Best Female Folk Singers: Top 5 Acoustic Artists, According To Music Experts

When it comes to the world of folk music, the voices of female artists have resonated with audiences throughout history. Their heartfelt lyrics, soulful melodies, and captivating performances have made a lasting impact on the genre. Today, we delve into the realm of folk music and explore the top five best female folk singers, whose contributions have solidified their place as legends in the industry. Get ready to embark on a journey through the rich tapestry of their music and discover the power and beauty of their artistry.

Folk singers have the unique ability to weave stories through their music, drawing listeners into their personal experiences and the broader human condition. Their songs reflect the joys, sorrows, struggles, and triumphs of life, resonating with audiences on a profound level. These artists have not only paved the way for future generations but have also left an indelible mark on the folk music landscape.

Each of these talented women possesses a distinct style and musicality that sets them apart. Their voices are instruments of expression, conveying a range of emotions with incredible depth and authenticity. From the raw vulnerability of their ballads to the spirited energy of their up-tempo tunes, their performances captivate and inspire.

Ready to listen to songs with amazing storylines that come alive in your mind? StudyFinds set out to do the research for you, visiting 10 expert websites to find the five best female folk singers of all time. We put together this list by seeking out the artists most recommended across these sites. If you’ve got your own suggestions, please leave them in the comments below!

The List: Best Female Folk Singers, According to Fans of the Genre

1. Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell, an iconic figure in the world of folk music, has captivated audiences with her poetic lyrics and soulful voice.  Rolling Stone magazine writes, “Joni Mitchell’s ability to convey raw emotions through her intimate storytelling sets her apart as one of the greatest folk singers of all time.” Her groundbreaking album “Blue” is hailed as a masterpiece, exploring themes of love, loss, and self-discovery.

Joni Mitchell's "For The Roses" vinyl record
Joni Mitchell’s “For The Roses” vinyl record (Photo by Blueee77 on Shutterstock)

“Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ is a timeless work of art that continues to inspire generations of musicians and fans alike,” says Folk Alley. Mitchell’s unique melodic compositions have left an indelible mark on the folk music landscape, earning her widespread acclaim and admiration.

According to Pitchfork, “Joni Mitchell’s songs possess an uncanny ability to touch the deepest corners of the human experience, solidifying her status as one of the greatest folk singers in history.” As Acoustic Guitar Magazine aptly puts it, “Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ remains an enduring testament to her unmatched songwriting prowess and emotional depth.”

With her unique guitar tunings and ethereal vocals, Mitchell has become a symbol of artistic brilliance and continues to inspire countless musicians and fans alike.

2. Joan Baez

Joan Baez solidified her status as an influential folk singer on many fronts. As NPR highlights, “Joan Baez’s angelic vocals and her dedication to activism have made her an iconic figure in the folk music world.”

Joan Baez in Los Angeles 1992
Joan Baez in Los Angeles 1992 (Photo by Bart Sherkow on Shutterstock)

Baez’s rendition of “Diamonds and Rust” is regarded as a classic, showcasing her ability to infuse emotion into every note. “Joan Baez’s powerful voice carries the weight of her convictions, creating a profound impact on her listeners,” writes American Songwriter. Her fearless pursuit of equality and her role in the civil rights movement have cemented her legacy as not just a folk singer, but also a catalyst for change.

The New York Times eloquently states, “Joan Baez’s voice is a force of nature, carrying the weight of justice and hope with every soaring note.”

In the words of Paste Magazine: “Joan Baez’s music possesses a transformative power, igniting a sense of purpose and social consciousness.” Plus, her soul-stirring performances have established her as not only a folk singer but also a beacon of social activism.

3. Emmylou Harris

Emmylou Harris’s amazing voice and seamless blend of folk, country, and Americana have made her a revered figure in the music industry. With her album “Wrecking Ball,” Harris showcases her versatility and emotional depth.

Emmylou Harris
Emmylou Harris in Nashville 2010 (“Emmylou Harris, Nashville, 2010, Plate 9” by Thomas Hawk is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.)

“Emmylou Harris’s ‘Wrecking Ball’ is a masterful exploration of vulnerability and resilience, solidifying her as one of the finest folk singers of our time,” states No Depression. Collaborations with artists like Gram Parsons and Linda Ronstadt have further demonstrated her ability to create harmonious and evocative music. With her timeless performances, Harris continues to inspire generations of folk music enthusiasts. Rolling Stone praises Harris, stating, “Emmylou Harris possesses a voice that can make even the simplest of songs feel transcendent, solidifying her place as a true folk music icon.”

American Songwriter agrees that “Emmylou Harris’s ‘Wrecking Ball’ is an emotional tour de force, a testament to her ability to connect with listeners on a profound level.”

4. Joan Armatrading

Joan Armatrading’s soulful voice and introspective songwriting have garnered her a well-deserved place among the best female folk singers. With her distinctive blend of folk, rock, and blues, Armatrading has created a unique and captivating musical styleThe Independent declares, “Joan Armatrading’s expressive vocals and poetic lyrics establish her as a true powerhouse in the world of folk music.”

Joan Armatrading
Joan Armatrading (“File:2007-10-25 Joan Armatrading, Kantine, Koeln IMG 8237.jpg” by Eckhard Henkel is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.)

Her song “Love and Affection” is a testament to her ability to convey raw emotions with depth and authenticity. With a career spanning several decades, Armatrading continues to inspire audiences with her heartfelt performances and unwavering talent. Rolling Stone adds, “Armatrading’s ability to convey emotions through her voice is unparalleled, and her songs resonate with a depth that is both profound and relatable.”

“Joan Armatrading’s talent lies in her ability to transport listeners to a different world with each song. Her compositions are rich in storytelling, and her voice has an ethereal quality that draws you in,” mentions Folk Alley. Armatrading is also praised by The Guardian, stating, “Her lyrics are poetic and thought-provoking, tackling personal experiences and societal issues with equal grace.”

5. Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman’s soothing voice and socially conscious lyrics have made her an influential figure in the realm of folk music. Her breakout hit “Fast Car” remains an anthem of hope and resilience, resonating with listeners across generations. As Billboard writes: “Tracy Chapman’s introspective songwriting and rich vocals have solidified her as one of the most impactful folk singers of our time.” Chapman’s songs tackle important themes such as social inequality, love, and personal introspection.

Tracy Chapman
Tracy Chapman (“Tracy Chapman” by Hans Hillewaert is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)

Her ability to evoke empathy and provoke thoughtful reflection through her music sets her apart as a remarkable talent in the folk music scene. HuffPost applauds Chapman’s ability to connect with audiences, stating, “Tracy Chapman’s music possesses a rare quality that touches the depths of your soul. Her lyrics are a testament to her poetic brilliance, and her voice carries a rawness that is truly captivating.”

“Chapman’s songs evoke a sense of social consciousness, and her ability to tackle complex issues with simplicity and clarity is what sets her apart as a true folk icon,” adds Folk Radio UK.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.


  1. Odette belongs in 4th place instead of the one I never heard of, and I am a huge folk music fan.

  2. My device only displayed the first 5 Female Folk Singers. I definitely thought that the top 2 were right but I thought that Sheryl Crow should have been in the top 5.

  3. I agree they are all truly outstanding. I’m glad you included Joan Armatrading. What about Rhiannon Giddens? She’s a true genius. She sings trad. String band,Appalachian folk in Black & White traditions, plays banjo, fiddle, has won Gaelic singing contests in Ireland. She also is an opera trained singer and just won the Pulitzer for music for her opera composition . She also received the MacArthur genius award! AMAZING

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