10 Folk Music Artists You Need to Know in 2020

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

It’s a new year and a new decade, so that means it’s time to update your music library. Here are 10 folk music artists you need to know in 2020.

Introducing the artists

The artists on this list come from a variety of backgrounds and genres, but they all have one thing in common: they’re keeping folk music alive and well in 2020. From old-timey string bands to contemporary songwriters, these are the artists you need to know.

Esmé Patterson

Esmé Patterson is a singer-songwriter from Denver, Colorado. She began her musical career as a member of the Denver folk scene, playing in various bands before embarking on a solo career. Her music has been described as “catchy and hook-laden”, with “songs that stay with you long after they’re over”. Patterson’s debut album, All Princes, I, was released in 2012 to critical acclaim. She has since released two more albums, We Were Wild (2016) and Woman to Woman (2012), both of which received positive reviews.

The Ballroom Thieves

Hailing from Boston, The Ballroom Thieves are a folk music group comprised of Martin Earley, Calin Peters and Devin Mauch. Their sound has been described as “at once classic and fresh, mournful and upbeat, with shades of Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers, and even Patsy Cline.”

The group got their start in 2011 when they began playing weekly gigs at local bars and clubs. They self-released their debut EP in 2012, followed by their first full-length album “A Wolf in the Doorway” in 2013. Since then, they have released two more albums – “Deadeye” (2016) and “Unfaithful Heights” (2018) – and have toured extensively throughout the US and Europe.

The Ballroom Thieves were nominated for two Folk Alliance International Awards in 2019 – Best Album and Best Duo/Group – and won the Boston Music Award for Folk Artist of the Year. With their new album “Paper Crown” set to be released in 2020, The Ballroom Thieves are sure to continue their rise in the folk music scene.


With soaring four-part harmonies reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills & Nash, the Massachusetts-based quintet Darlingside continues to dazzle listeners with their modern take on classic folk-rock. Formed in 2009 while the members were students at Harvard University, the band released their debut album Pilot Machines in 2011 and followed it up with 2014’s Extralife. While their sound has evolved over the years, Darlingside’s impeccable vocal arrangements and gift for writing hook-laden pop songs remain constants. Their latest album, fishes eye, was released in 2019.

The Brother Brothers

The Brother Brothers are a folk music duo made up of identical twin brothers Adam and David Moss. The duo is based in Brooklyn, New York, and they draw inspiration from a variety of musical sources, including bluegrass, old-time music, country music, and folk music. The Brother Brothers have a unique sound that sets them apart from other folk music duos, and their harmonies are truly exceptional. In 2020, the Brother Brothers are one of the folk music artists you need to know.

The Stray Birds

Based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA, The Stray Birds are an award-winning trio who create Contemporary Folk and Americana music. The band is made up of Oliver Craven (guitar, fiddle, mandolin), Maya de Vitry (guitar, banjo, piano) and Charles Muench (bass). Together they have a unique sound that is steeped in the traditional music of the Appalachian Mountains while also incorporating modern influences.

Craven, de Vitry and Muench all grew up in musical families and began playing together informally in 2010. The following year they released their self-titled debut album and quickly began to gain attention for their creative songwriting and impeccable musicianship. In 2012 they released their second album bordering on country music’s more rootsy side before expanding their sound even further on their third album Let it Pass.

The Stray Birds have won numerous awards and been nominated for several more. In 2013 they were named “ Folk Band of the Year” by the International Folk Music Awards. Their song “Hello Stranger” was nominated for a GRAMMY award in 2015 and their album Best Medicine was named “Album of the Year” by media outlet No Depression.

If you’re a fan of Folk music or are just looking for something new to check out, The Stray Birds are definitely an act worth your time.

The Secret Sisters

The Secret Sisters are an American country music duo consisting of sisters Laura and Lydia Rogers. Signed to Universal Music Group Nashville’s Republic Records, the duo has released three albums: 2010’s self-titled debut, 2013’s Put Your Needle Down, and 2019’s Saturn Return. Their first two albums were produced by T Bone Burnett.

The sisters were born and raised in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, United States. They began performing together in 2006 and released their debut album in 2010. The album was nominated for Best Country Album at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards. The duo has performed at a number of festivals and events, including the Newport Folk Festival, Bonnaroo Music Festival, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Lollapalooza, and Austin City Limits Music Festival.

The Secret Sisters have been described as “a perfect blend of sweet harmonies [and] classic country songwriting.”

Our Native Daughters

Our Native Daughters is a supergroup of four Black women folk musicians who came together to write and perform music that explores the intersection of race, gender, and history in America. The group is made up of Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla, Allison Russell, and Amythyst Kiah.

Their debut album, “Songs of Our Native Daughters,” was released in February 2020 to critical acclaim. The album addresses topics such as slavery, racism, sexism, and social injustice. In addition to original songs written by the members of the group, the album includes traditional songs that have been re-imagined with a modern twist.

Our Native Daughters is a powerful new voice in the world of folk music. If you’re looking for music that is meaningful, thought-provoking, and beautifully executed, look no further than this talented group of women.

The War and Treaty

Husband-and-wife duo Michael and Tanya Trotter, otherwise known as The War and Treaty, met in 2004 at an Iraq War Veterans group. After years ofTanya touring as a backup singer with artists like Emeli Sandé and Michael working as a songwriter, the two finally formed The War and Treaty in 2011. Their sound has been variously described as “heavenly” and “a soulful mix of country, gospel, R&B, and blues.” The duo released their debut album, Down to the River, in 2017 to critical acclaim, with NPR praising their “stunning vocal abilities.” Their follow-up album, Healing Tide, was released in 2018 to similar acclaim.

The Highwomen

The foursome of Maren Morris, Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby, dubbed “The Highwomen,” came together to make a project that would celebrated women in country music while also delving into the issues they face in their industry and Personal lives. The group’s self-titled debut album, released in September 2019 on Low Country Sound/Elektra Records, did just that. The 12-track project — produced by Dave Cobb, Jason Isbell and Carlile — featured songs written by each of the four artists as well as Hemby and Isbell. The result was an album that was both introspective and anthemic, with standout tracks like “Redesigning Women” and “Highwomen” becoming feminist rallying cries.

0. Amanda Shires

Amanda Shires is an American singer-songwriter and fiddle player from Lubbock, Texas. She has released six solo albums and four albums with her husband, Jason Isbell. She is a member of the TXRB eXperience and an advocate for Planned Parenthood.

Shires’ music often tells stories of her life, with songs about her childhood, relationships, parenthood, and social injustice. Her fiddle playing incorporates many genres, including folk, country, jazz, and rock.

In 2020, Shires was nominated for three Grammy Awards: Best American Roots Performance and Best American Roots Song for “The Way That I’m Livin'”, and Best Americana Album for To The Sunset.

Why you need to know them

The term “folk music” can evoke a wide range of images and associations in different people. For some, it might conjure up images of mountain dulcimers and log cabins; for others, it might bring to mind Bob Dylan and the Greenwich Village scene of the early 1960s. But whatever your associations might be, there’s no denying that folk music has undergone something of a resurgence in recent years.

They’re keeping the genre alive

Folk music might be having a moment in the mainstream music world, but there are still plenty of artists keeping the genre alive and fresh. Here are 10 folk music artists you need to know in 2020.

1. Laura Marling
2. John Moreland
3. Anaïs Mitchell
4. Aldous Harding
5. Sarah Jarosz
6. Jai McDowall
7. Whitney Rose
8. Billy Strings
9. The Oh Hellos
10. Molly Tuttle

They’re innovators

1. Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus is a country-pop singer who first gained fame as the star of the Disney Channel series “Hannah Montana.” She has since established herself as a successful recording artist and concert performer. Her music includes elements of country, pop, and hip-hop.

2. Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend is an indie rock band from New York City. The band was founded in 2006 and released their debut album in 2008. Their music is characterized by African influences, catchy melodies, and clever lyrics.

3. Hozier

Hozier is an Irish singer-songwriter from County Wicklow. He first gained attention with his 2013 song “Take Me to Church,” which became a breakout hit in 2014. His music combines soul, rock, and blues influences.

4. Mumford & Sons

Mumford & Sons is a folk rock band from London, England. The band was formed in 2007 and has released four albums to date. Their music is characterized by banjo-driven melodies and harmonies.

5. The Lumineers

The Lumineers are an American folk rock band from Denver, Colorado. The band was formed in 2002 and released their self-titled debut album in 2012. Their music is characterized by catchy melodies and honest lyrics about love and loss.

They’re bringing folk music to new audiences

Folk music has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years, with a new generation of artists bringing the genre to new audiences. Here are 10 folk music artists you need to know in 2020.

1. The Brother Brothers
2. The Ballroom Thieves
3. The War and Treaty
4. Hiss Golden Messenger
5. Mandolin Orange
6. I’m With Her
7. The Oh Hellos
8. Theordeaux
9. Darlingside
10. We Banjo 3

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