The Best Folk Music Duos of All Time


Duet performances add an exciting, collaborative energy to folk tracks, with their harmonized vocals and acoustic guitar creating an atmosphere both relaxing and energetic.

No matter whether their songs focus on love or social justice issues, these duos’ voices make us all feel that we’re listening to something truly profound.

Simon & Garfunkel

Simon & Garfunkel have become one of the most influential folk music duos ever thanks to their intricate harmonies and socially aware lyrics, making them one of the world’s premier folk duos. Their songs resonated with listeners all around the globe as they explored love, alienation, and social unrest through song lyrics that resonated. Additionally, their timeless melodies inspired numerous musicians and their audiences alike – ultimately shaping an entire generation.

Simon & Garfunkel first came together as Tom & Jerry in Queens, New York in 1957 before changing their names in 1964 after “Hey Schoolgirl” launched them to fame. Their debut appearance in classic film The Graduate propelled them even further to stardom while their string of hit singles such as “Mrs. Robinson” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” cemented them as iconic figures of American popular culture.

Though both artists remained dedicated to their craft, personal and artistic tensions soon surfaced. Garfunkel began acting and required months of travel – something Simon felt was unfair to their career as musical duo. By the early 70s, Garfunkel had made acting his main focus with appearances in films by Mike Nichols like Catch-22 and Carnal Knowledge being his star turns; Simon felt this distracted from their musical endeavors and led to prolonged estrangement between themselves.

After their separation, both artists continued to release albums and perform as solo artists. In 2004, however, they reunited for an Old Friends tour, selling out stadiums and arenas across North America and Europe. A live album from this tour was also produced but creative differences and Garfunkel’s insistence to include material written specifically for his solo album led to a final breakup between them both.

The Mamas & The Papas

Formed in 1965, The Mamas and The Papas only lasted four years as a group; yet their musical legacy lives on with exquisite vocal harmonies and intricate acoustic guitar work. Influenced by bohemian lifestyle and turbulent personal relationships, their songs exhibited both heartache and power; timeless classics such as “California Dreamin'” still resonate today.

Peters and Lee, an esteemed folk-rock duo from the 1970s and 1980s, achieved widespread acclaim with their music inspired by folk traditions, spirituality, and social activism – reflecting both the turbulent political climate of their time as well as classic albums like “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” and “Marrakesh Express,” both featuring their incredible vocal chemistry and songwriting prowess.

Though they only released one album together, their music proved highly influential and cemented their reputation as one of the great folk rock groups of all time. Renowned vocal harmonies and intricate acoustic work quickly won over audiences; while their emotive lyrics touched upon topics like love, family, and loss.

Christie Gardner and Helen Dixon’s musical partnership began out of a mutual appreciation of folk music, where they first met as classmates at Winchester Academy where they discovered natural talents for singing and playing the guitar. Together, their sound blends traditional and contemporary folk, with haunting melodies that capture humanity and poignant lyrics that touch upon personal experiences – they serve as an outstanding example of raw talent combined with persistence leading to success despite all odds!

Richard & Linda Thompson

Richard and Linda Thompson were a British folk music duo during the ’70s and ’80s, after leaving Fairport Convention they released two albums without much fanfare before embarking on their touring career together. Soon enough they found an audience among followers of Sufism who appreciated their songs about dissolving relationships – though early releases often contained cynicism; later releases explored spirituality more fully while exploring personal loss more profoundly.

These songs, recorded when Thompson and her young wife were still surrounded by Sufi peers, is a folkloric compilation of characters who lament their fate or desperately try to escape it amidst cursed rubble. Although some performers might turn Thompson’s narration of Down Where Drunkards Roll into something maudlin or melancholy, his nobility lends it a dignified air that enhances its impact.

A Bird in God’s Garden from a few years later explores the mysterious connections between harmonic drones that the Thompsons already enjoyed listening to and devotional music from near eastern countries, like devotional hymns like Jet Plane in a Rocking Chair or Dear Mary, with devotional music being of such great depth that their harmony alone cannot explain its depth.

Thompson’s acoustic guitar work stands out for its exploration of various tunings, such as (but not limited to) CGDGBE and DADGBE, using hybrid picking techniques combining using pick and finger picking on bass notes; her vocal harmonies are truly astonishing; she even taught herself to yodel! After the breakup between Richard and Linda, Thompson continued performing music and honing her acting skills, before ultimately meeting fellow musician David Thomas (Pere Ubu). Today she still performs, although suffering from spasmodic dysphonia.

Nickel Creek

Nickel Creek made their debut in 1989 like an explosion from within a bottle. Here were three young musicians with equal respect for Bach and Bill Monroe, possessing musical chops to bring their eclectic vision to life. Their debut album This Side stands as an iconoclastic record which speaks many different languages at once; its opening instrumental plays like an instant classic while moving through genres into haunting folk tunes that would not sound out of place on 2000s country radio stations.

Sean and Sara Watkins create mesmerizing harmonies while mandolinist Chris Thile displays unparalleled skill on his instrument to form an unforgettable duo that seamlessly merges folk music with rock genres to produce an album full of emotion and beauty.

Though no longer active, their legacy lives on through music. Their work inspired many duos – like First Aid Kit’s indie folk band First Aid Kit with two sisters acting as both singers and songwriters; each album of First Aid Kit’s album boasts powerful storytelling accompanied by captivating melodies.

Folk duos are well-known for spanning genre boundaries. From Simon & Garfunkel to The Mamas & The Papas and beyond, folk duos have long provided ample opportunity for nonconformists. Veteran genre agnostics like banjo player Bela Fleck have experimented with world music forms like jam music while Alison Krauss has established herself as an important influence on newgrass movement through Union Station. Yet it is rare indeed to discover an album like This Side which seamlessly bridges bluegrass music as well as folk-pop.

The Milk Carton Kids

The Milk Carton Kids have shown the folk music genre that the two-person artistry remains strong, drawing inspiration from renowned folk duo Simon & Garfunkel of the 60s yet creating their own distinct sound.

Songs by this talented duo are easy to listen to, providing an engaging narrative through sound. Their exquisite vocal harmonies are truly mesmerizing; additionally, this band has a talent for including yodeling into its repertoire.

The Milk Carton Kids have the unique ability to transcend genres and engage audiences at every level – from dive bars and rock clubs to sold-out concert venues. While their roots lie in folk, their music also incorporates jazz and classical elements that allow them to reach out further than previously expected.

The Milk Carton Kids are a two-person folk duo composed of Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, singer-guitarists. Since early 2011, they have been making music together with neotraditional folk that is intimate yet sparse, recalling elements of both acoustic guitar and piano in its instrumentation, with vocal arrangements similar to Simon & Garfunkel.

Ryan and Pattengale distinguish themselves from other folk artists with songwriting that centers around human experience, emphasizing authentic composition that captures its subject through authentic lyrics and authentic performances. Lyrical content, innovative harmony arrangements and unique instrumental techniques all come into play here – in this NPR interview they discussed some of their challenges writing and performing together and what their goals for their music may be in the near future.