The Top Five Free American Folk Music Albums

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


This list explores a range of American folk music from across the country, including bluegrass, country, and folk rock.

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is the second studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on May 27, 1963 by Columbia Records. The album features Dylan’s breakthrough hit “Blowin’ in the Wind”, as well as the topical “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”. It marked the beginning of Dylan’s transformation from early folk pioneer to polemical folk rocker.

Dylan reached a new level of popularity with The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Singles “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” both achieved top-10 positions on Billboard pop singles charts; the latter also entered the UK top 10. The album itself peaked at number 22 in the US and number one in the UK. In 2003, it was ranked number 97 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Bob Dylan’s 1964 album, “The Times They Are A-Changin'” is often credited with ushering in a new era of American folk music. Dylan’s protest songs about social injustice, war, and poverty resonated with a generation of young Americans who were searching for a new voice to express their dissatisfaction with the status quo. With its simple, catchy melodies and lyrics that spoke directly to the issues of the day, “The Times They Are A-Changin'” quickly became an anthem for the growing anti-establishment movement.

In the years since Dylan released his groundbreaking album, many other artists have followed in his footsteps, creating their own takes on American folk music. If you’re looking for some great freefolk albums to add to your collection, here are five of the best:

1. Woody Guthrie – “Dust Bowl Ballads”
2. Pete Seeger – “We Shall Overcome”
3. The Weavers – “The Weavers at Carnegie Hall”
4. Joan Baez – “Joan Baez in Concert”
5. Bob Dylan – “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”

Another Side of Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s “Another Side of Bob Dylan” is one of the most influential and iconic folk albums of all time. Released in 1964, it features some of Dylan’s most famous songs, including “All I Really Want to Do,” “Chimes of Freedom,” and “My Back Pages.” The album helped to define the folk-rock genre and establish Dylan as one of the most important songwriters of his generation. While it is not technically a free album, it is widely available for free online.

Bringing It All Back Home

In the 1960s, American folk music was revitalized by the music of the people—songs of social commentary, protest, love, and heartbreak that spoke to a nation in turmoil. Folk musicians such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Woody Guthrie captured the imagination of a generation and inspired a new wave of artists who would go on to create some of the most influential music of the 20th century.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this crucial moment in American music history, we’ve compiled a list of the top five free American folk music albums. These albums are essential listening for anyone interested in the genre, and they’re all available for free online.

1. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1962)
2. Joan Baez in Concert (1963)
3. The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964)
4. Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
5. Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

Highway 61 Revisited

Highway 61 Revisited is the sixth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on August 30, 1965 by Columbia Records. The album is seen as a return to form for Dylan after a three-year pursuit of folk rock with his previous albums The Times They Are A-Changin’ and Another Side of Bob Dylan.

The album is named for Highway 61, which connects Dylan’s birthplace of Duluth, Minnesota, to New Orleans; Louisiana, where many blues musicians, such as Muddy Waters and Sonny Boy Williamson II, lived and recorded. Along this stretch of highway are the cities Memphis and Clarksdale—both major centers of blues music. Critic Mark Polizzotti points out that “the vastness evoked by the open road” is a significant theme in many American folk songs.

Highway 61 Revisited peaked at number three on Billboard’s pop albums chart and is one of Dylan’s most acclaimed works; it was ranked at number four on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003. Five singles were released from the album: “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Tombstone Blues”, “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”, “Ballad of a Thin Man”, and “Desolation Row”.

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