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A lucky musical find in Dublin: The Magpies

Our goal was simple. We were looking for some traditional Irish music and a pub that wasn’t packed to the gills – a trickier ask than one might think on a holiday/marathon weekend in Dublin. We wound up discovering not only a great old pub, but a lovely young music trio.

The Magpies are three young women from England, each commanding a lovely voice, and strong trad chops on, respectively, the violin, guitar, and banjo. They describe their music as “trans-Atlantic folk,” and it’s a mix of original songs and nuggets from the past. They also featured several instrumental offerings, in the Irish tradition.

The Magpies have “burst out of” the UK folk scene, according to their website. Bella Gaffney seems to be the primary song-writer. But the website makes clear that the three band members work collaboratively. Kate Griffen, who alternates between guitar and banjo with Gaffney, also writes songs, as does Holly Brandon, who shines on violin. Although Gaffney takes the lead vocal on most songs, the band is best when the three harmonize, especially in moments when the instruments drop and the voices are left.

You can check them out here. We’ll keep an eye on them from afar, and will hope for some US appearances.

Also strong was the opening solo act, Sarah Buckley, who hails from County Cork.

As for the pub, the Cobblestone seems to be a strong gathering place for lovers of traditional Irish music. There is a “session” every night at the front tables. This is where local musicians gather informally and play, occasionally allowing guests to sit in, and join them for a song. Most of the offerings are instrumental jigs and reels. But the occasional ballad is heard. It’s an especially lovely Irish-pub moment when the place goes silent for a song, and a perfect Irish tenor or soprano offers something like “Raglan Road” or “She Moved Through the Fair.”

It is located on the north side of the Liffey River, near Smithfield Square.


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