Kay Adams.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Atlantic Bridge

Apr 24, 2019

Fiona Ritchie presents an hour of music to ferry you across the Atlantic bridge from Old World to new, with fiddle melodies and Gaelic airs from artists including Alasdair Fraser of Scotland, Ireland's Maeve Donnelly and Dougie MacDonald of Cape Breton Island.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit

The Thistle & Shamrock: Song Links

Apr 17, 2019

Join Fiona Ritchie to discover the connections that tie her world to the music of the Southern Appalachians. This episode features Jean Ritchie, Al Petteway and Dolores Keane.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit

The Thistle & Shamrock: Made In America

Apr 10, 2019

Join us to hear some early field recordings of Irish master musicians who inspire players to this day, including Liz Carroll and Eileen Ivers.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit

The Thistle & Shamrock: World Beat

Apr 3, 2019

Circumnavigate the world of Celtic music as we listen to progressive, crossover Celtic roots recordings influenced by Latin, Balkan and African music and rhythms. Artists this week include the Afro Celt Sound System, Eileen Ivers, and The House Band.

Karine Polwart reflects on Carnegie Hall's Migrations: The Making of America festival with music including songs from her Laws of Motion album.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Welsh Roots

Mar 13, 2019

Some of the acoustic roots sounds of Wales are well worth checking into. Fiona Ritchie features great singers like Cerys Matthews and Julie Murphy, along with enigmatic bands including Rag Foundation, Ffynnon, Ember and Crasdant.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit

Fiona Ritchie talks with Chris Thile about his varied musical career and involvement in Carnegie Hall's Migrations: The Making of America festival, featuring many of his award-winning recordings.

Cattle raids, battles, betrayals and family loyalties are all commemorated in the ballads of the borderlands between Scotland and England, sometimes referred to as "the debatable lands."

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit

The Thistle & Shamrock: Love Songs

Feb 20, 2019

This week, Fiona Ritchie shares not only some of Robert Burns' traditional love verses, but also music featuring the love of land, whisky, and homeland, with Maura O'Connell, Shooglenifty, and Moya Brennan.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Singer-Songwriters

Feb 13, 2019

Join Fiona Ritchie as she offers an abundance of songwriting talent for you to explore, with voices that command your attention and melodies that never fail to strike that chord deep within. Artists include Karan Casey, Karine Polwart and Solas.

The Thistle & Shamrock: Debuts

Feb 6, 2019

It's all new music as Fiona Ritchie introduces new releases from artists debuting on her show. You and your radio are on the brink of discovery with artists including Elizabeth and Ben Anderson, Garadice and The Crooked Jades.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit

The Thistle & Shamrock: Songs Of The Bard

Jan 30, 2019

Discover the contemporary appeal of verses written by Robert Burns over 200 years ago. Fiona Ritchie features artists including the Paul McKenna Band, Corrina Hewat and Eddi Reader on this episode.