The Best of Canadian Folk Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Looking for some new music to add to your collection? Check out our list of the best Canadian folk music albums out there!

The Origins of Canadian Folk Music

Canadian folk music has its roots in the transatlantic migrations of the 18th and 19th centuries. Scottish and Irish immigrants brought with them their own folk traditions, which blended with the music of the Indigenous peoples of the area to create a unique musical style. Canadian folk music is often characterized by its focus on the natural world and the daily lives of working people.

The influence of Celtic and Acadian music

The roots of Canadian folk music are varied, with influences from both Celtic and Acadian traditions. Celtic music is thought to have arrived in Canada with Scottish and Irish immigrants, while Acadian music is thought to have arrived with French settlers from the Maritime provinces. Both traditions have influenced the development of Canadian folk music over the years.

The influence of Celtic music can be heard in the traditional songs of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as in the work of contemporary artists such as Great Big Sea and The Rankin Family. The influence of Acadian music can be heard in the traditional songs of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, as well as in the work of contemporary artists such as Les Hay Babies and Les Hôtesses d’Hilaire.

The influence of First Nations music

First Nations music has had a profound influence on Canadian folk music. The use of the drums and drumming, along with singing and storytelling, are all integral parts of First Nations music and have helped to shape the sound of Canadian folk music.

First Nations music is often characterized by its use of the powwow drum, which is a large drum used to keep time while singing and dancing. The powwow drum is usually played by one or two people, using either sticks or bare hands. First Nations people also use a variety of other drums, including small hand drums and water drums.

First Nations music often features vocal harmony and call-and-response singing. This type of singing involves one person singing a phrase, which is then repeated by the rest of the group. First Nations songs often tell stories, and many are about nature or the seasons.

The influence of First Nations music can be heard in the work of many Canadian folk musicians, including ones from other cultures. For example, Cree singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie has said that she was influenced by the sound of powwow drums when she was growing up.

The Evolution of Canadian Folk Music

In the 1950s and 1960s, commercial folk music in Canada followed closely in the footsteps of developments in the United States. Popular recordings were made by American artists such as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, all of whom had a significant influence on the folk music scene in Canada.

The first commercially successful Canadian folk artist was Harry Belafonte, whose 1956 album Calypso became the first album by a solo artist to sell over one million copies. Belafonte’s success was quickly followed by that of other Canadian artists including Gordon Lightfoot, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell.

The popularity of folk music in Canada declined in the early 1970s, but experienced a revival in the later part of the decade thanks to the success of groups like The Bargain Shop and The Rankin Family. Folk music continues to enjoy popularity in Canada, with artists such as Great Big Sea, Gordon Lightfoot and Anne Murray maintaining a strong presence on radio and television.

The folk music revival of the 1970s

In the 1960s, the popularity of folk music declined in Canada, as it did in the United States and Europe. Folk music went out of fashion and was no longer considered to be hip or relevant. However, in the early 1970s, there was a folk music revival in Canada. This was partly due to the work of musician David Rea, who founded the Ontario Folklore Society in 1971. The society helped to promote folk music and organize folk festivals. The revival also had something to do with the popularity of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, who were both influenced by Canadian musicians.

The contemporary folk music scene

The contemporary folk music scene in Canada is vibrant and diverse, with artists from all across the country exploring a wide range of styles. From the traditional sounds of Maritime and Celtic music to the modern vibes of indie-folk and alt-country, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

One of the most exciting things about Canadian folk music is the way that it continues to evolve, with new artists bringing their own unique perspectives to the genre. Whether you’re a fan of the classics or looking to discover something new, there’s always something new to explore in Canadian folk music.

The Best Canadian Folk Music Albums

If you’re a fan of Canadian Folk Music, then you’re in for a treat. This list contains some of the best Canadian Folk Music albums that have been released in recent years. From the heart-wrenching ballads to the upbeat anthems, these albums are sure to please any Canadian Folk Music fan.

The Best of Stan Rogers

Stan Rogers was a Canadian folk singer-songwriter who was popular in the 1970s and 1980s. He was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but grew up in rural Nova Scotia. Rogers was known for his distinctive baritone voice and his heartfelt, traditional-sounding songs about the Canadian Maritimes. He released seven albums during his lifetime, and posthumously won several Juno Awards. His best-known songs include “Northwest Passage” and “Barrett’s Privateers”.

The Best of Gordon Lightfoot

There are few Canadian artists as revered as Gordon Lightfoot. The singer-songwriter is a national treasure, and his songs have become classics. His 1967 debut album, Lightfoot!, is considered a folk-rock masterpiece, and it helped to establish him as one of the leading voices of the Canadian folk music scene. Throughout his career, Lightfoot has continued to release incredible music, including such celebrated albums as Sundown (1974), Someday Soon (1975), and Carefree Highway (1977). In 2002, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and in 2004 he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Juno Awards. In 2012, he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada, one of the highest civilian honors in the country.

Lightfoot’s music is timeless and profoundly influential. If you’re looking for the best Canadian folk music albums, you can’t go wrong with any of Lightfoot’s releases.

The Best of Joni Mitchell

Perhaps no musician is more closely associated with the Canadian folk scene than Joni Mitchell. A native of Saskatchewan, Mitchell began her musical career in the mid-1960s, singing in clubs and coffeehouses in Vancouver. She released her debut album, Song to a Seagull, in 1968, and went on to enjoy a hugely successful career, releasing a string of classic albums and becoming one of the most respected musicians of her generation.

While Mitchell is best known for her work as a singer-songwriter, she is also an accomplished jazz musician, and her later albums reflect this side of her musical personality. The Best of Joni Mitchell includes tracks from throughout her career, including such classics as “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Woodstock,” and “Both Sides Now.”

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