The Best of English Folk Music

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The Best of English Folk Music is a blog dedicated to showcasing the best of traditional and contemporary English folk music. From well-known artists to up-and-coming talents, we feature a wide range of music to suit all tastes.

The History of English Folk Music

English folk music has a long and varied history, with influences from both the British Isles and beyond. The music has been shaped by migration, war, and religious and cultural changes over the centuries. English folk music has also been significant in the development of several other genres of music, including country music, blues, and rock and roll. In this article, we’ll take a look at the history of English folk music and some of its most iconic performers.

Early History

The earliest history of English folk music is difficult to access because so much of it was orally passed down through generations and wasn’t written down until much later. What we do know is that folk music has its roots in the music of the common people, and it often reflects the spirit and everyday life of the times.

Some of the earliest examples of English folk music come from medieval songs and ballads that were used to tell stories or express emotions. Many of these songs were about love, loss, or other aspects of daily life. Other early examples come from church hymns and other religious music.

As time went on, English folk music began to take on different forms. Regional variations began to develop, and instruments like the fiddle, accordion, and mandolin became more common in folk bands. Folk music also began to be used for political purposes, as it was a way to spread messages and rally people together.

Today, English folk music is enjoying something of a renaissance. More and more people are interested in learning about and listening to this type of music, and there are now many different festivals and events dedicated to celebrating it.

The Revival

During the second half of the nineteenth century, a growing number of music lovers became interested in the folk music of England. This led to a folk music revival, which began in the 1870s and peaked in the early 1900s.

During the revival, performers such as Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams collected and recorded hundreds of traditional songs. Many of these songs were published in books and magazines, making them available to a wider audience. The revival also spawned a number of new musical groups, such as Theodor Adorno’s Das Rheingold Orchestra and Theee Wassailing Singers.

The folk music revival did not last long, however. By the time World War I began in 1914, the interest in folk music had begun to wane. The outbreak of war made it difficult for folk musicians to travel and perform, and many people turned their attention to other matters. After the war ended, the folk music revival never regained its former momentum.

The Main Characteristics of English Folk Music

English folk music is a genre of music that is typically characterized by its use of traditional instruments and its ballad-like singing style. The music is often based on stories and legends of the English countryside, and it often tells tales of love, loss, and heartbreak. English folk music is often very emotional and moving, and it has a wide range of sounds and styles.

The Instruments

There are three main types of folk instruments: string, wind, and percussion.

String instruments include the fiddle, viola, cittern, mandolin, and banjo. The fiddle is the most popular folk instrument in Ireland and Scotland. The viola is similar to the fiddle but larger and with a lower pitch. The cittern is a small, plucked string instrument with a pear-shaped body. The mandolin is another small, plucked string instrument with a teardrop-shaped body. The banjo is a plucked string instrument with a cylindrical body that is traditionally made from animal skin.

Wind instruments include the flute, tin whistle, bagpipes, and accordion. The flute is a thin tube of wood or metal that you blow across to make a sound. The tin whistle is a small flute that is easy to play. Bagpipes are wind instruments that have two bags of air that you hold under your arm while you play. The accordion is a wind instrument that you squeeze to make sound.

Percussion instruments include the bodhran, bones, spoons, and hammered dulcimer. The bodhran is an Irish drum that you hit with a stick. Bones are pieces of animal bone that you hit together to make noise. Spoons are two metal spoons that you hit together to make noise. Hammered dulcimer is a percussion instrument that has strings which you hit with hammers to create sound.”

The Songs

Folk songs are usually about love, religion, or the land. They use simple language so that everyone can understand them. The words are often passed down from one generation to the next, and the tunes may be quite old.

Many folk songs were written by anonymous people and were not originally intended to be performed in public. However, they were eventually discovered and popularized by professional songwriters and performers.

The best-known folk songs include “Scarborough Fair”, “The Lady of Shalott”, “Lord of the Dance”, and “Danny Boy”.

The Best English Folk Bands

There are many great English folk bands out there that have been keeping the tradition alive for years. Some of these bands are more well-known than others, but all of them are worth checking out if you’re a fan of folk music. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the best English folk bands out there.

The Wailin’ Jennys

The Wailin’ Jennys are a Canadian folk trio formed in 2002 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The band is composed of Nicky Mehta, Carol Lynn Turner and Ruth Moody. All three members sing lead and harmony vocals and write songs for the band. Their 2006 album, Firecracker, was nominated for a Juno Award and their album Bright Morning Stars won the Juno Award for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year – Group in 2012.

The Young’uns

The Young’uns are a young, energetic trio from the North-East of England. Their music is a mix of traditional and modern folk, with strong harmonies and infectious melodies. They have been compared to The Levellers and Mumford & Sons, and their live shows are not to be missed!

The Unthanks

With influences from both English and Northumbrian folk music, The Unthanks are a band that is not to be missed. Hailing from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the group is comprised of sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank, Adrian McNally, Niopha Keegan, Chris Price, and Gavin Extence.

With a sound that is both modern and traditional, The Unthanks have something to offer everyone. Their most recent album, Mount the Air, was released in 2015 to critical acclaim. It is an album that is sure to please both fans of folk music and those who are new to the genre.

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