The Best Rock With Folk Music of the 21st Century

rock with folk music

Folk and rock ‘n’ roll music collided during the mid-1960s to form a new genre. From Bob Dylan going electric at Newport Folk Festival to Pete Seeger having his band play alongside an electric instrumentation, folk instruments joined Fender Telecasters and Hammond organs on rock stages around the country.

Today’s artists from diverse musical backgrounds continue the folk-rock aesthetic. Let’s examine some of them.


Rosalia’s cutting vocals and stunning stage presence would suit anyone into a career in music; but she stands out. A fierce feminist of her time, she has dedicated her career to changing how the music business treats women. Boasting over 22m YouTube views between own videos and guest appearances combined, Rosalia has topped charts both in Spain and America and her 2022 debut album Motomami was both critically and commercially successful and won her multiple Latin Grammy awards.

Like its title implies, this album stands as an indefiant response to her critics. It showcases a wide variety of sounds but flamenco is consistently present throughout interviews and live performances – she deftly blends flamenco into pop, dance, reggaeton, hip-hop and even hip-hop with ease! While modern pop tends to blur stylistic seams to make music more digestible for its listeners, she revels in exposing any discrepancies between styles in her performances!

With her debut major single “Pienso en tu mira” (“I think of your gaze”) and accompanying video featuring bullfighters on motorcycles circling her as she alternated glaring and smiling coyly at her prey; an audacious take on traditional masculine tropes that made an immediate and powerful statement musically and culturally, setting the scene for her aesthetic as an artist.

As 2018 progressed, she continued to release singles that showcased her stunning versatility. Her collaboration with Ozuna on “CANDY”, which became number one in both countries, went number one; while “Juro Que” combined flamenco nuevo with Pharrell production. Furthermore, she unveiled an intriguing remix of “LA FAMA” featuring The Weeknd as well.

Motomami+ released this year showcased her ability to craft an unforgettable artistic statement through pop art. This special deluxe version featured an irresistibly summer jam, stripped-back live recording of “LA FAMA” at Barcelona’s Palau Sant Jordi, and James Blake collaboration that displayed Motomami’s talent at avant-garde minimalism – it provided an exciting and revealing preview into her future projects!

Iceberg Ferg

Iceberg Ferg’s nostalgic mix of pre-war country blues and contemporary west coast rain music inspires listeners with its combination of throwback folk sounds of pre-war country blues and contemporary west coast rain music, creating a natural zest for life in listeners. His explorative guitar instrumentation and complex finger picking hypnotically mesmerizing. His high-pitched vocal harmonies transport listeners back in time while conjuring memories of youth. Ferg hailing from Victoria offers us an example of how rock meets folk seamlessly crafted songs combined in his compositions eloquently written by Victoria native Ferg.

Folk music has historically been performed communally and passed orally from generation to generation, particularly during the 1940s and 60s when it was often interwoven with labor movements and social activism. Bob Dylan is perhaps most well known for writing an iconic folk song: “The Times They Are A-Changin”, which remains pertinent today as political events shift. Other renowned musicians who embraced folk include Pete Seeger, Odetta, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell.

In the 2000s, an experimental and psychedelic folk subgenre known as “freak-folk” came into being. Artists like Animal Collective, Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom added their signature flair by giving folk music more avant-garde sound with quirky spin. Their playful musicality has gained them widespread acclaim.

Justin Vernon combines rock with folk in an impressive way in his recording For Emma, Forever Ago. This classic folk track expresses his feelings over an unsuccessful relationship through simple yet poignant instrumentation; perfect for anyone feeling heartbroken. Another artist with a poignant take on folk is British singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas who creates soulful folk melodies with her acoustic guitar while adding in flamenco music from Andalusia into her sound and thus giving it its unique flavor to her sound and folk style.

Animal Collective

Animal Collective, formed of Dave Portner (Avey Tare), Noah Lennox (Panda Bear), Josh Dibb (Deakin), and Brian Weitz (Geologist), is one of the 21st century’s most enigmatic acts. They went from tribal freakouts at Brooklyn art spaces to selling out arenas without ever planning it, due to an open door policy for all members to work together as well as having more freedom as a group than as traditional bands.

Animal Collective stands out among modern bands for successfully merging disparate musical genres without leaving listeners feeling confused; rather than producing an eclectic amalgam or primordial soup-like mix that takes inspiration from all corners of music history and then weaves it all together with melodies flowing like rivers of sound.

Early on, the band gravitated toward sparse acoustic folk songs that showcased both their songwriting abilities and love of noise. They established this sound on 2004’s Sung Tongs record before continuing to explore this theme on 2005’s textural Feels album and subsequent ones (2007 Strawberry Jam and 2009 Merriweather Post Pavilion).

Though each album has its own personality, they all adhere to similar tenets: acoustic folk-pop with psychedelic influences and ritualistic experimentation. Painting With’s opening track “The Softest Voice,” for instance, features Nick Drake-esque guitar picking as well as electronic sounds similar to what Deep Forest or Delirium produce.

After Josh Dibb, better known by his stage name Deakin, left for personal reasons, Merriweather Post Pavilion became more traditional with guitar-free songs – although still maintaining its unique feel; for instance In The Flowers explodes into an intoxicating cacophony of syncopated drums and percussion while Lion in a Coma creates an infectiously upbeat raga-esque vibrato complete with ecstatic chanting; plus there is the hint of dance music with I’m Not a Man.

Joanna Newsom

Joanna Newsom is an award-winning harpist and singer-songwriter who creates music that subverts folk-rooted forms into uniquely personal forms. Her debut album Milk-Eyed Mender (2004) proved critically acclaimed; yet her follow up Ys (2006) received even higher acclaim, garnering tours with both the Brooklyn Philharmonic and Sydney Symphony Orchestras. More recently her 2010 record Have One on Me earned rave reviews, garnering her a loyal following who scrutinize her lyrics like Talmudists.

Newsom wrote the songs for her album Ys in the year leading up to its recording, dealing with issues in her life such as grieving for a deceased friend, illness and relationship problems. For inspiration she looked towards the Celtic mythological city Ys, located off Brittany coast during medieval times but eventually swallowed up by sea. Van Dyke Parks who worked on Brian Wilson’s aborted SMiLE project suggested Newsom rearrange some songs into classical arrangements for this album.

She took his advice, resulting in songs that had been reworked into expansive, epic compositions with lyrics that combined fantasy with real-world elements; each song still retained a strong sense of place, an undercurrent running throughout all her work.

Newsom stands as an extraordinary artist in that she has managed to attract a significant following playing the harp despite its nontraditional rock music roots. Her distinctive musical style has been variously described as anti-folk, freak folk or pysch folk; nonetheless she remains highly esteemed among American musicians of her generation and rivals the popularity of bands with more traditional pop musical roots.

Folk artists frequently use their work to communicate socially conscious concerns through music. When folk rock first emerged in the 1960s, bands such as Crosby & Nash, Mamas & Papas, 10,000 Maniacs and Jefferson Airplane used this genre to communicate messages related to civil rights, peace and global awareness through song. But by early 1980s electric folk had all but disappeared – only singer-songwriters with more acoustic sounds such as Paul Simon or Peter Rowan continued producing issue-oriented tunes through song.