Gig Seeker Pro


Chicago, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2006 | SELF

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2006
Band Folk Celtic


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Bua: The Best Irish American Album of the Past Five Years"

Bua -- Down the Green Fields (self released) 2011

I’m of the firm conviction that this album from young band BUA can claim the title of Best Irish-American Album of the Last Five Years without much effort. The musicianship on this album is off-the-charts, but also remarkably restrained, and young Irish Gaelic (and American) singer Brian O hAirt is a revelation here. I just don’t know of another band that’s so perfectly nailed the traditional heart of Irish music in America so well. The fact that they self-released this, well… It makes me want to start my own record label. Anyways, Down the Green Fields benefits greatly from the sum of all the parts of the band– O hAirt’s fragile and sensitive vocals, Devin Shepherd’s absolutely monstrous fiddling, Brian Miller’s quick-as-a-flash guitar work, and Sean Gavin’s pulsing flute playing. Each player is born and raised in the United States and each are among the very best of their generation. Try the tracks “Soldier, Soldier” or the opening set of tunes to get an idea what I’m talking about. I’m not sure what BUA are up to now, which greatly distresses me. I know Brian is recording and touring with elder Irish singer Len Graham, and that Brian Miller is making fascinating albums about Irish logging music in Minnesotan history, and Devin is touring around with harpist Marta Stone, but dammit boys I WANT MORE GIGS FROM BUA! Get working on that!

--Devon Leger, The Bluegrass Situation - The Bluegrass Situation

"Bua: Review"

"In the age of digital recording, it is so rare to catch a traditional Celtic folk band that simply does its thing without the trappings of modern technology. Bua, one of America’s finest Irish music ensembles, has no need for trickery, patchwork, or pandering. Their raw, symbiotic, performances sound as rich and full as any big LA production but leave all the subtlety and sense of space intact. Whether burning through a fiery folk dance or tugging on your soul with a tearful ballad, this band of highly skilled instrumentalists brings new life to these very old songs."

—Chris Robley, Editor, CD Baby - The Arc Magazine

"Bua: Down the Green Fields (2012)"

Down the Green Fields

Bua has a lovely old time sound. Fiddle, pipes, whistle, flute and
concertina tend to lead the melodies, with dancing, guitar and
bouzouki providing the rhythm. (Of course, it's never that simple, is
it -- the melody instruments contain all the rhythm you really need,
but the guitar, for example, with its fascinating chord progressions
helps emphasize the rhythm while providing that little extra in the

This hour-long, 16-track album features a healthy mix of tunes and
songs, played and sung with a good feel for tradition. Brian O hAirt
has a tremendous voice, keeping his approach simple and effective.
He's also something of a sean nos dancer and a good concertina player.

The rest of this Chicago based band is Sean Gavin (flute, pipes,
whistle), Brian Miller (guitar, bouzouki) and Devin Shepherd. Shepherd
is new to the band, but his fiddling fits in perfectly, maintaining
that sound the band has honed so well. You almost feel you're in a
kitchen somewhere listening to them as they pick up their instruments
and play.

With this, their third album, Bua really shows itself as a band to be
reckoned with.

-Jamie O'Brien - Irish Edition: "Putting on Airs"

"Bua: Down the Green Fields (2011)"

Sometimes all you really need to say in a review is “Damn, they killed it.”

So I’m happy to say about the new album, Down the Green Fields, from Irish-American traditionalists Bua: Damn, they killed it. Seriously. If you have any interest in the traditional music of Ireland, an emerald sound born of fiddles, pipes, whistles, and a clarity of voice that sounds like the musical equivalent of a crystal clear mountain stream and refreshes just as much, buy this album.

Now, for those of you who have a deep love of Irish trad like I do, here’s a more in-depth review:

From the opening track, a set of two reels (Eddie Moloney’s/Micho Russell’s), the boys in Bua show that they have impeccable taste. Whereas most other young Irish bands would ramp the needle up to 11 [this one goes to 78? -ed], burning through these old reels like a gas guzzling SUV, Bua have the taste to know that by slowing the music down and playing at a relaxed pace they can actually have more of an effect. That’s rare in Irish music today, and shows that these players are totally attuned to the true roots of the music. For how could you dance to Irish music when the meter tops out? The frenetic insanity of a band like Dervish only works because those guys are living gods dropped from Mount Olympus to walk among us and demonstrate the powers of musical perfection. Bua would rather play the music right than show off, and that is something that makes me want to stand up and applaud.

Bua's fiddler Devin Shepherd
Let me take a moment here to commend Bua’s new fiddler Devin Shepherd. I’m incredibly picky about my Irish fiddlers, and was appalled at the use of crappy unornamented Irish fiddling in the new Sherlock Holmes movie almost to the point of walking out. I don’t want to listen to some classical jackass noodle with Irish tunes. True Irish fiddling is as mercurial as the Irish themselves. It doesn’t trust you, doesn’t welcome you, and won’t be your friend unless you put the time in to truly understand. It’s the kind of music that lulls you into a false sense of security with a seemingly regular sense of rhythm, then shanks you in the back when you’re not looking. Don’t believe me? Go to an Irish trad concert and listen to the audience try to clap along. I guarantee you the clapping will fall apart and become arrhythmic in about 10 seconds. That’s because the Irish are pure geniuses at disguising the true heartbeat of the music. Bua’s fiddler Devin Shepherd understands this, but doesn’t overdo it like Martin Hayes. Instead, he strips the show-off ornaments to a bare minimum and focuses on nailing the perfect rhythm and lilt. His fiddling is everything I wanted to be in an Irish fiddler and I’m now a most devoted fan of his.

Sean Gavin brings a subtle beauty to his fluting, piping, and whistling on the album, and Brian Miller shows himself to be a sensitive and beautiful guitarist as well. I have stacks of albums of purely instrumental Irish music, and these guys could hold their own with the best.

Bua's Brian O hAirt
But, for me, the heart of Bua is the traditional singing of Brían Ó hAirt, who has dedicated himself to the sean-nós (old style) Irish song tradition, as well as the Irish sean-nós stepdancing tradition. This old style of stepdance is intimately tied to the tune itself, and this means that O’Hairt has a touch with the old songs that just can’t be faked. His voice has the beautiful fragility of the great Irish singers, and his knowledge of the sources of the tune shows his great respect for the tradition. He’s won awards in sean-nós singing (one of the last bastions of old Irish culture), and is a dedicated teacher as well. Sean-nós singing is an arcane style, almost a spiritual ritual at times, that is judged on the singer’s ability to convey the message of a song and to transfix an audience. It’s something that’s not easy to develop a taste for (believe me, I’ve tried), but when - Driftwood Magazine

"Bua: Down the Green Fields (2011)"

Down the Green Fields is the third release from the Irish traditional band Bua, and it’s the first with the group’s newest member, fiddler Devin Shepherd, an award-winning player from Chicago and long-time friend of Bua’s flutist Sean Gavin, who hails from Detroit. Bua’s new CD stands out from its contemporaries through its honest depiction of the tradition at work. Their music says “this is all that’s needed: a flute, a fiddle, a guitar and a voice.” The resulting album is a testament, from beginning to end, of the lasting essentials of the Irish tradition.

-Cara Lieurance, host of "The Pure Drop" - WMUK, Kalamazoo: "The Pure Drop"

"Bua: Down the Green Fields (2011)"

Another Victory for Bua.
Guest review by Patrick Fitzell,
Program Director at AccuRadio,
an Internet radio station based in Chicago.

In the spring of their musical careers, Chicago-based trad group Bua is in full bloom. After a hectic summer festival tour schedule, it’s amazing they somehow found time to spend in the studio. The result, their sophomore release Down the Green Fields is a wonderful compilation exemplifying each musician’s years of dedication to their craft.

Brían Ó hAirt provides pristine vocals on songs “shrouded in mystery” like “My Parents Reared Me Tenderly.” He is also a skilled sean-nós or “old style” Irish dancer and can liven up any crowd with a stomp of his foot. Séan Gavin breaths new life into “The Happy Days of Youth,” a tune popularized by flute player John McKenna back in the 20s. Brian Miller, whose picking skills are in high demand, executes perfect accompaniment on bouzouki to Ó hAirt’s vocals for the playful minstrel-like songs “Baba ‘con Raoi” and “Bó na Leath-Adhairce.” Just as Gavin plays a piper’s tune and shines, so too does Devin Shepherd on fiddle performing “Hughie Traver’s Jig.”

Having only released two full-length studio albums, Bua’s contributions to the trad scene are invaluable. (Previous Fiddlefreak review is here.) The liner notes of Down the Green Fields list the origin of each song and tune. It’s a testament to their level of commitment to preserving and furthering traditional Irish music. Look for them on tour in 2012. –Patrick Fitzell - Fiddlefreak (December 2011)

"Bua: Live Review from Folk Alliance International 2011"

Bua: Now, it's widely known that Celtic music and Americana can never mix. But I'm going out on a limb here to add the Irish trad band Bua to my list of highlights for No Depression. You can't understand what Americana means if you don't understand how Irish music influenced America, and nowhere was this influence more powerful than in Chicago. The key character at the center of this influence was Chief Francis O'Neill, Chicago's chief of police at the turn of the century. A former sailor and world traveler, O'Neill kept his ties to Ireland strong by recruiting his police officers from the ranks of unemployed Irish immigrant musicians. Word was that you if you wanted a job on the force, you had to go into O'Neill's office to play some tunes with him before you were considered for the job. O'Neill was also a tireless collector and transcribor of traditional Irish music, pulling from his sources on the force to track down and write up new tunes. He published a number of seminal tune books that continue to influence musicians both in American and back in Ireland (and now across the world). And outside of his work with Irish musicians, he also cleaned up Chicago's rampant corruption and graft and became quite the folk hero.

Bua draw from the rough-and-tumble world of American Irish music. Tunes played in smoky dancehalls rather than fancy concert halls, tunes taken from dusty books rather than YouTube videos, a world largely forgotten in today's overly polished Irish music world where the high-gloss of mega-tours like Celtic Women have largely blinded the public to the power of Irish trad. Lead singer Brian Hart has a soft, beautiful voice with a slight American accent that grounds the music on our continent. He's studied the old style of singing in Ireland's remote Connemara region, and sings in Irish Gaelic as well as English. He also brings Irish sean-nos dance to the band. Sean-nos dancing is a rare tradition that's quite removed from the prancy-prancing Irish stepdancing most people recognize in Riverdance. It's closer to the floor and closely matches the rhythms of the tunes. Along with fiddle, flute and guitar, Bua have enough twang to represent the Celtic side of Americana, but keep their ties to the Old World strong.

--Devon Leger, Heart Music - No Depression

"Bua: An Spealadóir (2009)"

As one of America's primary settling places for the Celtic diaspora (trailing only Boston and New York), Chicago has long been a hotbed of traditional Irish music. One of the best trad groups to emerge from that scene in the 21st century is Bua, a quintet of young players who come from Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit and Minneapolis and whose instrumental virtuosity is nicely tempered by the kind of rare musical taste that leads the best Irish players to draw more attention to the beauty of the tunes than to their own overwhelming technique. They also have concertina player Brían Ó hAirt, whose singing is a joy and a revelation: while many of his compatriots favor a weedy, often whiny high-tenor voice, Ó hAirt's is rich and clear - if there's anything to complain about on this album, it's that he doesn't sing enough. Notice in particular the gorgeous, reedy harmonies between Ó hAirt and guest vocalist Katie Else on the brilliant "Dobbin's Flowery Vale". But the jig and reel sets are far from disappointing in their own right, and at their best (such as the stomping strathspey that leads into a soaring reel set on the album's final track) the group fairly explodes with thrilling but controlled energy.

-Rick Anderson, All Music Guide
- All Music Guide

"Bua: An Spealadóir (2009)"

An Spealadóir
Mad River 1016
15 tracks, 68.49 minutes

The follow up to Live at Martyrs' finds Bua continuing its journey on making its mark in Irish music in grand fashion. An Speapadóire takes the listener on a wild ride, on that will make them happy they jumped on for the trip.

Be uses [Brian Ó hAirt's] vocals as a jumping off point for a good deal of the album, which is a wise move. The opening piece: Lus na mBanríon/Cuckanandy/Rince Philib a' Cheoil turns into a collaborative effort, where every member's strengths are highlighted, with [Ó hAirt's] singing of the nonsense lyrics are supported in incredible fashion. On Dobbin's Flowery Vale he and guest singer, Katie Else, present a sentimental and sweet song of lost love, unobtrusively but forcefully backed by Brian Miller. [Ó hAirt's] voice is best shown on An Spealadóir, a Kerry song. On Tá na Páipéir dh Saighneáil, Sean Gavin and [Ó hAirt] combine to produce a heart wrenching song with Gavin's piping married perfectly to [Ó hAirt's] singing.

This is a mix of new compositions and old songs and tunes. Brian Miller seamlessly switches to lead on The Munster Rake/Horseshoe Bay, the second his own composition. Jackie Moran's The Paige Boys is joined with Big Dan O'Mahony/Cnoc na gClárach, and shows why he is one of the best percussionists in Irish music. Gavin's flute tune, The Four Fingered Fisherman, is a part of a trio of tunes, including Caladh Thaidhg Regatta and Sky Road that allow him and fiddler Chris Bain to shine.

Even the really old tunes are turned into something newly revealed. The Ballinamore/Golden Locks/Bean a' Tí ar Lár ar a set of reels where the group discovers nuance in old notes. Johnny Henry's/Martin Wynne's #4/Miss MacDonald features Bain's fiddling and Moran's drumming, with Gavin and Miller backing on flute and guitar. One of the interesting things about this album is that Bain and Moran let their bandmates step into the spotlight more often than they do. However, without Bain's fiddling and Moran's percussion, An Spealadóir would not have the extreme depth it does. Be again demonstrates the essence of what a band does best, letting the pieces be joined to its strongest fashion.

An Spealadóir features all that is really good about traditional music. It is a breath-taking excursion, and one you will not want to miss.

--Brian G Witt - Irish Music Magazine (August 2009)

"Bua: An Spealadóir (2009)"

From the Pure Drop Department: Bua is a Chicago-based Irish band that delivers traditional jigs, reels, horpipes and the occasional song with a precision and intensity that is rarely heard on this side of the Atlantic. Jackie Moran (bodhran, banjo, vocals), Chris Bain (fiddle), Seán Gavin (uilleann pipes, flute), Brían Ó hAirt (vocals, concertina, tin whistle), and Brian Miller (guitar, flute, vocals) are poised to take the world of trad music by storm. Their new release An Spealadóir (Mad River Records) shines like the sun as it breaks though the ragged rain clouds over Connemara.

So duck into that pub on the corner, shake off the bitter cold Midwestern wind, order up a pint of stout and enjoy the spirit of the session. Irish music has been given a mighty boost by Bua! - Fiddlefreak (April 2009)

"Bua: An Spealadóir (2009)"

Reading through the extensive source notes in the booklet that accompanies this simply produced and cheerfully melodic CD, you might regard Bua as a collection of scholarly Irish folklorists. The five musicians from the American Midwest and Ireland who comprise this talented Chicago-based quintet have certainly done their historical homework. But they can also raise the rafters with their playing, charm with their singing, and delight with their contemporary energy.
Bua — the name means “innate gift” in Irish Gaelic — generates a varied, layered mix through the efforts of multi-instrumentalists Jackie Moran on bodhrán and tenor banjo, Chris Bain on fiddle and bouzouki, Seán Gavin on uilleann pipes and flute, Brian Ó hAirt on concertina and tin whistle, and Brian Miller on guitar and flute. Ó hAirt, clear-voiced tenor and a devotee of the sean-nós singing style, capably handles lead vocals.

The tune sets that predominate on An Spealadóir are a bright and lively collection of jigs and reels that feature an interwoven combi- nation of fiddle, flute, pipes, and concertina as lead instruments, all crisply backed by Miller’s steady guitar and Moran’s percussion. The songs, mostly in Gaelic, are all traditional. The disc’s mellow title song, which translates as “The Harvest,” is a touching story of an ailing farmer who gets help from his neighbors, featuring the harmo- nies of Deirdre Scanlon, while a rapid-fire medley of Scottish mouth music will leave you wondering just how many syllables per second Ó hAirt can sing. There are a few quieter moments on this disc, but on the whole, Bua evokes the good times that Irish traditional music so often celebrates.

— Tom Nelligan (Waltham, MA) - Dirty Linen Mag

"Bua: An Spealadóir (2009)"

Bua has been called Chicago's answer to New York City-based Solás [sic], but comparisons to Planxty might be more in order. In an age in which bands fuse Irish music with everything from jazz riffs and African rhythms to rock 'n' roll covers and post-punk thrash, Bua is unabashedly retro--more prone to lift material from 19th Century songbooks than engage in 21st Century mash-ups. A typical Bua treatment is "The Ballinamore" set. Its opening tune comes from an old Martin Mulvihill collection, the second from an 1816 Scottish melody booklet, and the final one from an early 1980s Dé Dannan record. It is a lively medley in which group playing is stressed over virtuoso playing, thereby assuring the sum is greater than the parts, another trait too often gone missing in contemporary recording. To the degree that this fine quintet has a leader, it is vocalist Brian Hart, whose light tenor voice is supple and soothing. But he can also crank out the craic, as he does on "A mhisg a chuuir [sic] an Nollaig oirnn," a rousing set of Scottish mouth music songs. But it's the instrumentation that will set your feet a dancing. "The Blacksmith" set is a real scone-slinger, one driven by Séan [sic] Gavin's Uileann pipes, Jackie Moran's bodhrán, Brian Miller's guitar and Chris Bain's fiddle. The gentle title track tells the story of an Irish farmer rescued by his neighbors when he takes ill at harvest time. Its collaborative theme is a metaphor for Bua's playing. --RWeir - SingOut Magazine

"Interview with Brían Ó hAirt, August 2009"

If I had to guess, I’d say there are about as many Irishmen living in Dublin, OH as there are native Scotsmen living in Granville, 36 miles to the East, which is, approximately, six. But none of this matters on the first weekend in August, when the city’s Irish population increases at least tenfold, augmented by tens of thousands more people who think they’re Irish. (I admit that, once upon a time, even I, now vehemently proud of my Scottish heritage, found myself wishing I could be cool like my Irish friends during the weekend of the Dublin Irish Festival. I really ought to write our Chief and beg his forgiveness.) They come for the music. They stay for the scones. (Ok, so maybe the scones thing only applies to me. Most of them probably stay for the music as well. And the beer.) And there is a lot of music, and pricewise, it is probably, when you think about it, one of the best values out there for such a comprehensive festival covering a (sometimes startling) range of styles.
“…And that’s all Irish music,” Brían Ó hAirt (singer and concertina player for the band Bua) assures me, but “we really are a traditional band. We do some progressive stuff, but most of the things that we do are traditional, [even though] we compose our own tunes sometimes or play newly composed tunes from other people”. Only fifteen minutes ago, the band were on stage, wrapping up their final set of the festival. Fifteen minutes from now, they will be on their way to Ontario for their next festival appearance. Our interview will be short, but Bua are the only band I have bothered to see twice this weekend and I have to talk to this man. I need to find out what makes this band who they are.
But what drew me to Bua (MySpace) in the first place? We don’t necessarily tend toward the traditional here at The Indie Handbook (well, at least not publicly*). Aside from the superb musicianship of, and obvious chemistry between, all of the band members (Brían, Brian Miller, Jackie Moran, Chris Bain, and Seán Gavin) there is the fact that this Brían also speaks fluent Irish (not a skill one necessarily expects from most people living in the St. Louis metro area). As one who has a weakness for, and is prone to, eccentricity in any form, I am intrigued by anyone who would bother to learn such an impractical (at least by contemporary American standards) language as Irish. Brían’s reason:
“I’d heard Irish for the first time when I was in junior high, and I was kind of a bookish kid at the time, so I looked stuff up and started learning things on my own. And when I started junior college, there were courses offered, and by that time I had a pretty good understanding of it. And when I moved to Ireland I progressed even further, because I was in Irish speaking areas and I was using it all the time.”
And what about the road to traditional music? Let’s face it, Brían would not look out of place fronting a Belle & Sebastian cover band (for the sake of argument, we’ll call them Judy and the Dream of Horses).
“I had been doing music my entire life, and when I reached the end of high school, there were three roads really: you could go and get your degree in classical music, or enter a jazz program; but I didn’t really feel like my voice suited that or that it felt like it was really a way to express myself. But, when I heard Irish singing for the first time when I was fourteen or fifteen, it hit home, really, and kind of pulled me in.”
I think I speak for Kristin as well when I say that we appreciate, admire, and endorse such an earnest pursuit of any art form. Add to that the fact that Brían’s delivery and vocal quality is perfectly suited to the music that he is performing (his voice is pure, uninhibited by that affected nasality that so many artists seem to view as a prerequisite for success and the delivery unadorned, allowing the songs to speak for themselves) and the result is bound to impress. But what thrusts Bua beyond the range of “good bands” to the level of the “truly excellent” are the four other stellar musicians standing (and sitting) on that stage.
“There was a band before called Gan Bua (Jackie and Chris were kind of the instigators for that), but a few of the band members moved on with their jobs and careers, so Chris approached each of us about joining the band… And we play well together. That’s kind of the secret. It just clicked. We all seem to work well together.” He continues, “and [there are] connections within the band, too. We’re not all connected together in the same way. Brian Miller and I may be connected in a way that maybe Brian and Chris are not, but maybe Chris and Seán are connected in a way that Brian and I aren’t. There are all these smaller pairings with their ideas of music and the kind of tunes they play. So, overall, there’s more cohesiveness in the group because of those smaller groupings.”
So, this is Bua, folks. Get to know them. You’ll be a better person for it. Their album An Spealadóir is out now on Mad River Records. There is, I believe another one currently available as a download only. And you owe it to yourself to catch a live performance. After all, that’s where many of these songs grew up, long before anyone you or I know ever heard them.
*Personal confession time: For some time now, longer than most of you have known me, I have toyed around with the idea of a serious pursuit of Scottish folk music. Five days after I met Brían Ó hAirt, I bought a beginner’s guide to Scots Gaelic and a Gaelic dictionary. It is happening, kids. And if any of you have an in at the Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen and would like to put in a good word for me, I would be eternally grateful.
- Indie Handbook

"Bua (Gan Bua): Live at Martyrs' (2007)"

Gan Bua
Live at Martyrs
11Tracks, Running Time: 52:17
The Chicago based quintet of Gan Bua is a gathering of musicians from across the American Midwest who are among the finest in traditional music in America. Led by percussionist Jackie Moran and fiddler Christy Bain, the group is rounded out with Brian Hart on vocals and concertina, Brian Miller on guitar, and Sean Gavin on pipes, flute and whistles. Live at Martyrs highlights the band’s strengths, with nary a weakness to be seen. The disc is as well-developed as any studio production could showcase. It is a work without gimmicks, where the musicianship is of the highest quality.
Their opening gambit is one that almost takes the match. "Up in the Garret/Seainin da bhfaigheadh/Perrywig Jockey" has a pair of jigs surrounding the vocals of Brian Hart. Sean Gavin’s spirited piping is featured on "Drumngarry/Dulaman Na Binne Bui/Thady Casey's," and then on the next set, "The Ballykeel/Condon's Frolics/The Humors of Glynn/Lietrim Fancy. Christy Bain’s fiddling is both strong, as on "Bobby Casey's/The Otter's Holt/The Easy Club", and understated, quietly painting the corners of Hart’s vocals on "Hare’s Dream."
Brian Miller’s guitar slips easily from rhythm to lead and back again throughout the album. Jackie Moran’s percussion is the driving force on many of the reels, but is also a restrained but effective feature on "Jig of Slurs/September Wedding/Padraig O’Keeffe’s." Hart’s vocals are reminiscent of Johnny Moynihan’s or Andy Irvine’s.
Gan Bua is the essence of a superb band, collaborative in nature, and able to build upon the best qualities of the other’s playing, and unselfish in sharing the leads. In many ways, it is a throwback to the playing of the 1960’s and 1970’s, keeping the music down the path of the tradition.
"Live at Martyrs" is a piece one can play without fear of wearing out its welcome.
Reviewer: Brian Witt
- Irish American Post

"Bua (Gan Bua): Live at Martyrs’ (2007)"

This is a pretty nifty live set recorded at Martyrs' (on the north side of Chicago), the kind of place that's just as comfortable presenting such national acts as Todd Snider, Shelby Lynn and the Rebirth Brass Band as they are lesser known lights like these guys. A quick glance at the list of people who've played there reveals such big Irish acts as Donal Lunny and Coolfin, Lawrence Nugent, and Liz Carroll too. Pretty heady company, and Gan Bua holds their own on that stage.

This is Gan Bua's second CD – with a largely new lineup, including St. Paulite Brian Miller (5 Mile Chase, Doon Ceili Band) – and it's as accomplished as some efforts by groups that have been together a lot longer. The instrumental interplay is tight and the vocal harmonies, sparse as they are, are nearly angelic. All of which is to say that the band's name – which roughly translates as "without talent" – should be taken with the tongue planted firmly in cheek.

The Chicago-based quintet – which also includes Christy Bain, Sean Gavin, Brian Hart and Jackie Moran – offers a…set of hornpipes, reels, jigs, and story songs (some in Gaelic) to an attentive and appreciative audience…Some more established bands might do well to aspire to be as talented and entertaining as these guys.

- Jim Tarbox
- Irish Gazette

"Bua (Gan Bua): Live at Martyrs' (2007)"

Beyond doubt, Chicago is one of the real, international hotbeds for traditional music. The city’s super popular group, Gan Bua, is surely one of the highlights. Formed in Chicago, September of 2001 by percussionist, Jackie Moran and fiddle player, Christy Bain, Gan Bua’s performance and travel schedule have joined the group’s busy recording career to accurately reflect the band’s steadily growing popularity. Gan Bua is composed of Irish-American musicians including Detroit’s, Sean Gavin on uilleann pipes and flute, St. Paul’s, Brian Miller on guitar and Brian Hart from St. Louis rounding things out on vocals, whistles and concertina. The band has re-formed once since its 2001 inception, and as Bain states, “We love the current line-up. Each player is really, really good at what they do.” Jackie Moran adds, “We have a real unanimity of opinion in the band. We all love traditional music and our sound is based on the groups of the 60’s and early 70’s like De Dannan, Planxty and The Bothy’s.” The response
to the group’s two albums and busy performance schedules indicate a real connection with their audiences. That 2001 inception came about when Jackie and Christy looked around their hometown and saw that there wasn’t a really full-time, all-traditional group in the city. At that same time, Chicago’s Jimmy Keane was just forming the famous bohola, so there was a gap at that moment, soon to be filled by both. The City of Broad Shoulders had several iconic musicians such as Liz Carroll, John Williams, Kevin Henry, John Daly, Larry Nugent, Dennis Cahill, and many
more have come since. Still, there was opportunity. And, we are talking about Chicago, here. As Moran and Bain looked around, there was no shortage of talented musicians from whom to choose, and, especially, as they looked to players they had come to know and respect over the years. Thousands of sessions, concerts and recording venues had given each an encyclopedic knowledge of the talent pool. Brian Hart brought a full tenor voice to the proceedings and a talent level that has seen him win the All-Ireland Senior Men’s Ballad (English) Award; the first American to do so. All the members of the group have competed successfully at fleadhs in Ireland, as well as the States. Brian Miller has recorded in Ireland with several musicians and Sean Gavin is touring with a Canadian musical/Irish dance show as this is written. Clearly, the group is no locally-based collection of musicians trying to break out of Chicago. This is a group that has established itself individually and as a group in the eyes and ears of the traditional community. Having performed from Boston to Atlanta, there is a 2008 tour of Ireland, England and Europe in the works. Add to that the fact that Jackie has a schedule that takes him to Europe about six times a year to play there with his very popular European-based group, Comas. Add to that Christy Bain’s ongoing work with the Welsh group, Crasdant, at venues
such as last year’s Celtic Connections in Scotland and

Celtic Colours in Canada, and we have the picture well in hand of a group with no need “to break out of Chicago”, but a group being challenged to co-ordinate the schedules while staying on course, and together, based out of Chicago. “We really want to take the group as far and high as we can,” says Bain. “We are all 100% committed, and that is what it takes.” The group’s exciting sound was captured in its second album, “Live at Martyrs”. Martyrs’ is a popular and eclectic performance club in Chicago that draws some of the very best in the business such as Flook, Lúnasa and we hasten to add Gan Bua! Live was recorded all in one evening at a special concert. In addition to the
level of the playing, there has also been favorable comment on the sound. Featuring great separation and balance, engineer, Ray Quinn captured the excitement of the live performance, with none of the usual, attendant sound compromises. Christy comments, “We are very prou - Irish Music Magazine

"Bua (Gan Bua): Live at Martyrs' (2006)"

First up is the new Gan Bua treat, Live At Martyr's. Gan Bua is the creation of the ever-present Chicago Ambassador of Percussion, Jackie Moran. This is the group's second album, and features a new line-up of really good players and singers.

Okay. We admit it. We root extra hard for anyone from Chicago. But, trust us on this one. Wherever you are from, you will love this collection of tunes and songs. Gan Bua is one of those groups that is very trad and very cutting edge at the same time. We have discussed this trend in this column. Suffice it to say, you gotta be real good to pull this off. Gan Bua is real good. Real good.

Usually, we despise live albums, as they seem to sacrifice everything to some mythical "live experience", which is really an excuse for a lousy sounding album, hastily thrown together. Not here. It IS live---and, yet, sounds as if it were done in a studio.

A definite winner for this talented quintet with kudos all-round--including the technical end of things. Trad meets young, great Chicago musicians. Really terrific stuff. Great!

Bill Margeson
- Live Ireland


Down the Green Fields /Síos Fá Thaobh An Ghleanna, 2011

An Spealadóir, Mad River Records, 2009

Live at Martyrs, 2006


For any fans of traditional Irish music, Bua’s Down the Green Fields is not only the kind of album that should place the band in the highest echelon of Irish groups, but also a truly admirable example of taste and restraint in a tradition that sometimes loses sight of both.

Driftwood Magazine February 2012

Bua again demonstrates the essence of what a band does best, letting the pieces be joined to its strongest fashion.  An Spealadóir features all that is really good about tradition music.  It is a breath-taking excursion, and one you will not want to miss.  

Irish Music Magazine August 2009 

It is a work without gimmicks, where the musicianship is of the highest quality…In many ways it is a throwback to the playing of the 1960’s and 1970’s, keeping the music down the path of tradition. Live at Martyrs’ is a piece one can play without fear of wearing out its welcome. 

Irish Music Magazine May 2007

Bua has played in twenty-four states within the US and two Canadian provinces. Here are some highlights from over the years. 
Folk Venues:National Folk Festival, Butte MT: 2010 * CityFolk Festival, Dayton OH: 2011 Lowell Folk Festival, Lowell MA: 2010 * University of Chicago Folk Festival, Chicago IL: 2012 * Great Lakes Folk Festival, East Lansing MI: 2012 * New Bedford Summerfest, New Bedford MA: 2009 * Old Songs Festival, Altamont NY: 2009 * Dianna Wortham Theater, Asheville NC: 2010 * Woods Hole Folk Music Society, Woods Hole MA: 2011 * The Ark, Ann Arbor MI: 2011 * University of Hartford, Hartford CT: 2008, 2009 * Blackstone River Theatre, Cumberland RI: 2008 * Delaware Valley Arts Consortium, Immaculata PA: 2010 * Cumberland Music Association, Knoxville TN: 2010 * University of Louisiana at Monroe, Monroe LA: 2010 * Missouri Valley Folklife Society, Kansas City MO: 2008 * Fresno Folklore Society, Fresno CA: 2013

Irish & Celtic Communities:Dublin Irish Festival, Dublin OH: 2009 * Celtic Classic, Bethlehem PA: 2009, 2010, 2012 * Catskills Irish Arts Week, East Durham NY: 2010 * Celtic Roots Festival, Goderich ON: 2009, 2010 * Buffalo Irish Fest, Buffalo NY: 2008 * Minnesota Irish Fair, St. Paul MN: 2010 * Arizona Highland Celtic Festival, Flagstaff AZ: 2011, 2012 * Eugene Irish Cultural Festival, Eugene OR: 2012 * Jackson Celtic Fest, Jackson MS: 2012 * Chicago Celtic Fest, Chicago IL: 2007 * Milwaukee Irish Fest, Milwaukee WI: 2006, 2007 * Irish American Heritage Center, Chicago IL: 2006, 2007, 2010 * Philadelphia Céilí Group Festival, Philadelphia PA: 2009 * Irish Center of Greater Cincinnati, Cincinnati OH: 2012 * Irish Cultural & Heritage Center of Wisconsin, Milwaukee WI: 2007, 2012 * Winnipeg Irish Festival, Winnipeg MB: 2013 *   

Selected Summer Schools: Grand Canyon Celtic Arts Academy, Flagstaff, AZ: 2011, 2012 Celtic College, Goderich, ON: 2009, 2010 

Conferences: Association of Performing Arts Presenters Conference (APAP), New York NY: 2009 Folk Alliance International Conference, Memphis TN



“Bua evokes the good times that Irish traditional music so often celebrates,” playing in a manner “largely forgotten in today’s overly polished Irish music world.”  With “a precision and intensity that is rarely heard on this side of the Atlantic,” their sound stands out among modern bands in the genre by “keeping the music down the path of tradition” while still being able to “raise the rafters with their playing, charm with their singing, and delight with their contemporary energy.”  Based in Chicago, Illinois—a long-celebrated center of Irish traditional music—Bua “has established itself individually and as a group in the eyes and ears of the traditional community,” and their 2011 release, Down the Green Fields, finds Bua exploring the forgotten sounds from the heyday of Irish music in the City of Big Shoulders with a blend of enchantingly stark song arrangements and bold, pulsing dance tunes.  Lauded by The Bluegrass Situation as being the top Irish album of the past five years, Down the Green Fields stands as “a testament, from beginning to end, of the lasting essentials of the Irish tradition”.  

Meet the band:

Brian Miller has been accompanying songs and dance music from the Irish tradition for over 15 years and is one of the most sought-after guitarists in North American’s Irish music scene. He has performed across North America and in Ireland with various groups including Chulrua, The Máirtín de Cógáin Project, and the Two Tap Trio; and in duo with Randy Gosa performing songs from the lumber camps of the North Woods. He has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, CBC Radio’s Canada Live, and on various RTÉ television and radio programs in Ireland. He currently lives in St. Paul, Minnesota where he teaches flute, whistle and guitar at the Center for Irish Music.

Devin Shepherd grew up immersed in the deep-rooted Irish music scene of his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. He was awarded an Illinois Arts Council Master-Apprentice grant to study with famed Liz Carroll when he was only twelve years of age. During this formative period he won first prize in the Midwest Fleadh Cheoil fiddle competition for nine consecutive years—another testament to his dedication to the tradition. Shepherd learned much about the styles and repertoire of Chicago by playing with many native born musicians including Phil Durkin, Frank Burke, Albert Neary, Pat Cloonin, and Úna McGlew. Since 2000, Devin has been a full-time teacher and performer of Irish music throughout the US and abroad and currently resides in New York City—another highly respected community for Irish traditional music.

Sean Gavin’s playing on the flute, whistle and uilleann pipes reflects his lifelong love for Irish traditional music.  Growing up in Detroit, Michigan he was first encouraged to take up Irish music by his father, Clare-born fiddle player Mick Gavin. Sean played a variety of instruments before settling on the flute at the age of eleven with the help of flute-player Leo Mac Namara, a native of Scariff, Co. Clare. Not long after, he began work on the uilleann pipes with teacher Al Purcell—himself a student of famed Dublin-born piper Leo Rowsome. He is a member of another critically acclaimed group NicGaviskey and performs often with the Irish band Téada.  He enjoys teaching and performing throughout North America and currently serves as the musical director for the sean-nós dancing performance ensemble Atlantic Steps.

Brian Ó hAirt is the only American to have won the coveted senior title in traditional singing at the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil in Listowel, Co. Kerry in 2002.  In his teens, Brian’s introduction to Chicago’s Irish-speaking community allowed him to cultivate a rich understanding of the sean-nós singing tradition even before his immersion in the language while living in the Connemara region of western Co. Galway.  This experience has left him with a vast repertoire of song and rich store of language that continues to inform and inspire his singing.  Since 2007, Brian has also recorded and toured extensively with famed Co. Antrim singer Len Graham, cultivating considerable knowledge about the Ulster tradition through this collaboration.  He has performed and taught extensively in North America and Ireland and has been featured on various NPR and RTÉ radio programs. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon.

Band Members