There’s something about acoustic music that never gets old. Even some of the very best rock bands over the past few decades have released a ton of great acoustic music. In this post, we’ll be looking at a mix of both purely 100% acoustic bands, and rock bands that have created extensive acoustic music (or for whom acoustic music makes up a big part of their sound).
I hope this will inspire you to listen to more acoustic music as we explore these great acoustic bands together!
Now let’s take a closer look at the 30 Best Acoustic Bands of All Time:
The Barenaked Ladies have released some awesome acoustic music over the years. They are a Canadian rock band formed in 1988 in Scarborough, Ontario. The band developed a cult following in Canada, with their self-titled 1991 cassette becoming the first independent release to be certified gold in Canada.
Radiohead is an English rock band formed in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, in 1985. The band consists of Thom Yorke, brothers Jonny Greenwood and Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien and Philip Selway. They have worked with producer Nigel Godrich and cover artist Stanley Donwood since 1994.
The String Cheese Incident
The String Cheese Incident is an American jam band from Crested Butte and Telluride, Colorado, formed in 1993. The band is composed of Michael Kang, Michael Travis, Bill Nershi, Kyle Hollingsworth, and Keith Moseley, and, since 2004, Jason Hann.
The Grateful Dead
It’s easy to forget how much great acoustic music the Grateful Dead produced over their career. They are typically thought of as a jam band and much of their catalogue is electric, but the Dead actually played whole sets acoustically. Jerry Garcia’s background was almost entirely in acoustic music to start, having played in bluegrass and jug bands.
The acoustic guitar is a prominent component of Slightly Stoopid’s signature sound. The band describes their music as “a fusion of folk, rock, reggae and blues with hip-hop, funk, metal and punk.”
Old Crow Medicine Show
Old Crow Medicine Show is an Americana string band based in Nashville, Tennessee, that has been recording since 1998. They were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry on September 17, 2013. Their ninth album, Remedy, released in 2014, won the Grammy Award for Best Folk Album. Their song “Wagon Wheel” (above) is extremely popular and well known, and has brought many new listeners into the world of bluegrass and newgrass music.
Yes, Led Zeppelin is a rock band but they’re released several extraordinary acoustic songs throughout their career. One of which is Going To California (above). Led Zeppelin consisted of vocalist Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham.
America is a rock band that was formed in London in 1970 by Dewey Bunnell, Dan Peek, and Gerry Beckley. The trio met as sons of US Air Force personnel stationed in London, where they began performing live.
Crosby, Stills & Nash
Crosby, Stills & Nash were a folk rock supergroup made up of American singer-songwriters David Crosby and Stephen Stills, and English singer-songwriter Graham Nash. When joined by Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young as a fourth member, they are called Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
REO Speedwagon is an American rock band from Champaign, Illinois. Formed in 1967, the band cultivated a following during the 1970s and achieved significant commercial success throughout the 1980s. The group’s best-selling album, Hi Infidelity, contained four US top 40 hits and sold more than 10 million copies.
Alabama is an American country music band formed in Fort Payne, Alabama, in 1969. The band was founded by Randy Owen and his cousin Teddy Gentry. They were soon joined by another cousin, Jeff Cook.
Simon and Garfunkel
Simon & Garfunkel were an American folk rock, acoustic duo consisting of singer-songwriter Paul Simon and singer Art Garfunkel.
Foo Fighters is an American rock band formed in 1994 in Seattle, Washington. The band was founded by former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl as a one-man project following the dissolution of Nirvana after the suicide of Kurt Cobain.
Ween is an American rock band from New Hope, Pennsylvania, formed in 1984 by Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo, better known by their respective stage names, Gene and Dean Ween.
Third Eye Blind
Third Eye Blind is an American rock band formed in San Francisco, California, in 1993. After years of lineup changes in the early and mid-1990s, the songwriting duo of Stephan Jenkins and Kevin Cadogan signed the band’s first major-label recording contract with Elektra Records in 1996.
The Beatles were an English rock band, formed in Liverpool in 1960, that comprised John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. They are regarded as the most influential band of all time and were integral to the development of 1960s counterculture and popular music’s recognition as an art form.
Nirvana released an entire unplugged album. The band was an American rock band formed in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1987. Founded by lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic, the band went through a succession of drummers, most notably Chad Channing, before recruiting Dave Grohl in 1990.
The Infamous Stringdusters
The Infamous Stringdusters are a progressive acoustic/bluegrass band. The band first emerged in 2006 with the limited release of a five-song extended play CD The Infamous Stringdusters, followed in 2007 by their first album Fork in the Road. Both of these were on Sugar Hill Records
The Bluegrass Album Band
The Bluegrass Album Band was a bluegrass supergroup, founded by Tony Rice and J. D. Crowe in 1980. Originally, there was no intention to build a permanent group and the main reason for the collaboration was to record a solo album for Tony Rice.
Railroad Earth is one of the “jammier” modern bluegrass / newgrass and acoustic bands – honoring the tradition of the Grateful Dead while also staying true to the roots of Appalachian music.
Allison Kraus & Union Station
Alison Krauss was invited to join the band with which she still performs, Alison Krauss and Union Station, and she released her first album with them as a group in 1989.
In addition to Krauss, the combined singing and guitar-playing talents of Dan Tyminski and Ron Block make Union Station one of the biggest powerhouse groups in all of modern bluegrass music.
Lonesome River Band
The Lonesome River Band is one of my favorite American contemporary bluegrass bands. The band is quite prolific and has released 15 recording projects since its formation in 1982. My favorite song of theirs is “If the Moon Never Sees the Light of Day” (above).
The Hackensaw Boys
The Hackensaw Boys bring their unique blend of bluegrass, folk, and rock together to create their acoustic sound.
The Lil Smokies
The Lil Smokies formed in the town where I now live: Missoula, Montana. However, they’ve quickly grown to become popular across America and now tour all over the country. I’ve seen them live and it’s always an amazing time hearing their new bluegrass songs and their takes on old classics.
The Devil Makes Three
The Devil Makes Three is an Americana band from Santa Cruz, California, United States. The group blends bluegrass, old time, country, folk, blues, jazz, and ragtime music.
The group’s members are guitarist Pete Bernhard, upright bassist Lucia Turino, and guitarist and tenor banjo player Cooper McBean.
Punch Brothers is an American band consisting of Chris Thile, Gabe Witcher, Noam Pikelny, Chris Eldridge, and Paul Kowert. Their style is unique for its fusion of bluegrass spontaneity with the precision of classical music.
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
When I moved to a mountain town for college and felt both alone and excited for a new start, this acoustic song was always on my mind. It really speaks to anyone who has ever felt misunderstood or lost in life. I was reminded of it recently when it played in the outro of an episode of Yellowstone (the incredible new Kevin Costner show).
Nellie Kane has all the great bluegrass themes: new love, cross-country travel, lifelong devotion, etc. In my opinion, the song and Hot Rize more broadly are extremely underrated for their awesome contributions to modern acoustic music.
Mandolin Orange (now Watchhouse)
Formerly known as Mandolin Orange, Watchhouse is an Americana/folk duo based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I had the pleasure of seeing them live (when they were still Mandolin Orange) and can vouch that it was an incredible show. I highly recommend getting tickets if Watchhouse is touring near you.
Chris Thile of Punch Brothers fame is also a member of Nickel Creek.
The band also consists of siblings Sara Watkins and Sean Watkins. Formed in 1989 in Southern California, the group released six albums between 1993 and 2006.
I just found these guys after seeing a Facebook video of one of their members, Andy Thorn, playing banjo for a fox on top of a mountain in Colorado. Come on – it doesn’t get much more bluegrass than that.
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