My Music Map: Singer/Songwriter Edition
For the “Singer/Songwriter” portion of my musical map, I’ve selected artists that generally write and play their own music. For example, the Beatles would not be considered singer/songwriters, since they collectively made music as a band. John Prine, on the other hand, wrote his own songs and often played them solo on his acoustic guitar. Included below is a Spotify playlist with one song from each artist as well as my attempt to write a brief description of their music. I’ll do the same soon with other music genres. Without further ado, here is my map of singer/songwriters. Genres covered: folk, rock, country, blues, and indie rock.
The most prolific musical artist of all time. The iron ore country of Minnesota straight into the barrels of your soul. His music will encompass every lifetime and every feeling. He’s a shapeshifter and a master puzzle maker, taking it all in and making it all his own as a true original.
Johnny Cash: An absolute giant on the country landscape. His booming voice is as clear and moving as the Mississippi River.
Jason Isbell: The southern Bruce Springsteen, and maybe one day Bob Dylan, of the south. On the top of his game, he’s making a new name for country music past the gloss and commercialism of mainstream Nashville, with a working class ethos to boot.
Chan Marshall (Cat Power): Gold-standard for sensitive, moody, and independent minded songwriting and music.
Leonard Cohen: Poet extraordinaire in a suit and tie. Master of doom and gloom but unafraid of the celestial realms.
Glenn Campbell: Golden voice from the heartland. Put in a honest days work, and strings out universal emotion from the threads of his voice.
Ryan Adams: Sensitive rock and roll, hard livin’ with a thoughtful & somewhat pensive edge.
David Bazan: The questioning scientist, tinkerer with a steady hand. Obsessed with religion, like me!
Neil Young: Another giant on the landscape, from Canadian amber waves of grain to the dark side of L.A, and all the way over to the hippie world and back again.
Merle Haggard: Bonafide outlow with the hard earned tunes to prove it.
Townes Van Zandt: Broken down and crying, all for the beautiful tunes? Lived on the edge and reported back to us with grace.
Jeff Tweedy: The sensitivity and knack for finding the right simple melody and the postmodern poetry.
Tom Waits: Steel, fish guts, true love, hard living, hard working, hero of the American night.
Willie Nelson: Smooth, effortless voice, trotting slowly on a horse with his mind in the clouds.
Vic Chesnutt: Tortured soul, sang from the depths, not afraid to joke.
Conor Oberst: A poet first, if not over emotive.
Tom Petty: Solid tunesmith from the south, with a little bit to offer to everyone.
John Prine: In the words of Bob Dylan, “midwestern mind trips to the nth degree”. Simple songs that paint a picture of life and send it into cosmic territory.
James McMurtry: Steady hands and a solid moral conviction.
Craig Finn: An up close celebration of life lived to its fullest.
Woody Guthrie: He’s got the blood of the land and its people in his voice.
Gillian Welch: Tried and true documenter of the folk tradition with a knack for writing a devastating line or two.
Sturgill Simpson: Johnny Cash meets the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe.
J. Tillman: Once the low down, early morning/quiet desperation type, now the loud guy at the party in the best way possible.
Bruce Springsteen: The poet of the northeast. Like a loud crack of a snare drum-writes in the Dylan tradition, pouring off of every track like he’s delivering his soul straight to you.
David Rawlings: His lead guitar draws out more feeling than words himself. Usually plays alongside Gillian Welch, but can hold a tune on his own as well.
Mike Cooley: Thoughtful and reserved, with a talent for wicked lead guitar riffs and cryptic/southern gothic storylines.
Damien Jurado: Prime indie folk from the Pacific Northwest. Has taken a few detours into psychedelic music.
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott: Covered the basics, steeped in the Greenwich Village folk tradition, and blessed with an encyclopedic knowledge of singer and their songs.
John Moreland: Big guy with his heart trapped in the middle of the country and a penchant for sweet melodies and sharp writing.
Patterson Hood: A big bleeding heart that meets the soul of the south face to face. Frontman for the Drive By Truckers.
Jason Molina: Sad boxcar, trains, motels, and bleak rust belt landscapes are his speciality.
Tallest Man on Earth: Swedish wanderer with a flat-out unquestionable ability to write a grade A folk song with the guitar chops to match.
Rich Mullins: Renegade and committed Christian who has penned some of the finest spiritually themed tunes to date. Sadly passed in the late 1990s.
Todd Snider: Fun wiseguy who channels Dylan and rough rider country in equal parts.
Mark Kozalek: Emotive guitar, beautiful vocals, and stream of consciousness lyrics.
Joan Baez: Angelic voice with a strong sense of history and earnestness.
Patty Griffin: Road tested and Americana approved tunes that stand up in any context.
Josh Ritter: A novelist by trade, jeans and jacket attire, writing some that try.
Sufjan Stevens: Sensitive and spiritual chronicler of theology and life lived. His quiet voice is matched by delicate fingerpicking on the guitar.
George Harrison: A beautiful soul and a spiritual seeker, George was honest and up close in his self reflection.
Waylon Jennings: The last of the highwaymen, steak and eggs, whisky, and a clear vision for his songs.
Sharon Van Etten: Sneaks out the fire escape of a Brooklyn apartment to write gorgeous musings on love and self doubt-and it’s only expanded from there.
Elliott Smith: Sad fingerpicking songs that traverse the sidewalks late at night, all the way from the Berkshires to the Pacific NW.