Music Gateway
Login or Join for Free
or sign up with
Spotify icon
Burger menu
Large chevron
close icon

Music Industry

What is Folk Blues?

Photograph of the blog post author, Annika Hope

Annika Hope


Small blue and purple gradient divider


People favour folk blues music because it often tells relatable stories of struggle, heartbreak, and perseverance. It features raw, emotive vocals and simple, acoustic instrumentation that can evoke a sense of authenticity and nostalgia. Additionally, folk blues has had a significant influence on many other genres of music. This makes it an important part of musical history and culture. Today, we are going to delve into what the genre and its history. In addition, what effect it has had upon other styles of music. 

Folk Blues

Folk Blues

Folk blues is a genre of music that originated in the southern United States in the early 20th century. It is characterized by its simple, acoustic instrumentation and its focus on storytelling through lyrics

The origins of folk blues can be traced back to the African American communities of the rural South. It developed as a form of expression for the hardships and struggles of everyday life. It was often performed by solo artists or small groups, using instruments such as the acoustic guitar, harmonica, and banjo.

Famous Folk Blues Musicians

Some of the most famous folk blues musicians include Robert Johnson, Lead Belly, Son House, and Mississippi John Hurt. These artists were known for their powerful vocals, intricate guitar playing, and deeply personal lyrics. These lyrics often dealt with themes of love, loss, and hardship. We want to champion them a little further today. 

Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson was a legendary folk blues musician who lived from 1911 to 1938. He is widely considered one of the most influential musicians of his time. His songs have had a lasting impact on the blues genre. Johnson was known for his unique guitar playing style. This was characterized by intricate fingerpicking and a distinctive use of slide guitar.

Despite his relatively short career, Johnson left behind a legacy of iconic songs. These included “Cross Road Blues,” “Sweet Home Chicago,” and “Love in Vain.” His music has been covered by countless artists. His influence can be heard in the work of musicians ranging from Eric Clapton to the Rolling Stones.

Lead Belly

Lead Belly was a prominent folk blues musician who lived from 1888 to 1949. He was born Huddie William Ledbetter in Louisiana and began playing music at a young age. He was known for his powerful voice and ability to play multiple instruments, including the guitar, piano, and harmonica.

His music was heavily influenced by the African American folk tradition. He often incorporated themes of social justice and protest into his songs. He is best known for songs like “Goodnight, Irene,” “The Midnight Special,” and “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.” Throughout his career, Lead Belly faced many challenges, including racism and imprisonment. 

Son House

Eddie James “Son” House Jr. (1902-1988) was an influential American folk blues musician. He was known for his powerful vocals, slide guitar playing, and emotionally charged performances. Eddie was born in Mississippi and began playing music in his late teens. He drew inspiration from the traditional African American gospel and blues music of the region. 

House’s music often dealt with themes of love, betrayal, and redemption, and his raw, intense style was a major influence on many later blues and rock musicians. He recorded several influential tracks in the 1930s, including “Preachin’ Blues” and “Death Letter,” before taking a break from music in the 1940s. 

In the 1960s, House was rediscovered by a new generation of musicians and fans, and he began performing and recording again. He toured extensively and recorded several albums, including “Father of Folk Blues” and “The Legendary Son House: Father of the Delta Blues.” 

Mississippi John Hurt

Mississippi John Hurt was a highly influential folk blues musician who was born in 1892 in Teoc, Mississippi. He began playing guitar at a young age and developed a unique fingerpicking style that incorporated elements of ragtime and country music. 

Hurt’s music was characterized by his gentle voice and intricate guitar work, and he became known for his storytelling ability and his ability to evoke a wide range of emotions in his listeners. Hurt recorded several albums during his lifetime, including “Today!” and “The Best of Mississippi John Hurt,” and his influence can be heard in the work of many contemporary musicians. 

Despite his success, Hurt remained humble and dedicated to his craft until his death in 1966. Today, he is remembered as one of the most important figures in the history of American folk and blues music.

Impact On Other Genres – Folk Blues

Folk blues had a significant impact on the development of other genres of music, including rock and roll, country, and folk music. Many modern artists continue to draw inspiration from the raw, emotional sound of folk blues, keeping the genre alive for new generations to discover and appreciate.

Many of the early rock and roll artists, such as Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry, were heavily influenced by the blues. The blues also influenced the development of soul and R&B music. Additionally, folk blues has had an impact on country music, with many country artists incorporating blues elements into their music.

Summary – Folk Blues

The influence of folk blues can be seen in a wide range of musical genres and has contributed to the development of modern popular music. The musicians we have spoken about today were legends of their time and artists that are performing now, like Tash Sultana, Vintage Trouble, Gregory Porter have definitely been influenced in some way by this style of music.


closed button
Music Gateway Company Logo

Get started today

Join for Free