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The Barleyshakes History

The Full Story

Brewed in Ireland and distilled in Australia, the Barleyshakes are a Celtic band with worldly influences, combining intense energy, beautiful harmony and driving dance rhythms in their live performances. 


Queensland Music Award winners in the World Music category in 2011, the Barleyshakes are loved for their blend of traditional and original material, and their uplifting and joyous approach to live performance. The Shakes skillfully blend their “bent” Irish sound with many other styles in their fast paced songs and instrumentals. 

Using fiddles, banjo, flutes, bass, drums, guitar, mandolin, and vocals, the Shakes are a collaboration of Irish and Australian performers. 


Vocalist and guitarist Alan Kelly is from Dublin and sings traditional and original songs in the Irish language, as well as English and French. Alan has recorded as a bodhran soloist for the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. 


Fiddler Kristin Kelly was a long-time strings teacher on the Atherton Tablelands and a member of Patterson’s Curse Bush Band before teaming up with members of the Czech Velvet Revolution to form Prague based band Puca Rua.


Flautist Belinda Tucker won the Declan Affley Award for best young folk musician of the year at the National Folk Festival, Canberra in 2005, and then went on to become an integral part of the music program at Villa Nova College in Brisbane. Her Celtic ensemble from Villa Nova performs regularly at Austarlia's festivals.


Drummer Erin Sulman is famously in demand throughout Australia having worked with Lothlorien, Greg Arnold, & Dave Flower. Erin also sings while drumming for Aussie Boogaloo. Erin left the band in 2021 for personal reason but drops inb for a sweet jam from time to time.

Mocara Kelly is Kristin and Alan's second daughter and officallly joined the band in 2021 on fiddle and  vocals. She is a natural in all things live music and is the unofficial tour manager when Alan is asleep at the wheel.

Rory Kelly, 21 years, has been unofficial member since the age of 9. He now plays saxophones, bodhran and sings, but is adding new instruments all the time.

Veteran instrumentalist Steve Cook is hugely respected throughout Australia for his work with acoustic Irish band Tulca Mor. With the Shakes he plucks a mean dizzy banjo, mandolin and electric guitar.


Completing the line up on bass is American Bassist Joe Morris, who background in Ska, and Reggae gives the Shakes a contemporary dance edge.


“Any event looking for great musicians with talent, a solid traditional foundation and tasteful experimental leanings should look no further than the Barleyshakes. Combining great musicianship, thoughtful social comment and an impressive stage presence the Barleyshakes are more than capable of raising whatever roof has the good fortune to be sheltering them.”   Woodford Folk Festival.


Originally formed in 1994 in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, the Barleyshakes quickly gathered a loyal and passionate following. The original line up was Alan Kelly, Ray Mac Cormac, Klaus Harvey and Dave Hingerty.


Ray Mac Cormac is a virtuoso whistle player, and uilleann piper, and also a talented singer. His band Sliotar continue to perform to packed houses and big festivals all over Ireland and Europe.

Dave Hingerty now performs with Kila, having previously been the drummer for the Frames and Josh Ritter. Dave also is the creator of the Side 4 Collective project.

Soon into the bands birth, both Mark Heffernan and Eric Lang joined the band as percussionists and singers. The Barleyshakes first studio album "Gach Ean" was a big success. They toured the hell out of "Gach Ean" but soon after the tour ended, Eric and Ray left the band.


Determined they were onto a good thing the lads enlisted Kristin Kelly from Prague based band Puca Rua, and gifted young flautist Alan Doherty (ALDOC) to record their second album "Jump at the Sun". This album was even more successful than the first and the support tour saw the Barleyshakes perform to huge audiences throughout Europe, particularly in Switzerland where they shared the stage with Metallica and Joe Cocker.

 "Jump at the Sun" even made it to the Woodford Folk festival in Australia where three of the members moved to in 2000. They enlisted ska and reggae bassist Joe Morris, who polarised the band's sound and gave it a more world music edge. The third album "Visions in the Fog" was released in 2001. Also at this time Alan  Doherty and Alan Kelly recorded as soloists for the Lord of the Rings soundtrack with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and composer Howard Shore.


Soon after Alan Doherty returned to Ireland to form the band Grada  with whom he toured and recorded with for 6 years. Grada soon became one of the hottest acts in the Irish music scene worldwide. Alan unleashed his new Irish ethereal project entitled ALDOC on the world in September 2013. Alan now performs regularly with the likes of Christy Moore and Damien Dempsey.

 Long time friend and folkster Belinda Tucker stepped easily into Doherty's shoes on flutes, joined also by Erin Sulman on bodhran for the forth album, "Warts and All", recorded live at Wintermoon Festival.

Erin dusted off his drums for the fifth album, "Pearls and Emeralds", which was launched at the National Celtic Festival in Portarlington, Victoria in June 2009.

Joe Morris left the band after 9 years and gifted veteran Gary Ward of Mangrove Jack fame was enlisted to "drop the bass". Steve Cook, a legend on the Australian folk scene, also joined as multi-instrumentalist, completing the current line up. The band released their award winning sixth album, "Grateful", in 2011.

Kristin teaches strings  at Sunshine Beach State High School, while she also concentrates on her live and recording career.

 Erin teaches drums and percussion at the Music at Noosa school of music.

 Steve also runs the Maleny tunes class every second Wednesday running for over 11 years.

 Belinda is a music teacher in Brisbane.

Joe is the very much loved film and TV teacher at our local High School


Alan performs solo using a looping device, bodhran, guitar, and cajon. He also runs Bloodwood Recording Studios, based in the Noosa hinterland. And Alan also runs his much in demand  trio which includes Steve and Erin and has a bi-weekly residency at Flanagan's Noosa Reef Hotel.


Alan and Kristin have released an album and also perform with their three children Sofia, Mocara and Rory as the Kelly Family Band.

Album # 8  "Irishtown" was released in April 2019 and was quickly made Album of the month by ABC National Radio. Alan recently won the Producer of the year award for Australian Celtic Music for his work on Irishtown.

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