Folk Music: Most Popular Articles
Here's a look at the best singer/songwriters, artists and bands in the history of American folk music.
Learn more about American bluegrass music with this list of essential bluegrass artists.
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 the rich history of protest music in American folk, with this list of essential protest songs.
Originally written in 1929 as a patriotic song about Cuba, the rhyme scheme and structure of "Guantanamera"
Learn more about the peak of the civil rights movement in America (1950s-'60s) with this list of essential civil rights songs.
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 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.
This acoustic instrument was added to the Bluegrass band line-up by Lester Flatt in the 1950s. Learn more.
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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Advice for songwriters - Quick tips on how to write a great contemporary folk song (though the same idea applies to any style of 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.
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.
"We Shall Not Be Moved" is a traditional American folk song whose lyrics probably stretch back to the
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.
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.
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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Folk music singers Joan Baez and Bob Dylan wowed audiences whenever they dueted in live concerts. Backstage the pairing was not always so melodic.
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What's the difference between folk music and country? Learn more about the history of when country and folk music parted ways.
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.
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.
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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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.
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.
Nominees and winners in folk music and Americana categories for the 2014 Grammy Awards, and a list of folk artists nominated in other categories.
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.
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.
"Scarborough Fair" ( purchase/download ), popularized in America by Simon and Garfunkel, is an English
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.
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.
Who Wrote "Camptown Races"? "Camptown Races" ( purchase/download ) was written by preeminent American
Folk artists have been talking about the environment since long before there was a "green movement" to
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.
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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.
Nickel Creek's 25th Anniversary album, A Dotted Line, is full of remarkable originals and genre-defying instrumental behavior - read this full review.
History of "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" is an old American folk song that
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.”
By far the most interesting story that has anything to do with the American folk song, "Goodnight Irene,"
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.
Alternate guitar tunings are a surefire way to pop your strumming hand out of a creative slump.
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.
Buy Direct Ask any Bob Dylan fan to name his or her top five Dylan songs, and chances are âHurricaneâ
Learn more about the influence of African-American music on the evolution of American folk music, with this brief history.
Learn more about the 1950s-1960s folk music revival with this list of important albums, spanning 1952-1965 including Bob Dylan, the Weavers, more.
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.
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.
Check out a brief history of Folk Rock, its artists and characteristics
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.
Bob Dylan is the king of changing styles, and one of American folk music's most prolific and influential singer/songwriters.
From Pete Seeger to Jerry Garcia and beyond, here's a look at some of the best folk music for children.
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.
Country singer, contemporary folk songwriter, actor extraordinare - Kris Kristofferson is a songwriters' songwriter.
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.
From Simon & Garfunkel to the Indigo Girls and Shovels & Rope...folk music duos make some of the best contemporary folk music.
Peter Paul and Mary are the quintessential folk trio from the sixties. They were instrumental in building the bridge between topical folk music and mainstream pop.
List of protest songs written about the George W. Bush administration, the War in Iraq, and other millennial political issues.
Bob Dylan made such an impression on the folk music world--and modern music in general--that critics
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.
Learn more about Pete Seeger with this introductory bio and profile, including recommended albums and MP3s.
Description of Woody Guthrie's Work: Singer-songwriter, political music Comparisons: Some of Woody Guthrie's
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.
Learn more about Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) with this biography and profile, including recommended albums and songs.
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.
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.
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.
Marrying the sensibilities of the punk movement together with the devil-may-care attitude of classic-style
Learn more about African-American history and Black History Month by listening to the music of these great African-American folk music artists.
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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.
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.
Claire Lynch is one of the darlings of the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), having taken home its Best Female Vocalist honor a number of years. Her earnest narrative songs and remarkably polished backing band make her one of the fiercest forces in contemporary folk and bluegrass. Learn more about Claire Lynch with this bio and profile.
Learn more about the height of the civil rights movement with this look at civil rights and folk music.
A brief history of the American bluegrass music, from the Foggy Mountain Boys to Nickle Creek.
American folk music stretches way back to the very beginnings of the country, and recording the date
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.
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.
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 "House of the Rising Sun" is probably most famous for the cover version recorded by the Animals
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.
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.
"America the Beautiful" ( lyrics and guitar tab )âoften called the national hymn of the United Statesâwas
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.
Here's a look at the background of some of the most popular and memorable patriotic American folk songs.
Folk Music Movies - Best Movies About Folk Music Artists and Bands
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 "This Little Light of Mine" "This Little Light of Mine" made it into the American folk music
A beginners guide to all the ins and outs of American bluegrass music, its history and American bluegrass artists
"Home on the Range" ( purchase/download ) was adapted from a poem by Dr. Brewster M. Higley (formerly
The Alamanac Singers were the first American folk music group to organize and popularize protest and political music.
It's been a long time coming for this rock and roll vocalist. Her fans have long been looking forward to the day when Wilson would release her solo album. What's remarkable about this disc is that she chose, her first time out, to record some of the great, influential songs of the 20th century, from artists like Elton John to Led Zeppelin, Lucinda Williams and Bob Dylan.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bob Dylan is one of the most influential singer/songwriters ever, whether you're looking at Folk, Pop, or Rock. His career has enjoyed several twists and turns that have kept fans (and often Bob himself) on their toes. If you don't have the patience for Scorsese's very long Documentary on Dylan, have no fear. I'll sum it up for you by ticking off the ten biggest moments at the start of his career.
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.
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.
History of "Sunday Morning Coming Down" "Sunday Morning Coming Down" was written by Kris Kristofferson
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.
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.
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.
Learn more about the man credited with starting American bluegrass - mandolin master, extraordinaire Bill Monroe.
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.
Oklahoman Parker Millsap has been making waves underground on the folk music circuit for a few years. His full-length debut album is worth the wait.
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.
Carlene Carter is carrying on the legacy of her incredibly talented family, making music which straddles the line between folk and country and endearing her story to a new generation of listeners. Check out this bio and profile for more information about Carlene Carter.
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In 1940, American folk singer/songwriter Woody Guthrie penned what has become one of the most memorable
Contrary to popular belief, not all folk songs are about politics, war, disaster, and serious social
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.
When groups of people gather together to set out a-caroling around Christmas time, the most joyful carol
The Dubliners is an Irish folk group founded by singer and guitarist Ronnie Drew in 1962. Originally called the Ronnie Drew Group, they changed their name to the Dubliners, named for the novel by Irish author James Joyce.
New Folk Women to Watch - Best New Women Artists to Watch in Folk Music
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?
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.
Corb Lund has been around for quite some time, but it seems the word about his great traditionalist approach to country music is finally starting to spread. As the world turns on to Corb Lund's great new album, learn more about this finally up-and-coming Canadian roots music singer-songwriter.
Iron and Wine is a made up of Florida-based singer/songwriter Sam Beam either solo or occasionally with friends, and is one of the artists at the forefront of the new 21st century folk-pop revival.
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.
Learn more about newgrass/genre-defiant path-forging band Nickel Creek with this brief history of their albums. Complete discography.
Nickel Creek was a leading force in progressive bluegrass until they split in 2007. They reunited in 2013 ... Learn more about Nicekl Creek.
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.
Beware Mr. Jones... In his 2007 film, Todd Haynes takes a multi-layered, complex subject, boiling events between 1961-79 down to interpretations. Sometimes those interpretations are literal, at other times abstract, but they never stray far from the general consensus among biographers. With such an ambitious project, there's always the risk of alienating the audience. But bottom line: this is for advanced Dylan fans who come equipped with a healthy smidgeon of background knowledge.
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.
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.
History of "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize" Based on the classic hymn "Hold On" (a.k.a. "Gospel Plow"),
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.
While his 34 studio albums stand as a series of creative milestones documenting a songwriter's artistic development, Dylan is above all a performer, and to experience Dylan is to know his live concert experience. Check out this complete chronology of Dylan's live albums.
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.
Inarguably the godmother of modern folk music, Joan Baaez is one of the most devoted singer/songwriter/activists.
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 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.
"O Christmas Tree" (a.k.a. "O Tannenbaum") is a German Christmas carol whose earliest lyrics date back
A century ago, immigrant workers hit the streets to demand fair work conditions and protection under the law, singing the songs of their labor unions. Today, as immigrant workers demonstrate for the right to work in America as they strive for citizenship, their protest songs take a different direction.
Neil Young is inarguably one of Folk Rock's most influential and prolific artists
If you trace back the tradition of stringband music (guitar, banjo, fiddle, bass; sometimes mandolin and/or dobro), you'll find folk, country, bluegrass, ragtime, and several other styles. Nowadays, some of the most remarkable stringbands are pulling not only from those rich traditions, but also modern rock, soul, gospel, jazz and r&b. Learn more about great modern stringbands with this primer list.
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.