Folk Music: Most Popular Articles
Here's a look at the best singer/songwriters, artists and bands in the history of American folk music.
What is folk music? This may be a topic on which scholars, fans, and artists will never entirely agree, but that's only because folk music is subjective to the people to whom it means something, by definition. Learn more about what folk music is, and what it has been in American history.
The acoustic guitar remains the most prevalent instrument in Folk music. Here is a list of the guitars most commonly employed by Folk's greatest players.
Originally written in 1929 as a patriotic song about Cuba, the rhyme scheme and structure of "Guantanamera"
Learn more about the 1950s-1960s folk music revival with this list of important albums, spanning 1952-1965 including Bob Dylan, the Weavers, more.
This acoustic instrument was added to the Bluegrass band line-up by Lester Flatt in the 1950s. Learn more.
Little did Bob Dylan know, in 1961, that he would end up writing some of the world's most celebrated anthems. What follows is a timeline hitting the peaks and valleys of Dylan's epic and ongoing five-decade career.
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The 1960s folk revival churned out a lot of great songs. Here are the 60 best, listed alphabetically by the artist's first name. If you don't see a song that you think belongs on this list, please drop your vote in the folk music forum.
History of American folk music, from topical and protest music to folk-pop, indie roots, Americana, bluegrass, and other forms of acoustic music.
Learn more about American bluegrass music with this list of essential bluegrass artists.
Learn more about the banjo with this list of five essential banjo tunes, for folks learning to play or those who just love the twangy sound.
Women in folk music run the gamut from singer-songwriters to blues guitarists, alt-country crooners and activist protest singers. Learn more about women in folk music, from the legendary trailblazers to the hottest up-and-coming female folksingers. From Janis Ian to Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez to Ani DiFranco, this is a list of some of the most important women in American folk music.
Learn more about the rich history of protest music in American folk, with this list of essential protest songs.
The folk song is one of the most functional, portable, adaptable and accessible arts of human history. Learn more about American folk music.
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Folk music has a long relationship with labor struggles, and particularly labor unions. Here's a peak at some of the most notable, most fun, and most poignant labor tunes in Folk history.
American folk music encompasses all kinds of styles, from political protest music to bluegrass and traditional country, topical songs, love songs, feminist songs, death ballads and beyond. The style has been heavily influenced, though, by some major artists who have come along and left a lasting mark on the field of folk music. Here's a look at some of the most influential American folk artists.
Folk music singers Joan Baez and Bob Dylan wowed audiences whenever they dueted in live concerts. Backstage the pairing was not always so melodic.
What's the difference between folk music and country? Learn more about the history of when country and folk music parted ways.
"We Shall Not Be Moved" is a traditional American folk song whose lyrics probably stretch back to the
Advice for songwriters - Quick tips on how to write a great contemporary folk song (though the same idea applies to any style of music).
For years following the accident, there was a lot of controversy about its plausibility. Did it really happen? Was Dylan making it up just so he could take a much-needed rest? One rumor even held that the accident was a cover, and that in reality Dylan went into rehab to kick drugs. Even today, the crash is still hotly debated, with fans and scholars still referring to Dylan's career in terms of “Pre-Accident” and “Post-Accident.”
Learn more about the peak of the civil rights movement in America (1950s-'60s) with this list of essential civil rights songs.
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Mandolin is one of the most popular instruments in American folk music and bluegrass. Learn more about the instrument by learning more about all the great artists who have played it through the years. Here's a list of some of the greatest mandolin players of folk and bluegrass music.
From his debut at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival to his performance at Martin Luther King Jr's freedom march in Washington, D.C., Bob Dylan spent most of 1962-63 writing
Indie folk (also occasionally called lo-fi indie) is characterized by a slew of up-and-coming bands who pull influence from traditional and contemporary folk music, classic country, and indie rock. Learn more about indie folk, including recommended artists and albums.
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One of the best ways to learn more about the music Pete Seeger made, is to learn to sing the songs he sang. Here are some of the essentials.
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By far the most interesting story that has anything to do with the American folk song, "Goodnight Irene,"
Seattle has a burgeoning folk and roots music scene. Here are opportunities to join not only open mic nights, but also community jam sessions and song swaps.
A look at some of the best contemporary American protest singers, including artists who sang for the Civil Rights, feminist, and peace movements, and those who have stood for the environment, LGBT rights, and other causes important to people everywhere.
A history of preeminent American songwriter Stephen Foster's 1850 folk song.
The Chapin Sisters (Abigail and Lily Chapin, and their half sister Jessica Craven) grew up in Brooklyn, New York, surrounded by some of the greatest voices of
Joan Baez has been one of the most ardent activist-folksingers in the history of the craft, and an inspiration to many other artists and fans alike. If you're just learning about Baez's work, here's a playlist of essential Joan Baez songs to help get you started.
From Woody Guthrie to Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell to Ani Difranco, here's a look at ten of the best American folk music singer/songwriters of all time.
History of "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" is an old American folk song that
A history of the traditional folk song, covered by Simon and Garfunkel in the 1960s.
Whether you live in NYC or are just visiting and want to hit up open mic night, here's a look at some of the New York City's nightly open mics.
Learn more about the influence of African-American music on the evolution of American folk music, with this brief history.
Learn more about Ani DiFranco with this list of some of her very best songs, from protest songs to love songs and beyond.
Nominees and winners in folk music and Americana categories for the 2014 Grammy Awards, and a list of folk artists nominated in other categories.
Bob Dylan has been one of the most dynamic artists in the history of modern American music. Here's a look at five of Bob Dylan's best albums.
Back in the late 1950s, rock 'n' roll royalty's most distinguished names were typically terse, snappy two-syllable appellations that shook, rattled, and rolled off DJs' tongues like so much cool. For a young rocker like Bob Dylan, the name Zimmerman just wasn't gonna cut it. Read more about how Bobby Zimmerman became Bob Dylan.
From Pete Seeger to Jerry Garcia and beyond, here's a look at some of the best folk music for children.
Alternate guitar tunings are a surefire way to pop your strumming hand out of a creative slump.
The musical washboard is a percussion instrument played by scratching or tapping the metal washing surface up and down in rhythm. Learn more about the history of the musical washboard and the zydeco rub-board (frottoir).
The folk revival of the 1960s is often the starting point of fascination with the style for many contemporary folk fans.
Americana music pulls from all areas of the music that has defined American culture, from R&B to country, bluegrass to indie rock. Americana artists frequently pull from traditional and contemporary folk, bluegrass, country, alt-country, soul, gospel, and rock. While this may sound a bit vague or confluent, Americana artists and fans are content to say they know it when they hear it.
Some people are of the mind that a folk song isn't a folk song until it's been around for a long time. I tend to disagree, for the most part, and I happen to think the last couple of years have produced some excellent new folk songs. Here's a look at ten of the great new folk songs that have come out in the past year.
John Henry is a legend of American folklore and American folk music. Learn more about the music which has been inspired by and attributed to one of the American labor movemnet's greatest legendary heroes. Here's a look at the folk song history of John Henry.
Bob Dylan is the king of changing styles, and one of American folk music's most prolific and influential singer/songwriters.
Ani Difranco is one of the most prolific and respected artists in contemporary American folk music. With 20 years and nearly 20 albums under her belt, tireless touring, and a record company all her own, Ani DiFranco has inspired and influenced countless artists. Learn more about Ani DiFranco, including recommended CDs, MP3s, interviews, concert reviews, and more.
A mandolin is a small stringed instrument with eight strings in four pairs (two strings for each note) that are either plucked or strummed in a trill. It's a descendant from the lute, which has six pairs of strings (12 in total). Similarly to the lute, the body of the mandolin is oval or teardrop-shaped. Learn more about the mandolin.
The Carter Family was a country-folk band that eventually became one of the most influential groups in the history of folk, country, bluegrass, and southern gospel music.
Folk artists have been talking about the environment since long before there was a "green movement" to
It's been nine years since I started building this site for the About.com network, so it is with a bittersweet heart that I now bid it adieu. When I began
The Carter Family is one of the most influential families in traditional folk and country music, from the original family band lineup through to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Learn more about the musical contributions of the Carters with this introductory family tree.
Learn more about African-American history and Black History Month by listening to the music of these great African-American folk music artists.
Some folks think "folk" refers to every type of music. Others are more traditional, considering only
Learn more about Alison Krauss with this look at some of her best songs, wiht and without Union Station.
Whether you're a fan of guitar or a student, here's a look at ten of the most influential guitarists in American folk music history.
Description of Woody Guthrie's Work: Singer-songwriter, political music Comparisons: Some of Woody Guthrie's
Learn more about Woody Guthrie with this list of some of his best songs, including protest songs, love songs, and even a children's song.
Recession songs are a rich part of American music history. Here's a list of some of the great folk songs to listen to during tough economic times.
Learn more about Pete Seeger with this introductory bio and profile, including recommended albums and MP3s.
So just who is Mr. Jones in Bob Dylan's song,
Learn more about Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) with this biography and profile, including recommended albums and songs.
Folk Song History of House of the Rising Sun
"America the Beautiful" ( lyrics and guitar tab )âoften called the national hymn of the United Statesâwas
Whether you're camping in the summer or having a midwinter jam in your living room, here's a look at some classic sing-along campfire songs.
Mardi Gras would be no fun without the incredible music of New Orleans. Learn more about the NoLa celebration with this list of Mardi Gras songs.
Protest is remarkable for many reasons, but mostly for the fact that it helps people realize they're not alone in feeling a spirit of dissent against certain injustices, whether on a personal or more overarching governmental level. Learn more about American protest music, topical folk songs, political folksingers, and protest singers.
Ani DiFranco 's 1990 debut album introduced the world to a voice which has proven to be one of the most
Check out a brief history of Folk Rock, its artists and characteristics
By the time Bob Dylan arrived in New York City and began playing regular gigs at Gerde's Folk City in
Here's a look at the background of some of the most popular and memorable patriotic American folk songs.
The Head and the Heart have had a meteoric couple of years, starting as a group of friends who met at open mic nights around Seattle, all the way to headlining slots around the country. Learn more about the Head and the Heart with this brief biography and profile.
There are a lot of things that separate great folk venues from dive rock bars that allow folk musicians on the bill. These venues fill all those qualifications, and many of them go even further to make sure your playing and listening experience is top-notch.
From Simon & Garfunkel to the Indigo Girls and Shovels & Rope...folk music duos make some of the best contemporary folk music.
Although Dylan played the song every night during the Rolling Thunder Revue tour in 1975, he dropped “Hurricane” from his live set after the Night of the Hurricane II benefit in January 1976 and hasn't performed it to this day. It's every diehard Dylanite's deep-seated fantasy that someday, somehow, he or she will be in the front row when Dylan finally decides to shake the tree. Readore about Dylan's song
A prodigious fiddle player and protege of Bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe, Alison Krauss and her band Union Station are one of the hottest and most talented bluegrass music groups around.
Years past may have been packed full of duos or giant bands of soundscaping indie roots artists, but 2013 - at least so far - is teeming with incredible singer-songwriters. If you're looking for some great music to end your summer with, look no further than this quick list of some of the best folk albums of 2013...so far.
Diving into Bob Dylan's music catalog can be a little overwhelming. Check out this list of Bob Dylan's best songs for some tips on where to start.
When Bob Dylan went electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, it would be the biggest artistic statement of Dylan's career, soarking a controversy that still haunts him to this day. Read more about this breakthrough moment in American folk and rock history.
From her time as banjo and guitar player for NC-based bluegrass outfit the Biscuit Burners to her moody and sensual solo work, Shannon Whitworth has dabbled in several areas of the Americana blanket. Learn more about Shannon Whitworth's music and career with this introductory bio and profile.
Full disclosure: I'm a big fan of Jolie Holland. From her time with the Be Good Tanyas to her various solo albums, pulled from her early demos. She's an
Musical spoons are one of the oldest traditional instruments on the planet. When did people start playing musical spoons? How are they played? Learn more about the history of musical spoons in American folk music.
According to Billboard Magazine, Emmylou Harris is working on a memoir covering her four decades in the music industry, from her time singing with the late,
Ani DiFranco's 'Red Letter Year' CD was one of the most celebrated releases of 2008. Once the public had a few months to digest it, she was kind enough to take the time to chat with me about the media's fascination with her happiness, among other things.
David Bazan's music continues the creative arc of his former band Pedro the Lion, tapping into musical influences which seem prevalent in the Northwest music scene. Fans of Bazan might appreciate similar Northwestern indie folk artists like Fleet Foxes, Cave Singers, and Loch Lomond. Larn more about David Bazan with this full bio and profile.
Inarguably the godmother of modern folk music, Joan Baaez is one of the most devoted singer/songwriter/activists.
Ever since Mumford & Sons popped on the scene in the US, plenty of words have been spilled about some shocking new folk-rock movement. Meanwhile, in the folk world, we've been seeing new folk-rock bands pop up for years. From the ever-burgeoning Seattle music scene to folks pouring out of Toronto and even elsewhere in the UK, there is plenty of folk-rock love to go around, well beyond the incredible appeal of Mumford & Sons. But, if you like Mumford, you'll love these other bands.
Based on the classic hymn. Folk Music.
Folk music spans a wide variety of artists. These folk music albums are not only the best place to start for new fans, but are a good primer for fans looking to expand their existing collection.
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Tucked away in his archives for more than 30 years, when Douglas Gilbert unveiled a virtually unknown series of black-and-white Bob Dylan photographs from 1964, it was a monumental event. Released in 2005, his book, Forever Young: Photographs of Bob Dylan, portrays a rarely seen Dylan, unguarded and at ease among friends. Read more about the photography of Bob Dylan here!
Mumford and Sons received a remarkable four Grammy nominations in 2011, making them one of the most successful folk-rock bands of the year. Learn more about this great English band, with this introductory biography and profile of Mumford and Sons, including recommended CDs and MP3s.
"Home on the Range" ( purchase/download ) was adapted from a poem by Dr. Brewster M. Higley (formerly
Townes Van Zandt is the classic cowboy folk and alt.country singer/songwriter
The Alamanac Singers were the first American folk music group to organize and popularize protest and political music.
Amanda Shires may be four albums into her career, but she's still relatively unknown to many outside of a small cirlce of hardcore folkies and Americana music fans. Nonetheless, her 2013 album 'Down Fell the Doves' is one of the most beautiful and nuanced discs of the season, with intricate sotrytelling and poetic lyricism, backed by some rusty and raw instrumentation. Check out this full album review of the latest from Amanda Shires.
Bob Dylan made such an impression on the folk music world--and modern music in general--that critics
The darling of the alt.country world, k.d. lang has gone from punker to country singer to crooner, and beyond.
It is a tradition in American folk music to borrow the melodies of already popular songs and write new
Folk Music Movies - Best Movies About Folk Music Artists and Bands
Nickel Creek's 25th Anniversary album, A Dotted Line, is full of remarkable originals and genre-defying instrumental behavior - read this full review.
From Charles Seeger's fascination with American folk music to his children's proliferation (and some would say darn near perfection) of the craft, to the budding careers of his grandchildren, here's a look at the Seeger family tree.
Learn more about Patty Griffin through these, some of her best songs and essential recordings.
James Taylor is everyone's favorite sensitive singer/songwriter. His career has spanned three decades and taken him from relative obscurity to a level where he is one of the most celebrated songwriters of our time. Here's a profile and more information about singer-songwriter James Taylor.
Woody Guthrie was inarguably one of the most important singer-songwriters in the history of contemporary folk music. But his family has followed suit with their insightful, ruminative, and often humorous story-telling songs. Learn more about the Guthrie Family with this quick family tree.
Learn the history of this folk song - the lyrics, who recorded it and its connection to the Civil Right movement.
The Harmonica is, aside from the human voice and your own two hands, the most portable instrument used in traditional American folk music. Most harmonicas are small enough that they fit perfectly in any pocket.
A brief history of the American bluegrass music, from the Foggy Mountain Boys to Nickle Creek.
Learn more about the man credited with starting American bluegrass - mandolin master, extraordinaire Bill Monroe.
In 1952, filmmaker Harry Smith released a compilation of field recordings, country blues and folk songs from the 1920s and 30s that became an inspiration for budding folksingers and the movement that followed. The rather extensive Anthology of American Folk Music presented artists like The Carter Family, Mississippi John Hurt, Charlie Poole, and Clarence Ashley, among many, many others.
Blowin' in the Wind is, inarguably, one of the most popular protest songs in the history of the craft, although when Bob Dylan introduced it to the world in 1962, he insisted it wasn't a protest song.
There are a lot of great folk music movies and documentaries in the world. Here's a look at seven of the best folk music documentaries.
The 2013 Newport Folk Festival was the first time I ventured out to the Rhode Island coast for this storied event. In the 54 years since it's been running,
In 1940, American folk singer/songwriter Woody Guthrie penned what has become one of the most memorable
Marrying the sensibilities of the punk movement together with the devil-may-care attitude of classic-style
John Carter Cash is the son of June Carter and Johnny Cash, and has proven to be adept at carrying on the family business of making music. In addition to being an accomplished singer-songwriter in his own right, John Carter Cash is also a highly respected producer in the folk and Americana worlds. Learn more about John Carter Cash with this introductory bio and profile.
New Folk Women to Watch - Best New Women Artists to Watch in Folk Music
Learn more about Pete Seeger with this moving documentary by PBS, covering the Almanac Singers, the Weavers, Newport Folk Festival, and more.
Justin Townes Earle's second album on Bloodshot Records, 'Midnight at the Movies' delivers more of that classic country-infused new folk goodness we saw from his debut 'The Good Life'. Read more about Justin Townes Earle's new CD 'Midnight at the Movies'.
When it comes to creative freedom, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan have been two of the most historically defiant risk-takers among American singer-songwriters. Loyal only to the muse, it was inevitable that the paths of these two visionaries would eclipse. Read all about Bob Dylan's lifelong friendship with Johnny Cash here.
History of "Oh Freedom" "Oh Freedom" ( purchase/download ) is thought to date back to the newly-post-Civil
Contrary to popular belief, not all folk songs are about politics, war, disaster, and serious social
List of protest songs written about the George W. Bush administration, the War in Iraq, and other millennial political issues.
Peace Train History "Peace Train" ( purchase/download ) originally appeared on Cat Stevens ' 1971 album
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From the innovators who spun bluegrass into being back in its earliest days, to the imaginative innovators who continue to keep bluegrass alive and relevant, the genre is replete with full-throttle, hugely talented instrumentalists. Here's a look at a few of the players whose work helped define the genre, and those who are helping it stay strong for generations to come.
Even though Thanksgiving is a holiday focused on family and friends and the expression of gratitude (all very emotionally charged things), it's a day somewhat lacking in music. But, rest assured, there are indeed a few Thanksgiving songs worth spending time spinning while you stuff the bird. Here's a look at five essential Thanksgiving songs to get your playlist started right.
Alison Krauss Announces Summer Tour Dates with Willie Nelson
From Martin Carthy to Pete Seeger and beyond, the collection of 300+ songs gathered by Francis James Child in the 19th Century has been recorded and explored by artists in the folk genre for the past half century or so. For anyone only beginning to develop an interest in traditional songwriting or new to Childs' contributions, here are five recordings of Child ballads to get you acquainted.
If you're new to American folk music as a genre, this'll be a great first stop index and answers to your questions. It can alsopoint you to the basic information you may want to know before heading out to delve into the genre.
Everyone knows and loves the remarkable music of Canadian songwriters like Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, and Joni Mitchell. You can't argue with their influence. But what about the new swath of contemporary songwriters up in the great white north? Here's a look at five promising young artists from the great Canadian music scene.
The 1990s were a vibrant, versatile time in American folk music, as alt-country and the folk-punk realm both picked up steam and changed the face of contemporary folk music. Meanwhile, artists that had been around for decades also continued to put out excellent records and keep their hats in the ring. Learn more about contemporary folk music with this look at the 15 best folk, bluegrass, and alt-country albums of the 1990s.
Learn more about the height of the civil rights movement with this look at civil rights and folk music.
Joni Mitchell is easily one of the most influential American folk music artists of her generation. Learn more about Joni Mitchell with this full profile and biography, including recommended CDs and mp3s.
History of "Jingle Bells" "Jingle Bells" ( purchase/download was written by James Lord Pierpont in 1857,
Learn more about seminal folk music supergroup The Weavers, with this introductory bio and profile, including recommended albums and MP3s.
Bob Dylan and Plagiarism: the ethics of Bob Dylan's songwriting style. After Joni Mitchell's comments to the LA Times accusing Bob Dylan of plagiarism, we're wondering...is Bob Dylan really a plagiarist?
Laurel Canyon undoubtably has the reputation for being one of Los Angeles' most bohemian neighborhoods, and Michael Walker is the best man for the job of telling the story of its residents.
A beginners guide to all the ins and outs of American bluegrass music, its history and American bluegrass artists
Bob Dylan remains a guitar-slinging cryptogram as elusive as the meaning of his finest songs. Here are the best books out there about Dylan, for the new fan or the seasoned aficionado alike.
As the holidays approach, here's a look at some of the most notable holiday folk music CDs to get you in the spirit.