Country Folk Music: The New American Sound

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Country Folk Music: The New American Sound explores the unique blend of country and folk music that is taking the country by storm.

The Origins of Country Folk Music

Country folk music is a genre that is often associated with the American south. The genre has its roots in the music of the British Isles and Africa. In the early 20th century, the genre began to gain popularity in the United States. The genre is characterized by its focus on acoustic instruments, simple melodies, and often contains elements of blues and jazz.

The British and Irish Influence

Country folk music has its roots in the music of the British and Irish. In the early days of country music, songs were often about life in the countryside, and they were often sung by farmers and other workers. These songs were usually simple and easy to sing, and they often had a strong beat that people could dance to.

As time went on, country music began to change. It became more commercialized, and it started to sound more like other kinds of popular music. But even though it changed, the British and Irish influence can still be heard in country folk music today.

The African American Influence

African American slaves were brought over to the Southern United States to work on plantations. These slaves brought with them their own musical traditions, which were then blended with the music of their white counterparts to create a new genre of music: country folk. This new genre of music became extremely popular in the Southern United States, and it eventually spread to other parts of the country.

Country folk music is a unique blend of various musical genres, including blues, gospel, and folk. This genre of music is characterized by its simple melodies and lyrics that often deal with themes of love, loss, and hardship. Country folk music is also known for its distinctive vocal style, which often features a nasal quality.

The African American influence on country folk music is evident in many of the genre’s most iconic songs. For example, the song “In the Pines” is based on a traditional African American folk song called “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” This song was originally recorded by Lead Belly, an African American folk singer who was extremely influential in the development of country folk music.

Other songs that have been influenced by African American folk traditions include “I’ll Fly Away” and “Keep On the Sunny Side.” These songs were both written by African American musicians and have become staples of the country folk genre.

The African American influence on country folk music has helped to create a unique sound that is beloved by many fans around the world. This influence can be heard in the songs of modern country artists like Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley.

The Development of Country Folk Music

The roots of country folk music can be traced back to the early days of American settlement, when immigrants brought with them the music of their homeland. Over time, this music began to evolve, taking on new elements as it spread across the country. By the early twentieth century, country folk music had developed into its own distinct genre, with a sound that was uniquely American.

The Hillbilly Sound

The Hillbilly Sound is a type of country music that originated in the Appalachian Mountains region of the United States. The music is a mix of Anglo-Celtic and African-American influences, and is often characterized by its use of banjo, fiddle, and steel guitar. The Hillbilly Sound was popularized by artists such as Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family in the 1920s and 1930s, and has since influenced genres such as bluegrass and rockabilly.

The Western Sound

The Western sound is a subgenre of country music that originates from the American West. Characterized by its focus on the cowboy lifestyle, western music often features stories about the American frontier, particularly the settling of the West. The unique instrumentation of the genre, which includes the use of guitars, fiddles, and harmonicas, also sets it apart from other types of country music.

The Western sound first developed in the early twentieth century and reached its height of popularity in the 1940s and 1950s. One of the earliest exponents of the style was Gene Autry, whose songs about cowboys and cattle drives helped to popularize the genre. Other well-known performers from this era include Roy Rogers and Tex Ritter.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in western music, with artists like Lyle Lovett and Marty Stuart helping to lead the way. Country folk music has also been influenced by other genres, such as rockabilly and bluegrass, resulting in a sound that is both unique and distinctly American.

The Nashville Sound

The Nashville Sound is a subgenre of country music that emerged from Nashville, Tennessee, in the late 1950s. It relies on a more polished production than earlier country subgenres, as well as a pop influence. The sound also gave rise to the “outlaw country” movement of the 1970s.

The first recordings of what would become the Nashville Sound were made in 1957 by producers Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley. These recordings, which featured experimental instrumentation and arrangements, were made with artists such as Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, and Eddy Arnold. These recording sessions were intended to create a more commercially viable sound for country music.

The Nashville Sound was initially met with resistance from country purists, but it soon became one of the most popular subgenres of country music. In the 1960s and 1970s, the sound was further developed by producers such as Jerry Kennedy and Billy Sherrill. The Nashville Sound continued to evolve in the 1980s and 1990s with the rise of artists such as George Strait and Garth Brooks.

The Mainstream Success of Country Folk Music

Country Folk music has been around since the early days of Americana, but in recent years it has seen a surge in popularity. This new American sound is a unique blend of country, folk, and rock that has something for everyone. Whether you’re a fan of the old country sound or you’re looking for something new and fresh, country folk music is worth checking out.

The Outlaw Movement

Outlaw country is a subgenre of country music that developed in the 1970s. It takes its influence from earlier, more traditional forms of country music and adds elements of rock and roll. Outlaw country artists are often known for their rebel image and for their musical independence.

The outlaw movement was started by a group of musicians who were tired of the restrictive rules that had been placed on country music by the Nashville establishment. These artists, including Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson, began making music that was more personal and expressive than the polished, commercial sound that was coming out of Nashville at the time.

Outlaw country quickly gained popularity with audiences who were looking for something new and exciting in their music. The genre continued to grow in popularity throughout the 1970s and 1980s, with artists like Hank Williams, Jr., Johnny Cash, and Dwight Yoakam all finding success with their own unique take on the sound.

Today, outlaw country is enjoying something of a renaissance, with a new generation of artists like Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell carrying on the tradition of making uncompromising music that is true to their own vision.

The Urban Cowboy Movement

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a growing interest in country music among young people in the United States. This was partly due to the popularity of the film “Urban Cowboy” (1980), which featured country music stars such as Mickey Gilley and Johnny Lee. The film’s soundtrack also helped to boost interest in country music, with hits such as “Lookin’ for Love” by Johnny Lee and “Love in the First Degree” by Alabama.

The Urban Cowboy Movement brought country music to a new audience, and helped to make it more mainstream. This led to a rise in popularity for country folk artists such as Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Emmylou Harris. The success of these artists helped to pave the way for a new generation of country folk musicians, who would go on to achieve even greater success in the 1990s and 2000s.

The New Traditionalists

The last ten years have brought a new guard of country artists who are expanding the genre’s sonic palette while staying true to its musical roots. This group, often referred to as “The New Traditionalists,” is melding country instrumentation with elements of rock, pop, and even R&B to create a sound that is both familiar and fresh.

Led by chart-toppers like Chris Stapleton, Maren Morris, and Thomas Rhett, The New Traditionalists are helping country music appeal to a wider audience than ever before. And with hits like Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey” and Morris’ “My Church” receiving heavy rotation on pop radio, it’s clear that the genre has finally crossed over into the mainstream.

So what does this new wave of country music sound like? Here are a few key features:

– A focus on songwriting: These artists prioritize songwriting above all else, telling personal stories that resonate with listeners regardless of their geographic location or musical preference.
– A mix of old and new: While The New Traditionalists are definitely moving country music forward, they also pay homage to the genre’s rich history. You’ll hear classic country influences in their music, but with a modern twist.
– A wide range of influences: Country Folk Music: The New American Sound is indebted to a wide range of genres, from rock to pop to R&B. This expansive sonic palette helps these artists reach a broader audience.

The Future of Country Folk Music

Country folk music has been around for centuries, but it has only recently begun to gain mainstream popularity. Artists like The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, and The Head and the Heart have brought the genre to a new audience, and it shows no signs of slowing down. So what is it about country folk music that is so appealing? Is it the simple, down-to-earth lifestyle it portrays? The heartwarming stories it tells? Or the soul-stirring melodies that stay with you long after the song is over?

The Rise of Indie Country

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in so-called “indie” country music. This term generally refers to country music that is made by independent artists who are not signed to major record labels. Many of these artists are influenced by traditional country music, but they also incorporate other genres into their sound, such as folk, rock, and even hip hop.

One of the most popular indie country artists is Jason Isbell, who was previously a member of the alt-country band Drive-By Truckers. Isbell’s 2013 album Southeastern received critical acclaim from both country and non-country fans alike, and his 2015 album Something More Than Free won a Grammy Award for Best Americana Album.

Another popular artist in the indie country scene is Sturgill Simpson, whose 2014 album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music garnered widespread praise from music critics. Simpson’s sound is a unique blend of country, rock, and psychedelic influences, and he has been credited with helping to revive interest in traditional country music.

It remains to be seen whether indie country will have lasting mainstream appeal, but it seems clear that this new wave of artists is breathing new life into the genre.

The Return to Traditional Sounds

Though it may have seemed like country music was heading in a more pop direction in recent years, there has been a shift back to traditional country sounds in the last few years. This return to roots has been led by Americana and alt-country artists who are bringing back the sound of classic country music.

One of the most notable aspects of this new sound is the focus on storytelling. These songs often deal with real-life topics and situations, which helps listeners connect with the music on a personal level. In addition, many of these artists are using traditional instrumentation to create a sound that is both familiar and new.

This new wave of country folk music is exciting for both longtime fans and those just discovering the genre. If you’re looking for something different in your music listening, be sure to check out some of these talented artists.

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