Genre Deep Focus: Singer-Songwriter/Folk

Story posted January 27, 2022 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Jon Mead

Nothing is more beautiful than the deep lyrics and folk melodies of those artists that fall under the singer-songwriter genre.

Singer-songwriters often have the freedom and skills to create and compose their own lyrics and music, giving a far more personable meaning when it comes to the listening experience.

Singer-songwriters have traversed the realms of music through all different kinds of popular styles.

Today, they’re more strongly tied to folk and indie. Often accompanied by a guitar or piano in the past, present-day artists use other kinds of instruments, backtracking, software and technology to make their music far more interesting.
Indie artist Sufjan Stevens is even known for melding two completely unrelated genres, electronica and folk.

There’s something about a self-made creation that makes it raw and more relatable to audiences, in comparison to other musicians who lose a lot of rights and control over their own work.

Early singer-songwriters can be traced back to the time when musicians were just starting to print and record their own music, with strong ties to traveling performers and ballad singers.

Between the 40s and 60s, there was a renewed interest in folk and country, with artists such as Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Lead Belly and Bob Dylan emerging, having an influence on a wide array of musicians.

This would have been sparked by the American Folk Music revival, strongly associated with the 1970s and performers like Joni Mitchell, Scott Walker and Cat Stevens, all people who continue to inspire new generations of music and creativity.

Without further ado, here are some of the greatest singer-songwriters.

Bob Dylan

This list could never be complete without the appearance of the man himself. Bob Dylan is one of the greatest songwriters and poets in history and a prominent figure in American pop culture.

Dylan is known for his harsh and nasally vocals, tackling themes in his songs such as war, racism and politics. His discography is lengthy, spanning decades.

Want to know where to start? Start by listening to his second studio LP, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.”

Neil Young

When people think of folk, Canadian-American musician Neil Young is the first person who comes to mind - well, second to Bob Dylan.

Young is known for his high, tenor voice and the wide range of instruments he uses in his music, with lyrics covering both political and personal themes.

Check out “After the Gold Rush” and “Harvest,” two of his greatest and well-known albums.

Liz Phair

A hybrid of indie rock and lo-fi, Liz Phair started out her career in the 90s along with other amazing solo artists like Fiona Apple and Songs: Ohia.

Phair’s lyrical themes are simultaneously funny and distressing, making for a very interesting listen. Topics in her music cover sex, feminism and conforming to cultural expectations.

Listening to “Exile in Guyville” is an absolute must.

Rodriguez

Coming from the city of Detroit, Michigan, Rodriguez was completely unknown in America during the time of his musical career.

Fortunately, he had a massive following in South Africa, and for good reason. With his discovery in 2012 through the documentary “Sugar Man,” he’s received his deserved recognition.

Rodriguez sings catchy and well-written songs, telling of a rough and crime-ridden lifestyle on the streets.
Listen to “Cold Fact,” an absolute masterpiece.

Nick Drake

Unfortunately, Nick Drake’s career was cut short at the young age of 26 in 1974, but his music has had a huge impact on both normal listeners and musicians.

His unique finger-style guitar playing, along with his signature whispery voice, make for a gorgeous and peaceful listening experience for audiences.

Do yourself a favor and take the time to listen to “Pink Moon.”

 

Jon Mead is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jkm6040@psu.edu.

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