Folk Music: Most Popular Articles
Here's a look at the best singer/songwriters, artists and bands in the history of American folk music.
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.
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.
Originally written in 1929 as a patriotic song about Cuba, the rhyme scheme and structure of "Guantanamera"
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.
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History of American folk music, from topical and protest music to folk-pop, indie roots, Americana, bluegrass, and other forms of acoustic music.
The Alamanac Singers were the first American folk music group to organize and popularize protest and political music.
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.
What's the difference between folk music and country? Learn more about the history of when country and folk music parted ways.
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.
Learn more about American bluegrass music with this list of essential bluegrass artists.
Learn more about the peak of the civil rights movement in America (1950s-'60s) with this list of essential civil rights songs.
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.
Advice for songwriters - Quick tips on how to write a great contemporary folk song (though the same idea applies to any style of music).
Folk music singers Joan Baez and Bob Dylan wowed audiences whenever they dueted in live concerts. Backstage the pairing was not always so melodic.
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.”
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.
October's featured artist Dan Bern was kind enough to answer some questions for me in an email interview. Check out what he had to say.
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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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.
This acoustic instrument was added to the Bluegrass band line-up by Lester Flatt in the 1950s. Learn more.
Learn more about Ani DiFranco with this list of some of her very best songs, from protest songs to love songs and beyond.
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.
"We Shall Not Be Moved" is a traditional American folk song whose lyrics probably stretch back to the
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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
The folk revival of the 1960s is often the starting point of fascination with the style for many contemporary folk fans.
Dan Bern is one of the hardest-working Singer/Songwriters in the Folk world. His music runs the gamut from raw & sentimental Folk songs to the talking blues, to some of the rockin'est Folk-Rock around!
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.
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 the rich history of protest music in American folk, with this list of essential protest songs.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Learn more about African-American history and Black History Month by listening to the music of these great African-American folk music artists.
Landon Pigg may look remarkably like pretty boy Ashton Kutcher, but his sound leans more toward the flowy, groovy melodies of Brandi Carlile and Rufus Wainwright. His voice is sweet, clear, and honest. Much like the work of Carlile and Wainwright, Pigg's songs all start small and swell from there until they've just about swallowed you whole.
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Learn more about the influence of African-American music on the evolution of American folk music, with this brief history.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Simon & Garfunkel to the Indigo Girls and Shovels & Rope...folk music duos make some of the best contemporary folk music.
Alternate guitar tunings are a surefire way to pop your strumming hand out of a creative slump.
A history of preeminent American songwriter Stephen Foster's 1850 folk song.
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.
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.
Learn more about Alison Krauss with this look at some of her best songs, wiht and without Union Station.
Check out a brief history of Folk Rock, its artists and characteristics
Since 2007, Samantha Crain has been slowly but surely turning more and more heads in folk and singer-songwriter circles with her lyrical and hard-hitting story songs. With the release of her 2013 disc 'Kid Face', Crain takes her first stab at autobiographical tunes, focusing more clearly on truth-telling in some of the most arresting songs of her career thus far. Learn more about Samantha Crain with this introductory profile.
Nominees and winners in folk music and Americana categories for the 2014 Grammy Awards, and a list of folk artists nominated in other categories.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Description of Woody Guthrie's Work: Singer-songwriter, political music Comparisons: Some of Woody Guthrie's
From Pete Seeger to Jerry Garcia and beyond, here's a look at some of the best folk music for children.
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.
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
The late 60s and 70s saw the re-emergence of folk-pop as artists like James Taylor became popular in
Bob Dylan made such an impression on the folk music world--and modern music in general--that critics
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.
There's much controversy as to what inspired John Hammond—Columbia Records' all-time greatest A&R man—into signing Bob Dylan to the label. Some say it was Robert Shelton's legendary review in the New York Times. Others claim Hammond already had Dylan in his sights when the review was published. Either way, on September 30, 1961, Dylan found himself sitting signing on a dotted line that would over time make Columbia Records his home record label for what now amounts to five decades.
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.
By far the most interesting story that has anything to do with the American folk song, "Goodnight Irene,"
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.
"America the Beautiful" ( lyrics and guitar tab )âoften called the national hymn of the United Statesâwas
In 1940, American folk singer/songwriter Woody Guthrie penned what has become one of the most memorable
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 Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) with this biography and profile, including recommended albums and songs.
Inarguably the godmother of modern folk music, Joan Baaez is one of the most devoted singer/songwriter/activists.
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,
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.
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Learn more about the man credited with starting American bluegrass - mandolin master, extraordinaire Bill Monroe.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Learn more about the evolution of American folk music with these essential memoirs and autobiographies by folks from Woody Guthrie to Janis Ian.
So just who is Mr. Jones in Bob Dylan's song,
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Here's a look at the background of some of the most popular and memorable patriotic American folk songs.
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.
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.
Based on the classic hymn. Folk Music.
"Home on the Range" ( purchase/download ) was adapted from a poem by Dr. Brewster M. Higley (formerly
Learn more about the height of the civil rights movement with this look at civil rights and folk music.
Lester Flatt is often considered one of the greatest bluegrass artists of all time. As an early member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys and then through nearly 20 years of collaboration with Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt made an indelible mark on American bluegrass.
A beginners guide to all the ins and outs of American bluegrass music, its history and American bluegrass artists
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.
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?
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.
Written in 1931 by Florence Reece, "Which Side Are You On?" was intended specifically as a song to be
Learn more about Patty Griffin through these, some of her best songs and essential recordings.
Folk artists have been talking about the environment since long before there was a "green movement" to
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.
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.
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.
Contrary to popular belief, not all folk songs are about politics, war, disaster, and serious social
Learn more about Pete Seeger with this moving documentary by PBS, covering the Almanac Singers, the Weavers, Newport Folk Festival, and more.
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
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.
A brief history of the American bluegrass music, from the Foggy Mountain Boys to Nickle Creek.
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.
Most people these days - especially in the United States - would consider "We Gather Together" as sort
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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.
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.
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.
Marrying the sensibilities of the punk movement together with the devil-may-care attitude of classic-style
Learn the history of this folk song - the lyrics, who recorded it and its connection to the Civil Right movement.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Folk Song History of House of the Rising Sun
Born in Heidelberg, Germany, Jackson Browne quickly became one of America's most beloved songwriters. His latest album, Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1, was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2007.
The darling of the alt.country world, k.d. lang has gone from punker to country singer to crooner, and beyond.
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.
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Milk Carton Kids - Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale - are one of 2011's most buzzed-about up-and-coming folk duos. Embodying the same simplicity of earlier folk duos like Simon & Garfunkel and the intuitive harmonies of the Indigo Girls, Milk Carton Kids are definitely a new folk artist to watch. Learn more about Ryan and Pattengale with this basic bio and profile...
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.
Bluegrass singer, songwriter and instrumentalist Rhonda Vincent has won over 40 awards from the IBMA and SPBGMA combined. She's one of the most talented and revered women in contemporary bluegrass.
Gordon Lightfoot is one of Canada's greatest and most prolific singer/songwriters.
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.
Nickel Creek's 25th Anniversary album, A Dotted Line, is full of remarkable originals and genre-defying instrumental behavior - read this full review.
"Over the River and Through the Woods" is widely known as one of the most beloved songs about Thanksgiving
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.
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.
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.
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'.
Chris Thile's latest incarnation is called the Punch Brothers. Learn more about this innovative folk-jazz group that everyone's talking about.