Folk Music: Most Popular Articles
Here's a look at the best singer/songwriters, artists and bands in the history of American folk music.
Originally written in 1929 as a patriotic song about Cuba, the rhyme scheme and structure of "Guantanamera"
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.
Learn more about American bluegrass music with this list of essential bluegrass artists.
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.
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.
The folk song is one of the most functional, portable, adaptable and accessible arts of human history. Learn more about 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.
Learn more about the rich history of protest music in American folk, with this list of essential protest songs.
This acoustic instrument was added to the Bluegrass band line-up by Lester Flatt in the 1950s. Learn more.
Advice for songwriters - Quick tips on how to write a great contemporary folk song (though the same idea applies to any style of music).
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.
What's the difference between folk music and country? Learn more about the history of when country and folk music parted ways.
Folk music singers Joan Baez and Bob Dylan wowed audiences whenever they dueted in live concerts. Backstage the pairing was not always so melodic.
History of American folk music, from topical and protest music to folk-pop, indie roots, Americana, bluegrass, and other forms of acoustic music.
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Learn more about the peak of the civil rights movement in America (1950s-'60s) with this list of essential civil rights songs.
American folk songs aren't all about protesting something; there are also plenty of great tunes that pay homage to America. Included on this list are particularly songs that make reference to American Independence Day. Some of them seem to only refer to the 4th of July in passing, but the themes the songs depict embrace the spirit of American patriotism just as much.
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.
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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.
Learn more about the 1950s-1960s folk music revival with this list of important albums, spanning 1952-1965 including Bob Dylan, the Weavers, more.
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.
Jason Isbell began his career as a guitarist in the seminal alt-country band the Drive-By Truckers. But, since leaving that group in 2007, his solo career has taken several interesting turns. From fronting a new band of Americana kickers called the 400 Unit to his disarmingly honest, incredible solo album 'Southeastern,' Isbell has shown himself to be a promising new talent in the folk and Americana world. Learn more about Jason Isbell with this bio and profile.
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.
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.
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.
"We Shall Not Be Moved" is a traditional American folk song whose lyrics probably stretch back to the
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.
A history of the traditional folk song, covered by Simon and Garfunkel in the 1960s.
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.
Nominees and winners in folk music and Americana categories for the 2014 Grammy Awards, and a list of folk artists nominated in other categories.
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Learn more about Ani DiFranco with this list of some of her very best songs, from protest songs to love songs and beyond.
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.
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.”
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.
By far the most interesting story that has anything to do with the American folk song, "Goodnight Irene,"
A history of preeminent American songwriter Stephen Foster's 1850 folk song.
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The folk revival of the 1960s is often the starting point of fascination with the style for many contemporary folk fans.
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.
Alternate guitar tunings are a surefire way to pop your strumming hand out of a creative slump.
History of "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" is an old American folk song that
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
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.
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.
From Simon & Garfunkel to the Indigo Girls and Shovels & Rope...folk music duos make some of the best contemporary folk music.
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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
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!
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.
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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.
Learn more about African-American history and Black History Month by listening to the music of these great African-American folk music artists.
So just who is Mr. Jones in Bob 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.
From Pete Seeger to Jerry Garcia and beyond, here's a look at some of the best folk music for children.
Learn more about Alison Krauss with this look at some of her best songs, wiht and without Union Station.
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.
Bob Dylan is the king of changing styles, and one of American folk music's most prolific and influential singer/songwriters.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here's a look at the background of some of the most popular and memorable patriotic American folk songs.
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.
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.
Learn more about the influence of African-American music on the evolution of American folk music, with this brief history.
Folk Song History of House of the Rising Sun
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.
Description of Woody Guthrie's Work: Singer-songwriter, political music Comparisons: Some of Woody Guthrie's
Claire Lynch is one of the darlings of the International Bluegrass Music Association, having taken home its Best Female Vocalist honor a number of years.
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.
Learn more about Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) with this biography and profile, including recommended albums and songs.
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.
New Folk Women to Watch - Best New Women Artists to Watch in Folk Music
Contrary to popular belief, not all folk songs are about politics, war, disaster, and serious social
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.
Learn more about Pete Seeger with this introductory bio and profile, including recommended albums and MP3s.
List of protest songs written about the George W. Bush administration, the War in Iraq, and other millennial political issues.
Folk artists have been talking about the environment since long before there was a "green movement" to
It is a tradition in American folk music to borrow the melodies of already popular songs and write new
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.
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?
History of "Auld Lang Syne" "Auld Lang Syne" started its life as a poem written by Scottish poet Robert
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.
Based on the classic hymn. Folk Music.
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.
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.
Throughout his career as a songwriter, Bob Dylan has appeared in more than a dozen films. From his own four-hour epic, Renaldo and Clara, to Martin Scorcese's documentary No Direction Home, to cameo roles in B-grade classics like Backtrack and Paradise Cove, check out this chronology of everything Dylan has ever appeared in on the big screen.
For more than 20 years, the Indigo Girls have rocked the folk community with their highly topical tuns and insightful love songs. Learn more about this rather influential folk duo with this introductory bio and profile.
Learn more about the man credited with starting American bluegrass - mandolin master, extraordinaire Bill Monroe.
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.
Nickel Creek's 25th Anniversary album, A Dotted Line, is full of remarkable originals and genre-defying instrumental behavior - read this full review.
Open mic nights are a great way to try out new material, or to check out your local Folk scene. Besides, it's free entertainment, and if you don't like the guy who's singing now, a new one will be up in 10 minutes.
Learn more about seminal folk music supergroup The Weavers, with this introductory bio and profile, including recommended albums and MP3s.
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.
Check out a brief history of Folk Rock, its artists and characteristics
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.
There is no such thing as men's history month. Rather than talk about why, I figured it was only fair to point out the great contributions men have made to American folk music. Since this site already contained a countdown of the important women, why not give equal mention to the men? So here you have it: my top ten picks of the most important men in American folk music.
Inarguably the godmother of modern folk music, Joan Baaez is one of the most devoted singer/songwriter/activists.
"America the Beautiful" ( lyrics and guitar tab )âoften called the national hymn of the United Statesâwas
If there's a single song that captures Bob Dylan's fierce determination to be the architect of his own musical destiny, it's “Maggie's Farm.” Perhaps Dylan's biggest artistic statement, this 1965 song became the singer-songwriter's ironic protest song against the folk establishment while becoming an anthem for the counterculture.
The Grateful Dead were pioneers of the jam band scene, and have had a profound influence on how bluegrass, r&b, avant-garde jazz, folk, and rock music have interacted with one another ever since.
Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent form one of the most buzzed-about folk music duos to have dropped an album in 2012. Learn more about their collaboration (known better as Shovels + Rope) with this introductory bio and profile.
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.
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.
Get a head start on another year of great music releases, with this list of five folk and Americana albums you'll want to hear in early 2014.
Singer/Songwriter Brandi Carlile and her twin collaborators Tim and Phil Hanseroth have been playing together for five years now; but with the release of the band's latest effort The Story, they're drawing in sold out crowds across the country. Carlile's summer tour takes her and the twins to pretty much every corner of the continental U.S. Despite the hectic pace of her schedule, in the midst of her tour with the Indigo Girls, Carlile was kind enough to take some time out for this interview.
Gregory Alan Isakov self-released his fourth album this spring. That disc—'This Empty Northern Hemisphere'—has quickly become one of my favorite singer-songwriter albums of the year. With lush, warm arrangements that create images of star-strewn skies and wave-rocked boats adrift at sea, the album spotlights Isakov’s incredible artistic restraint and intuition. On the heels of that release, he was kind enough to chat for a spell with me about his creative process, among other things.
When John Jurgensen opined in the Wall Street Journal that Bob Dylan—now approaching 70—should seriously consider retirement, the forums went ballistic with comments. What do you think? Should Dylan hang up his harp rack or continue the Never Ending Tour?
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.
In 1940, American folk singer/songwriter Woody Guthrie penned what has become one of the most memorable
The Alamanac Singers were the first American folk music group to organize and popularize protest and political music.
Learn more about Patty Griffin through these, some of her best songs and essential recordings.
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'.
Bob Dylan made such an impression on the folk music world--and modern music in general--that critics
Townes Van Zandt is the classic cowboy folk and alt.country singer/songwriter
Country singer, contemporary folk songwriter, actor extraordinare - Kris Kristofferson is a songwriters' songwriter.
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.
Folk Music Movies - Best Movies About Folk Music Artists and Bands
Probably one of the best things to do in the summertime if you're a folk music fan is to head to a folk festival or outdoor concert series. From St. Louis to New York City, the Rocky Mountains and rural Washington State, folk music fans have got it made for the summertime.
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.
I caught up with Brett Dennen on the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War, which inspired considerable conversation about how a single songwriter can help to change the world.
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When “Like a Rolling Stone” hit the airwaves on July 20, 1965, things would never be the same. The impact was enormous. Revolutionary. And it's no overstatement to say that this extraordinary song was instrumental in reshaping not only Bob Dylan's career, but in many ways, the entire spectrum of American popular music.
The darling of the alt.country world, k.d. lang has gone from punker to country singer to crooner, and beyond.
Learn the history of this folk song - the lyrics, who recorded it and its connection to the Civil Right movement.
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.
The Rooftop Singers were one of the most popular singing groups during the mid-20th Century folk music revival in America. Learn more about the history of the Rooftop Singers and how their music helped influence later singing groups, with this introductory bio and profile.
A common misconception is that folksingers are not hugely skilled instrumentalists, much less great vocalists. On the contrary, many excellent vocalists have taken their skills into contemporary folk music, bluegrass and alt.country. Here's a list of a few of the great folk music vocalists.
Chris Thile's latest incarnation is called the Punch Brothers. Learn more about this innovative folk-jazz group that everyone's talking about.
Phil Ochs was one of the best topical singers of his time, focusing heavily on political and protest music. While his life and career were tragically abbreviated when he committed suicide in 1976 at the age of 35, he managed to pen some of American folk music's finest topical songs. Here's a look at some of Phil Ochs' best songs.
History of "Sunday Morning Coming Down" "Sunday Morning Coming Down" was written by Kris Kristofferson
A beginners guide to all the ins and outs of American bluegrass music, its history and American bluegrass artists
Bob Dylan's 'Tell Tale Signs' provides, if anyone still needs it, proof of why Bob Dylan still matters to modern music. Sure, the studio albums he's put out over the past decade have been timely, impressive, relevant, and stirring in their own right. But, there's something about Dylan's unreleased recordings, mess-ups, live tracks, and outtakes that's far more compelling than the more polished efforts that make it into our collections.
"Home on the Range" ( purchase/download ) was adapted from a poem by Dr. Brewster M. Higley (formerly
From biographies to song encyclopedias, there are scores of books out there about Bob Dylan. But what about the books he wrote himself? Check out this full list of books written by Bob Dylan, complete with short reviews and descriptions.
Janis Ian has written literally hundreds upon hundreds of songs. If you're just learning about her, and want to cut to the chase, here's a list of great tunes to get you started.
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).
Marrying the sensibilities of the punk movement together with the devil-may-care attitude of classic-style
Neil Young is inarguably one of Folk Rock's most influential and prolific artists
Learn more about Joni Mitchell with this brief list of some of her very best songs.
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.
American folk music stretches way back to the very beginnings of the country, and recording the date
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.