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If You Love Boygenius, You’ll Love These 18 Folk Bands

May 26, 2023

If You Love Boygenius, You'll Love These 18 Folk Bands

Can’t get enough of the record by boygenius? We understand and empathize. Did your ears perk up immediately when you heard the twinkle of the banjo on “Cool About It?” Do you rewatch the video of Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, and Phoebe Bridgers performing The Chicks’ “Cowboy, Take Me Away” over and over and over again? If so, this list is for you. 

It’s not hard to place boygenius within the universe of folk music and its endless variations, with their perfectly blended, nearly familial harmonies, their lyrics and song structures that are so singable, cyclical, and relatable, and the way, together, they exceed the sum of their individual parts by leaps and bound. Comparisons to other iconic supergroups – Dolly, Linda, and Emmylou’s Trio, or Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young – illustrate further that boygenius are often a string band and always a folk group. 

We’ve collected songs from 18 other folk groups that also center female and femme friendship, slippery harmonies, and egalitarian ensemble arrangements in their music. If you adore boygenius, these acoustic bands are for you. 

(Editor’s Note: Scroll for the playlist version of this collection.)

JOSEPH

The band JOSEPH’s latest release, The Sun, is perhaps their furthest foray into pop- and indie-folk, with a sound that’s not just adjacent to “the boys” of boygenius, but often parallels the genre and aesthetic territories explored by the latter trio. These songs are rich and fully realized, from the tender and contemplative to full-bore rock and roll. Remind you of anyone? 

Rainbow Girls

We’ve loved watching this California-based group grow and expand their listenership across the country and around the world, from the Bay Area to Cayamo and beyond. Like boygenius, Rainbow Girls have quite a few joyous, smile-inducing cover videos that are wildly popular on the internet, but the group really shines while singing sad, introspective songs that still make you feel so good. 

The Wailin’ Jennys

Since their first studio album in 2004, the Wailin’ Jennys have become one of the most beloved vocal trios in bluegrass, old-time, and folk music, with a robust, devoted international fan base. Perhaps best known for their appearances on public radio, the Juno Award-winning ensemble is in a phase of part-time, infrequent touring while balancing motherhood and solo projects, too. Their cover of “Wildflowers” remains one of the most popular BGS posts in the history of the site. 

The Chicks

An important addition to this list – the aforementioned “Cowboy, Take Me Away” cover by the boys notwithstanding – the similarities between the Chicks and boygenius are many. Righteous anger, agency, and collective rebellion, flouting gender roles, “tradition,” and industry norms – the list could go on and on. But perhaps the most striking throughline between both trios are their evident prowess as instrumentalists, whether guitar, fiddle, banjo, or voice. And there’s a tambour to Phoebe and Julien’s vocals that certainly conjures the crystalline, one of a kind singing of Natalie Maines. 

Mountain Man

What would boygenius be, together or separately, without longing? Without lost or waning or fading or burning or lustful or ethereal love? Love that’s sexual and romantic and hungry, but love that’s tender, platonic, and eternal, too. Mountain Man, who describe themselves as a “trio of devoted friends,” conjure all of the above within their catalog and certainly on “Baby Where You Are,” with a vocal arrangement that could have been pulled right from the record. 

Plains

Country-folk duo Plains, a duo made up of Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee) and Jess Williamson, could be described, in a boygenius-centric way, as sounding like that band dragged through… well, the plains. There’s an agnostic, informal country aesthetic here that sounds just like the prairie of which they sing on “Abilene.” And, their origin story matches the boys’, as well, with Crutchfield and Williamson first admiring each other’s music before joining forces. There are far worse impetuses to start a band than mutual admiration.

I’m With Her

Does the transitive property apply to trio supergroups? Because, if I’m With Her is a band of bona fide bluegrassers playing delicious indie-folk and folk-rock, then that makes boygenius, a delicious indie-folk and folk-rock band that much closer to being bluegrass, right? Right? Okay, it’s nonsense, but genre is dead. (Long live genre!) We love how our friends in I’m With Her, Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan, and Sara Watkins have colored outside the genre lines across their entire careers, not just in their collaborations together. Now, for a collaboration between I’m With Her and boygenius. Please.

 Trio 

While Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt collaborated on Trio and Trio II at the heights of their careers, boygenius came together as a supergroup when each of its members were on steep ascents, launching into the stratosphere. Somehow, as with Trio, the collective art boygenius has created supersedes even their heightening fame, not just as artists and musicians but as celebrities, too. These are just some of the reasons Trio comes to mind in the same train of musical thought as boygenius. Another is the “True Blue” friendships underpinning both groups.

case/lang/veirs

Our hearts, be still, because a few short days ago kd lang shared a photo on Instagram with Laura Veirs captioned: “Waiting on Mr. @nekocaseofficial to bring the love…” Whatever they’re working on, it will be must-listen and anxiously awaited! There are so many connection points between this incredible assemblage of musicians and the boys. Queerness; ethereal production; poetic lyrics; swapped lead vocals; oh-so-much text painting. If you’ve never given case/lang/veirs’ 2016 self-titled album an in-depth listen, there’s no better time. But the lead track, “Atomic Number” is an excellent audio swatch for the entire record.

Lula Wiles

Though on indefinite hiatus, Lula Wiles remains one of BGS’ favorite folk groups to emerge from the New England / northeast string band scene in the 2010s. Like boygenius, Isa Burke, Eleanor Buckland, and Mali Obamsawin each have vibrant and widely variable (while interconnected) solo careers, so despite their music making as a group being on pause, there’s a wealth of music in their combined and individual catalogs to binge your way through. We suggest starting with “Hometown,” a track that’s stuck with us since its release on What Will We Do in 2019. 

Lucius

One in the solidly pop/pop-rock category, Lucius still have dabbled often and intentionally in Americana, folk, and country, as demonstrated by this track from their latest album, Second Nature, which features their friend and tourmate Brandi Carlile and country star Sheryl Crow. It listens more similar to Phoebe Bridgers’ or Lucy Dacus’ genre aesthetics overall, but still calls on two roots musicians and vocalists, highlighting the mainstream success such cross pollinations attract.

Kate & Anna McGarrigle

Known for their iconic, self-titled 1975 album Kate & Anna McGarrigle, often referred to as the McGarrigles or the McGarrigle Sisters, epitomized the post-folk revival appetite for sincerity, authenticity, and literature in song, but their music never felt trope-ish, cheesy, or painfully earnest at the same time. Instead, its impact comes from its vulnerability and raw emotion, as in “Go Leave,” a song written by Kate for her unfaithful husband (Loudon Wainwright III). The lyrics drip with an indelible pain, reminding of Lucy, Julien, and Phoebe all, who for ours and hopefully their own benefit, often bare their entire souls in song.

Our Native Daughters

There’s a quality to boygenius’ music that reminds of church, of songs intentionally crafted for group singing and raising our voices up together. Perhaps it’s their bond as friends or their love of seamlessly blended harmonies and unisons, perhaps it’s their own histories with and upbringings in/around the church, perhaps it’s the relatability of their lyrics, but whatever it is their music begs to be joined. The same is true for Songs of Our Native Daughters, by roots music allstars Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla, Amythyst Kiah, and Allison Russell. You can hear their voices twining not only in sound, but in message and mission, and listeners can’t help but feel the urge to sing along. Music by community and for community, that centers and celebrates the friendships of those creating it. 

The Secret Sisters

 The Secret Sisters have a penchant for the macabre, the spooky, the longest shadows and the darkest nights, often sung to a gritty minor key. They highlight the classic Southern Gothic aesthetics of their Alabama homeland with a groundedness and hair-raising realism. It’s not difficult to picture them, say, wearing rhinestoned skeleton suits. This collaboration with their friend and (sometimes) producer Brandi Carlile soars, highlighting the similarities between Laura Rogers’ and Lydia (Rogers) Slagle’s and Lucy Dacus’ voices. 

Larkin Poe

Now, from which folk and acoustic group can you get the rock and roll, shredding guitar solo, writhing on the ground, leaping into the crowd, pyrotechnic, Julien Baker-sprinting-across-the-stage, grand finale level energy for which boygenius is becoming known as they tour the record? It’s that caricature of a caricature of rockism that boygenius do so well. Look no further than blues duo Larkin Poe, made up of sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell (who, the diehard fans will remember, began their careers as a family bluegrass band). Every song on their albums or in their live sets is dialed to eleven on the face-melting meter. They skewer the performative masculinity of the genres they inhabit – just like boygenius – not by mocking, but by doing it better. And we love the genderfuckery and queerness they bring performing a lyric like “She’s a Self Made Man.” Again, just like boygenius.

The Roches

What could be more archetypically boygenius than exploring familial trauma? A gutting hook standalone, taken in this context sung by sisters Maggie, Terre, and Suzzy Roche, “Runs in the Family” is jaw-dropping. Another group lauded and adored for their releases in ‘70s and into the ‘80s. Their music runs in the family, too, with Lucy Wainwright Roche (daughter of Suzzy), who is an accomplished singer-songwriter. Keep Dacus’ “Thumbs” and the record’s “Without You Without Them” in mind as you listen.

The Burney Sisters

Fuzzy, full, and angry guitar is the sound bed for this, the title track from The Burney Sisters’ latest album, Then We’ll Talk. One of the hallmarks of boygenius’ generation of women and femme rockers is that their expressions of anger, justice, agency, and self advocacy feel real, not just like costuming for a genre that prides itself on counterculture and middle fingers literal and proverbial. When you hear women express anger in rock and roll, it doesn’t feel affected or constructed, and that’s one of the main reasons why women continue to lead – and revive – the genre.

Shook Twins

Part of the appeal of a group like boygenius, and Shook Twins as well, is the beauty in lyrics simply stating exactly what they mean. These songs are accessible, listenable, resonant, and thereby incredibly impactful. “Safe” by Portland, Oregon-based twin sisters Katelyn Shook and Laurie Shook is one of their most popular numbers – especially their acoustic version. The singer cries out to be seen, heard, and loved. A common refrain for Phoebe, Lucy, and Julien as well. 


Photo Credit: Matt Grubb

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If You Love Boygenius, You'll Love These 18 Folk Bands
If You Love Boygenius, You'll Love These 18 Folk Bands