34 Bands That Fuse Folk and Rock

Bob Dylan took the world by storm after adding an electric element to his folk sound. Photo credit: Xavier Badosa, Flickr.

 The Hard Baroquer blog is a hub for musicians to learn and improve their playing. It is edited by Pana Markides, a home musician for the last 20 years. An intermediate guitarist, beginner bassist and even sometimes dabbling on the harmonica, he is always learning something.

By The Hard Baroquer

Folk music and rock have gone hand in hand since the earliest days of rock n’ roll. Folk brought an introspective and traditional Western element to the blues foundations of rock n’ roll. Since then, every avenue of folk and traditional music has merged with rock to create a diverse array of related, but completely different sub-genres. Let’s take a stroll through time and space to see how these two elements have resulted in vastly differing music acts.

UK classic folk rock

In the UK, traditional folk music was very quickly amalgamated with the rock sound of the time to give rise to acts such as Pentangle, Fairport Convention and The Strawbs – among others. Bands such as The Animals popularised folk in the US and resulted in US acts adopting the approach – famously, folk singe Bob Dylan, who realised he needed to add an electric element to his music – more on that. Folk music also allowed for the rise of progressive rock, where acts like Jethro Tull enjoyed popularity from the 60’s to the late 70’s.

Some well-known examples of music acts under this umbrella include:

  1. The Animals
  2. Donavan
  3. Fairport Convention
  4. Pentangle
  5. Jethro Tull
  6. The Strawbs

Listen to Jethro Tull’s track Living In The Past:

US classic folk rock

The British Invasion of folk rock forced US-based folk artists to reconsider their approach – most famously Bob Dylan, who was known for his sound that incorporated an acoustic guitar and harmonica, re-invented himself with an electric band and the track Like A Rolling Stone is emblematic of his newfound sound. It was a bold step at the time (imagine Ed Sheeran deciding he needed an album that was closer to The Ramones, than his whimsical acoustic tunes). A whole range of artists followed suit in what was a creative time in US music history.

Some well-known examples of classic US folk rock include:

  1. Bob Dylan
  2. Neil Young
  3. Johnny Cash
  4. Leonard Cohen
  5. Janis Joplin

Listen to Bob Dylan’s classic, Like A Rolling Stone below:


Folk music saw a huge revival in the 2000’s with nu-folk bands that saw the world of folk music and indie collide and take the world by storm. Davendra Banhart is considered the father of the modern folk revival, but the most well-known example is probably Mumford and Sons and their iconic track I Will Wait, but there’s no shortage of folk revival artists to be inspired by.

  1. Devendra Banhart
  2. Mumford and Sons
  3. The Shins
  4. Laura Marling
  5. Noah And The Whale
  6. Onsind

Relax and take in Davendra Banhard’s Welcome To The Island:

Celtic punk rock

On a more high-tempo note, one genre that has benefited from fusing with traditional elements is punk rock – especially Celtic music, resulting in one of my favourite music genres, Celtic punk rock: a blend of angry rock and violins, accordions, Irish flutes and bagpipes. The result: every St. Patrick’s Day play list ever!

The story of this music style goes back to Celtic rockers, The Dubliners and later Celtic melodies were added to punk thanks to The Pogues (their track Fairytale Of New York is a seminal Christmas track. Trivia: The lyrics refer to ‘The boys of the NYPD choir’ singing Galway Bay. There is no NYPD choir, it refers to drunks in jail cells singing).

Today, thanks in part to Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, to songs in support of Boston Red Sox, (such as Tessie), and also back catalogue of covers of Irish standards (see: Fields Of Athenry), Boston-based Celtic punk acts Dropkick Murpheys are the most recognisable band in the scene, blending punk’s aggression (see: Dropkick Murphy’s Smash Shit Up and I Had A Hat) and Celtic folk’s captivating melodies. Fans of P.S., I Love You will be familiar with Flogging Molly’s If I Ever Leave This World Alive.

Here’s a selection of Celtic punk rockers to check out:

  1. The Pogues
  2. The Dubliners
  3. Dropkick Murpheys
  4. Flogging Molly
  5. The Rumjacks
  6. The O’Reillys And The Paddyhats
  7. Paddy And The Rats

Grab a pint of stout and enjoy Dropkick Murphys’ rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone:

Eastern European punk rock

Casting our attention to music inspired not by the British Isles and the US, but with roots in Europe, we find punk rock influenced by traditonal music of the regions. Gypsy punks Gogol Bordello are the most recogniable band in this genre, but there are plenty of other equally exciting examples.

This sub-genre is known for adding violins, clarinets and brass sections to their music – common elements visible in continental Europe.

I’ve showcased a few examples of English-language European punk rock below:

  1. Gogol Bordello
  2. Balkan Beat Box
  3. DeVotchKa
  4. Blackbird Raum
  5. Slavic Soul Party!

Let off some steam to Gogol Bordello’s Start Wearing Purple below:

Non-English punk rock

In the same vein as the above artists, there are a few exciting folk rock acts that sing in their own languages, that are worth looking up. Most notably is Sarajevo native, Goran Bregović who has made a name composing for film as well releasing his own albums. Bands such as Debauche, Kaizers Orchestra and Greek folk/hard rock band Balthizer and Darnakes all blend local traditional music with contemporary rock, punk and even metal elelments.

  1. Goran Brecovic
  2. Debauche
  3. Kaizers Orchestra
  4. Balthizer
  5. Darnakes

Check out Iggy Pop and Goran Bregovic’s collaboration, In The Death Car, below:

Just like our post about jazz and rock, traditional music styles and rock can blend together to create new genres that are captivating, exhilarating and that stand from the crowd.