Top 5 Folk Music Duos

folk music duos

The Milk Carton Kids of California are an energetic folk music duo that take inspiration from legendary 60s folk duo Simon & Garfunkel. Their songs are easy to listen to while telling an engaging narrative through sound.

They’re best known for their gorgeous vocal harmonies, making an ordinary tune sound magnificent. Additionally, they have even explored yodeling as part of their albums – and taught themselves the skill!

Nickel Creek

Nickel Creek stands as one of the premier folk duos. Formed by siblings Sean and Sara Watkins as well as mandolinist Chris Thile in San Diego at That Pizza Place – which hosted regular bluegrass shows – in the late 1980s, their talents earned them a record deal with Sugar Hill Records where their debut album Here to There would be released later that same year.

Nickel Creek made their mark upon music history with their stunning debut performance; their lightning-in-a-bottle debut proved that this unique band could share much with its listeners in a manner both entertaining and educational. Their wide artistic scope allowed them to offer genre-crossing original songs in addition to highly distinctive versions of classic tracks by everyone from Bob Dylan and Radiohead, to Britney Spears and Pavement – to name just a few.

After their debut albums showcased a more traditional sound, 2002’s This Side and 2005’s Why Should the Fire Die became more experimental. These records saw them explore artists beyond bluegrass including Counting Crows, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Elliot Smith; their expansive style demonstrated their natural instinct for musical discovery while their songs touched upon love, hope, and belonging themes.

Nickel Creek members went their separate ways musically but remained strongly linked. Since leaving Nickel Creek, each has released multiple solo albums and collaborated successfully with Punch Brothers. Furthermore, Thile was honored with a 2012 MacArthur Fellowship and hosted American radio variety show Live from Here (formerly A Prairie Home Companion) from 2016-20.


Odetta, renowned singer whose melodic voice connected the best songs from folk revival and civil rights movements, died of heart disease at 77 on January 27, 2008. Odetta had been an avid supporter of Barack Obama; she had planned on singing at his inaugural celebration; however, her death prevented this.

Odette Holmes was born in Birmingham, Alabama on New Year’s Eve 1930 and later relocated to Los Angeles for her education and employment as domestic worker and night school classical music study. Odetta’s mother had anticipated that Odetta might follow in Marian Anderson’s footsteps by enrolling her daughter for opera lessons when she turned 13; however, Odetta chose an entirely different path in life.

She achieved great fame despite an upbringing that was difficult, singing to audiences around the globe with concerts that featured an eclectic mix of traditional work songs and spirituals, field hollers, chain gang songs and children’s songs that make up much of folk music.

Odetta not only sang but also played guitar and danced; her charismatic stage presence and energy made her a hugely popular performer. Furthermore, Odetta was an outspoken political activist supporting civil rights causes throughout her career.

Odetta’s folk music style had an enormous influence on all musicians from Janis Joplin to Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. She became one of the most prominent women performers of her era and an icon of musical protest; you can still hear its echo today through contemporary Americana artist Rhiannon Giddens of Our Native Daughters.

Richard & Linda Thompson

Richard & Linda Thompson were an influential duo from British folk-rock in the 70s, producing some of the genre’s most innovative albums with intricate guitar work and haunting vocals that united to produce some iconic tracks, such as “Dimming of the Day,” “I Want to See Bright Lights Tonight,” and the heartbreakingly poignant “A Heart Needs a Home”. These songs reflected tradition while remaining fresh and contemporary at once.

Richard Thompson is an iconic figure in British folk music, having founded Fairport Convention and enjoying solo success as an artist. A masterful guitarist, his repertoire ranges from traditional Celtic folk tunes to bagpipe tunes and Arabic melodies. After marrying Linda in 1972, their collaborations produced several outstanding albums such as 1974’s I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight and 1982’s breakup masterpiece Shoot Out the Lights.

Linda soon after her marriage immersed herself in Sufism and became active within its community, leaving little time for making music; thus her first post-breakup release, First Light did not perform well; nor was its successor Sunnyvista any better; ultimately Chrysalis decided not to renew their contract, leaving the couple without record deal or record deal support.

David Thomas (Pere Ubu), however, believed in Thompson and convinced her to make Fashionably Late with him in 2002. Since then she has released several more albums and continued living an active life despite suffering spasmodic dysphonia; still active in arts activities and even lending her voice for BBC radio drama Mirror Man!

Porter Wagoner

Porter Wagoner was a titan of country music who is widely credited with helping launch many young female singers’ careers and shaping folk music style. A beloved figure at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry and an anchorman on syndicated television, which he hosted from 1960-1981.

Wagoner began his musical career in 1944 while working at a grocery store in West Plains, Missouri, passing his time by playing guitar and singing songs by Bill Monroe, Ernest Tubb and Hank Williams – his idols at that time. By 1950 he had moved onto local radio with his first band being known as Blue Ridge Boys before eventually moving onto bigger stations such as Springfield where he performed regularly on The Si Siman Show.

In 1960, Chattanooga Medicine Company premiered The Porter Wagoner Show as a syndicated country music television program featuring Wagoner as host. Guest stars such as Roger Miller, George Jones, Kitty Wells and Tammy Wynette made appearances. By 1967 his vocal accompanist Norma Jean left and Dolly Parton took her place, becoming both his duet partner on both shows and album records; these duo enjoyed tremendous success during late 60s/early 70s recording hits like “The Last Thing on My Mind”, “Please Don’t Stop Loving Me”, and “I Will Always Love You”.

Though their partnership only lasted seven years, its impact was immense in country music. Parton first gained recognition through her exposure on Wagoner’s show; later she enjoyed 21 hit singles during a long solo career of her own. Unfortunately, tensions began to develop between them due to Wagoner disliking Parton’s attempts at going solo while Parton felt restricted by his control; ultimately they parted ways and recorded together intermittently up through 1980 before finally dissolving their partnership in 1974.

Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton made her mark on music history for decades, reminding audiences that life isn’t always pleasant. Blending folk and soft rock, Dolly created a sound all her own which resulted in hits with songs both soothing and heartbreaking lyrics.

By age 20, Dolly Parton had made her mark on the music world. Starting as Porter Wagoner’s backup singer and later creating her own syndicated TV show, Parton became an international sensation with hit singles such as Norma Jean in 1973, Here You Come Again in 1977, and 9 to 5 in 1980 – she would go on to release over 40 studio albums throughout her long career.

She starred in multiple movies and became one of the first women to earn a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame. Parton became one of the most prolific singers ever and received numerous awards during her lifetime. Additionally, she used her influence to make an impactful difference in society by giving millions to charities and advancing medical research projects through donations made directly.

Parton has collaborated with numerous musicians, such as country star Tim McGraw. Additionally, in 1999 she released The Grass is Blue with Alison Krauss which won a Grammy award for Best Country Album. Furthermore she received both Kennedy Center Honors in 2006 as well as induction into Country Music Hall of Fame two years later in 1999 and remains active today; recently releasing a song to support COVID-19 pandemic as well as producing an online bedtime story series called Goodnight with Dolly for 10 weeks straight!