|Stylistic origins||Country, Country gospel, Southern gospel, folk music, progressive folk, bluegrass|
|Cultural origins||Late 1960s|
|Typical instruments||Guitar (acoustic or electric), piano, other instruments used sometimes|
|Country rock - Folk rock - Americana - Neotraditional country|
Country folk is a hybrid subgenre of country and folk music closely associated with the singer-songwriter and folk rock subgenres. It is generally characterized as a component of the progressive country style and has its roots in the recordings of folk artist Bob Dylan.
Country folk has been described as a mellower and gentler form of country music with more emphasis on song writing than vocals. Many of the artists described as country folk are respected more in mainstream country circles for their song writing abilities. The lyrics of the songs tend to be more thoughtful and emotionally complex than mainstream country.
The term country folk is sometimes used to describe early country music, particularly before the development of the Country and Western industry based in Nashville from the 1950s. The term took on a new meaning when it was used more specifically from the 1960s to describe the hybridization of American folk music with country music. Particularly in the early 1960s, folk musicians had been reinterpreting country songs and several country versions of folk songs, including those of Bob Dylan, had become part of the country music repertoire. In 1966 Dylan went to Nashville to record Blonde on Blonde, using notable local musicians like Charlie McCoy. The result has been judged to sound more folk than country, but Dylan's subsequent albums, John Wesley Harding (1967) and Nashville Skyline (1969), the last of which contained "Girl from the North Country", a duet with Johnny Cash, were a sustained mix of folk sensibilities and structures with country instrumentation and sounds.
A number of folk artists now followed Dylan in "going country", including Buffy Sainte-Marie, who produced I'm Gonna Be a Country Girl Again in 1968, and Ian and Sylvia's Nashville (1968), while folk-rock artists like the Byrds followed Dylan towards Nashville to create the parallel genre of country rock. The sound was picked up by a number of major figures of the 1970s who straddled the folk and country genres, most successfully Emmylou Harris and John Denver. More recently it has been pursued by performers including Kathy Mattea, Rosanne Cash and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
The following artists have been described as "country folk" performers:
- The Byrds
- Johnny Cash
- Rosanne Cash
- Mary Chapin Carpenter
- John Denver
- Bob Dylan
- Tom T. Hall
- Emmylou Harris
- Kathy Mattea
- Townes Van Zandt
- Steve Wariner
- Hoyt Axton
- Country Folk, Allmusic, retrieved 15 September 2013.
- Wolff, K, & Duane, O. (2000) Country Music: the Rough Guide. (Rough Guides), p. 392.
- Tichi, Cecelia, ed. (1998) Reading Country Music: steel guitars, Opry stars, and honky-tonk bars. Durham, NC: Duke University Press (Includes essays previously published in v. 94, no. 1 (1995) of the South Atlantic Quarterly, p. 182.
- Americana UK - world's biggest alt-country website also covers genres such as country folk