Discovering Folk Music
by Stephanie P. Ledgin
February 2010, 181pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-275-99387-0
$64, £48, 56€, A87
eBook Available: 978-1-57356-771-8
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.
From Ani DiFranco to Bob Dylan to Woodie Guthrie, American folk music comprises a truly diverse and rich tradition—one that's almost impossible to define in broad terms. This book explains why folk music is still highly relevant in the digital age.

From indigenous music to Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen singing “This Land Is Your Land” side-by-side at the pre-inaugural concert for our first African American president, folk music has been at the center of America’s history. Thomas Jefferson wooed his bride-to-be with fiddle playing. Stephen Foster captured the mood of our country in transition. The Carter Family adapted music from across the pond to Appalachia. Paul Robeson carried folk music of many lands to the world stage. Woody Guthrie’s dust bowl ballads spoke to the common man, while Sixties protest music put folk on the map, following the Kingston Trio’s hit, “Tom Dooley.”

Folk music has evolved with America’s changing landscape, celebrating its multi-cultural traditions. From Irish step dancers to rap, parlor songs to Dixieland, blues to classical, Discovering Folk Music presents the genre as surprisingly diverse, every bit the product of our national melting pot.

Demonstrating continuing relevance of folk music in our everyday lives, the book spotlights an amazing array of personalities, with special emphasis on the folk revival era when Dylan, Baez, Odetta, and Peter, Paul and Mary sang out. These and others influenced such contemporary performers as Shawn Colvin and Ani DiFranco. Those on today’s “fringes of folk” scene continue to look to these deep roots while embracing alternative sounds.

Included are interviews with such legendary artists as Janis Ian, Tom Paxton, and Jean Ritchie. Nora Guthrie, Woody’s daughter, also weighs in. Discovering Folk Music is a ground-breaking look at 21st-century folk music in our rapidly changing digital world, family friendly while ripe for rediscovery by the Woodstock generation.


  • Interviews with key figures in folk music including Janis Ian, Nora Guthrie (Woody's daughter), Jonathan Edwards, Tom Paxton, David Bromberg, and others
  • 25 photos of various personalities and instruments, all taken by the author, an award-winning photo journalist. Cover photo of Pete Seeger is also by the author
  • Foreword by JibJab co-founders Gregg and Evan Spiridellis
  • More Folk, an appendix of selected Resources (a comprehensive guide to books, Web sites, instructional materials, camps, radio, children's material, record labels, organizations, museums, etc.)
  • Listening Space, an appendix identifying 75 influential or representative recordings spanning the history of folk from the author’s perspective
Stephanie P. Ledgin is an international award-winning photojournalist whose 35-year career has spanned publications, recordings, and museums. Lincoln Center, Smithsonian Folkways recording label, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and Sing Out! magazine, among others, have featured her work. A former New York City radio show host, she was director of the New Jersey Folk Festival for 10 years. A founding member of Folk Alliance International, she is the author of From Every Stage: Images of America's Roots Music and Praeger's Homegrown Music: Discovering Bluegrass. Her website is


"This is a brilliant, scholarly but readable introduction to its subject, 'folk music,' broadly defined, by an award-winning photo-journalist . . . I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and learned a lot of things from a very-well-informed expert in the field. The Resources and the Index will guide anyone to a deeper appreciation of folk music . . . Stephanie has hit this one out of the park."—, March 1, 2010

"This is a good introduction, which does bring the subject right up to the present day. There are also useful lists of resources for exploring the topic further."—English Dance & Song, May 28, 2010

"A photojournalist and a longtime fan of folk music, Ledgin has pulled together a wide variety of information, creating a helpful guide. . . . This book is intended to guide those who want basic knowledge of folk music in the US in order to appreciate it better. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers."—Choice, August 1, 2010

"Here's the who, what, when, and where primer for folk music. This guide clearly maps out the scope of a genre that is too often narrowly pigeonholed by its association with banjos and fiddles. No doubt, Discovering Folk Music will become a 'go to' reference for fans and students alike."—Terry Stewart, President, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

"Are you a singer-songwriter? Perhaps you listen to Americana music or are learning guitar or banjo. Did you enjoy O Brother, Where Art Thou? Stephanie Ledgin provides an excellent map to explore folk music in history and pop culture. And she is spot on! Reading Discovering Folk Music is akin to hanging out in your best friend's kitchen talking about the music you love. Strongly recommended for players and casual listeners alike."—Mary Sue Twohy, XM15 The Village, the folk channel on Sirius XM Satellite Radio

"Stephanie Ledgin makes the case that if you love any music (and who doesn't?), you love folk music but probably never knew it. Discovering Folk Music is a compelling achievement in scope, in purpose, and in the details that make its vast subject comprehensible and 'hands on.' She infuses the music with a history and a context that includes people and stories woven into the fabric of our rich cultural heritage. And as a result, we can cherish America's folk music even more."—Mark Schaffer, Songwriter & President, Folk Project of New Jersey
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
Accept All Cookies | Decline.