11. Emmylou Harris
Emmylou Harris is often considered a country singer, but her roots really lie in contemporary folk. Certainly her early records were very folky. Emmylou has long been an advocate of social justice and has counted Joan Baez and Bob Dylan among her many influences. Certainly she's managed to influence an enormous crop of folksingers, including Gillian Welch and Janis Ian.
12. Gillian Welch
Gillian Welch is definitely one of the most respected songwriters on the scene these days. Her songs have been used in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and her frequent collaboration with David Rawlings is one of the most appreciated musical partnerships these days.
14. Greg Brown
With his simple, folksy imagery and tunes inspired by his Midwest hometown, Greg Brown has become one of the most inimitable songwriters around these days. His own Red House Records has produced a number of successful artists like Eliza Gilkyson and others.
15. Guy Clark
16. Holly Near
Holly Near's staunch activism and feminist political protest songs have earned her a place among the greatest American folk singers of all time.
17. Harry Belafonte
First discovered as a calypso artist, Harry Belafonte became most popular for his "Banana Boat Song." He also became an active force in the Civil Rights movement of the '60s.
18. Ian & Sylvia
Ian & Sylvia were one of the most successful folk duos of the 1960s and '70s. They worked with fellow Canadian Gordon Lightfoot, and also recorded several original and traditional folk songs.
19. James Taylor
James Taylor is often considered one of the most successful of the "sensitive singer/songwriters." Although he's not a traditionalist folksinger, his music blends the tenets of folk with a more mainstream folk-pop style.
20. Janis Ian
Janis Ian was a different kind of teen queen, hitting the national scene at the age of 15 with a self-penned tune about an inter-racial relationship. She hasn't stopped pushing the envelope since, and is still releasing excellent records now, more than 40 years later.