The Best Folk Music Guitarists of Our Time

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


We take a look at some of the best folk music guitarists of our time, from the likes of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez to more modern performers like Ed Sheeran and Passenger.

John Fahey

John Fahey was an American fingerstyle guitarist and composer who was a pioneer of the American Primitive Guitar style. He was a major influence on the folk music revival of the 1960s and 1970s. His most famous composition is “The Death of the Machines”, which is an apocalyptic vision of the future.

His Life

John Fahey (1939-2001) was an American fingerstyle guitarist and composer who was a central figure in the development of the American Primitive Guitar style. His work incorporated elements of folk, blues, and jazz, and is credited with influencing a number of other well-known guitarists.

Fahey was born in Washington, D.C., and began playing guitar at the age of 15. He initially learned to play from records by Blind Blake and Mississippi John Hurt, two of his favorite artists. He later attended Takoma Park Junior College (now Montgomery College) where he studied music theory and composition. After moving to Los Angeles in 1964, he released his first album, The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death, the following year.

Over the next few years, Fahey released a number of albums that would come to be regarded as classics, including Death Chants, Breakdowns & Military Waltzes (1966), The Famous Sound of Takoma guitars featuring Leo Kottke (1967), and Requia & Other Compositions for Guitar Solo (1968). He continued to release albums regularly over the next three decades, although his later work was somewhat erratic in quality.

Fahey suffered from various health problems throughout his life, including diabetes and alcoholism. He died in 2001 at the age of 61.

His Music

John Fahey (1939-2001) was an American legend who is widely considered to be one of the most important and influential acoustic guitarists of the 20th century. He was a true original, creating his own highly personal style that blended elements of traditional American folk music with modern classical and avant-garde influences.

Fahey began his career playing solo fingerstyle guitar pieces in the early 1960s and released his first album, The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death, in 1965. This was just the start of a prolific recording career that would span more than four decades and produce over 60 albums. His music was transformative, taking the listener on a deeply personal journey that explored the mysteries of life, death, and everything in between.

While Fahey’s main focus was always the guitar, he was also an accomplished banjo player and dabbled in a variety of other instruments throughout his career. He even wrote a few books on music theory and guitar technique. But it’s his beautiful melodies, hauntingly arresting lyrics, and masterful guitar playing that will continue to resonate with listeners for generations to come.

Leo Kottke

Leo Kottke is a virtuoso acoustic guitarist and one of the most influential and original finger-style guitarists of our time. His unique style incorporates a wide range of influences, from jazz and blues to country and rock. In addition to his dazzling technique, Kottke is also a gifted songwriter, with a knack for writing catchy, hooks-laden melodies.

His Life

Leo Kottke is a virtuoso acoustic guitar player. He is known for his finger-picking style and his use of alternate tunings. Kottke was born in Athens, Georgia, in 1945. He was raised in Oklahoma and Minnesota. He began playing guitar when he was 11 years old.

Kottke studied music at St. Cloud State University and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He dropped out of college to play music professionally. He moved to San Francisco in the late 1960s, where he played in coffeehouses and recorded his first album, 6- and 12-String Guitar, in 1969.

In the 1970s, Kottke toured with singer-songwriter John Prine and released a series of well-received albums, including Mudlark (1971), Greenhouse (1972), and My Feet Are Smiling (1973). His popularity peaked in the mid-1970s with the release of Chewing Pine (1975) and Leo Kottke (1976).

Kottke’s career declined in the 1980s, but he made a comeback in the early 1990s with a series of critically acclaimed albums, including My Father’s Face (1989), That’s What (1991), Peculiaroso (1994), andStanding in My Shoes (1997). He continues to tour and release new albums on a regular basis.

His Music

Leo Kottke is a virtuoso folk music guitarist who has been playing and recording for over 40 years. He is best known for his solo fingerstyle guitar playing, which is heavily influenced by jazz and blues. His music is often compared to that of John Fahey and Ry Cooder. He has been described as “one of the most original and innovative guitarists of our time.”

Kottke was born in Athens, Georgia, and raised in Muskogee, Oklahoma. He began playing guitar at the age of 11 and was self-taught. He later studied classical guitar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After college, Kottke moved to Minnesota, where he played in various folk and rock bands. In 1968, he released his first solo album, 6- and 12-String Guitar.

Over the next few years, Kottke released a number of albums that showcased his skills as a guitarist and songwriter. He often incorporated elements of blues, jazz, and country into his music. In the early 1970s, he toured with Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann. In 1974, he collaborated with John Fahey on the album Leo Kottke/John Fahey.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Kottke continued to tour and release albums on a regular basis. In 2000, he was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the world of acoustic guitar music. Kottke continues to perform and record today; his most recent album, Try And Stop Me, was released in 2004.

Michael Hedges

Though often overshadowed by the more prolific and bombastic players in the field, Michael Hedges was a true original and one of the most technically proficient and innovative acoustic guitarists of our time. His music was a unique blend of folk, jazz, and classical styles, and he was able to evoke emotion and convey complex ideas with his playing.

His Life

Michael Hedges was born on December 31st, 1953 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. When he was two years old, his family moved to California. He began playing the guitar at the age of eleven and was soon playing in bands. He studied at the Santa Rosa Junior College and the University of Santa Cruz. In 1976, he released his first album, Broken Wing.

Hedges was known for his unique style of playing the guitar. He often tapped on the strings with his right hand while simultaneously plucking the strings with his left hand. This allowed him to play both melody and harmony at the same time. He was also known for his use of alternate tunings.

Hedges died in a car accident on December 2nd, 1997. He was survived by his wife and two children.

His Music

Michael Hedges was an American acoustic guitar virtuoso and composer known for his innovative approach to the instrument. He died in a car accident in 1997, at the age of 43.

During his career, Hedges released 11 albums, including the Grammy-winning live album Captured in the Sun. He also collaborated with a number of other musicians, most notably Michael Manring, with whom he released the album Ma Jeunesse Fout Le Camp in 1990.

Hedges’ music was marked by a distinctive use of alternate tunings, often involving tuned octaves, which he achieved by retuning the strings of his guitar while playing. This technique allowed him to create chords and textures that would have otherwise been impossible on the instrument. It also gave his music a unique sound that was instantly recognizable.

In addition to his work as a solo artist, Hedges also composed music for film and television. His most famous composition is probably “Be Still My Soul”, which was used in the film Ordinary People.

Although he died young, Michael Hedges left a lasting legacy as one of the most innovative and influential acoustic guitarists of our time.

Similar Posts