Is there anything more American than barbeque, boating, or comparing NASCAR picks with your neighbour? Well, American folk music might surpass all of these things in terms of its reflection of American culture. Whether you’re an avid listener of the genre already, or you’re not sure where to start, sit down and listen to these six amazing folk bands.
Simon and Garfunkel
Singers Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were an American folk music duo who originated in New York City. The two men were at the top of the charts in the 1960s, often hitting the number one spot on worldwide music charts.
Although the two had creative differences during their time making music together, they were able to produce amazing hits that all Americans know and love today.
Some of their greatest songs include “The Sound of Silence,” “The Boxer,” “Mrs. Robinson,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” The pair officially broke up in the early 70s but continued to tour every few years until 2018.
The Lumineers are another great American folk group. The band originated as a duo between singer-guitarist Wesley Schultz and pianist-drummer Jeremiah Fraites. Since the group’s genesis in the early 2000s, the band has added three more touring members and has produced four albums, including a percussionist, a violinist, and a mandolinist.
They’re most well-known for their song “Ho Hey,” which hit the 3rd spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Other honourable mentions include songs “Ophelia,” “Flapper Girl,” “Cleopatra,” and “A.M. RADIO.” They claim to be inspired by legends such as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Bruce Springsteen. The folk group is touring the U.S. throughout 2022.
The Avett Brothers
Another less known but equally amazing American folk band is The Avett Brothers. The Avett Brothers are brothers Scott and Seth Avett, bassist Bob Crawford, and cellist Joe Kwon.
The two brothers originally created a rock band called Nemo but wanted to incorporate more bluegrass and folky sound into their music. Thus, The Avett Brothers were born.
The Avett Brothers have produced ten studio albums and three EPs. Two of their albums, The Carpenter and True Sadness, were nominated for the “Best Americana Album” Grammy award. Some great tunes by them include “I and Love and You,” “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise,” and “Talk on Indolence.”
If you’re searching for something more laid-back and calm, listen to Fleet Foxes. This indie-folk band was formed in Seattle, Washington, in 2006. They have five members, including vocalist Robin Pecknold, guitarist Skyler Skjelset, keyboardist Casey Wescott, bassist Christian Wargo, and violinist Morgan Henderson.
The group found success once they released their second EP titled Sun Giant in 2008. They’ve since produced three studio albums. Fleet Foxes has been nominated for two Grammy Awards, including “Best Folk Album” in 2012 and “Best Alternative Music Album” in 2022. To relax and unwind, listen to their songs “Mykonos,” “White Winter Hymnal,” and “Ragged Wood.”
The Mamas & the Papas
Another oldie, but a goodie. The Mamas & the Papas were a folk vocal group who rose to fame in the late 1960s for their immense influence on the counterculture music scene within the decade. The group was composed of singers John Phillips, Cass Elliot, Michelle Phillips, and Denny Doherty. They formed in Los Angeles, California, composing and performing music from 1965 to 1968.
The band created five studio albums. Their most famous song is “California Dreamin’,” but other enjoyable tunes include “Monday, Monday,” “Dedicated to the One I Love,” and “Snowqueen of Texas.”
Bon Iver is a modern folk-indie band that was created by Wisconsinite Justin Vernon in 2006. He released Bon Iver’s debut album For Emma, Forever Ago independently in 2007, and three more albums have been produced since, including Bon Iver, 22, A million, and I, I. The latest album was nominated for “Album of the Year” at the 2020 Grammy Awards.
Great hits from Bon Iver include songs “Rosyln,” “Skinny Love,” and “Beach Baby.” The band has also worked with singer Taylor Swift on her songs “exile” and “evermore.”