Acoustic Bandcamp Recommendations

May 1, 2022 – 9:30 pm

Last updated: 2022-04-10

Bandcamp is a great place to buy music, because most of the money you pays goes straight to the artist. If you buy on a special Bandcamp Friday, then Bandcamp don’t even take their usual commission on the sale — all the money goes straight to the artist.

I like acoustic stringband music, with or without vocals. I go beyond those boundaries for great music. Here are some sounds you should check out. It’s a mixture of famous and up-and-coming, instrumental and vocal, boundary-pushing and traditionally brilliant.

Molly Tuttle’s Bluegrass Record

Crooked Tree is solid gold from Molly Tuttle. She’s assembled an incredible band and they have been just SMASHING it on the road. Finally (Apr 1) the album is out and I am rejoicing! Look for this in the awards season.

Soulful modern acoustic music

The Lonely Heartstring Band got their start playing Beatles covers on bluegrass instruments, and went on to write their own original material. They are my favourite band ever, and they have their early EP (with some of the Beatles covers) as well as their second studio album.

Amazing guitar work 

Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge have a proof-of-concept EP that showcases these two talented guitarists. Lage is from a jazz school, Eldridge from bluegrass. Both are on the cutting edge of what can be done with a flatpick. Their duets and duels are to be savoured. Best with a rye whiskey. Their later albums are more polished and even more virtuosic.

Old time

Jake Blount is a young Black fiddler and banjo player, who specialises in the overlooked black stringband tradition. His music soars and surges with youthful energy and the hunger to be heard of this long-overlooked music.

Bluegrass with a modern twist

Mile Twelve are a young bluegrass band out of Cambridge MA, that sound like classic bluegrass for modern ears. They have an album of covers, recorded with special guests that include Billy Strings and Chris Eldridge.

Acoustic covers of music from classic games

The Hit Points take the tunes you love from games like Final Fantasy, Super Mario World, and Skyrim, and play them beautifully on acoustic instruments. And, because that’s not astonishing enough, they improvise solos in the middle. It’s beautiful music and intense genius. 

Queen of the vibe

Reb Fountain crafts strong songs and frames her beautiful voice with sparse electric arrangements. She opened for Crowded House on their recent tour, and is going places.

Challenging progressive fiddle

John Mailander pushes the boundaries of bluegrass fiddle. He can do tasteful, he can do wild, he can do beautiful, he can defy categorization. His offerings on Bandcamp vary from delicious modern stringband to very experimental jazz that stretched my ears.

Stretching new borders

Joe Troop is an amazing new talent in traditional music. His regular project is a Grammy-nominated mixture of Latin American music with North American folk styles, and this solo project crackles with the same originality and talent.

Golden voice

Aoife O’Donovan has the pure and husky voice of a fallen angel. Every note is beautiful, every song a masterpiece. One of our generations finest talents. Her latest is the pandemic processing “Age of Apathy”.

The future of the banjo

Max Allard is a young Chicago banjo player with an astonishing and original voice. He’s inspired by everything from Japanese game music to the piano of Chilly Gonzales. His music is moody and not at all what you think of when you think “banjo”. But it will be.

Mandolin to stretch your ears

Ethan Setiawan is another northeastern prodigy stretching the boundaries of the acoustic instrument. He has several albums that are not only virtuosic but also pleasantly listenable.

Bluegrass from New Zealand

The Pipi Pickers is my family band. We play mostly modern (since 1990, lol) bluegrass songs, and we hope that our love of them comes through.

Original old-time fiddle

George Jackson is a gifted fiddler from New Zealand, now living in Nashville. He had a viral hit with the tune ‘Dorrigo’, and has made several albums of excellent original fiddle tunes. 

Just because she’s famous doesn’t mean she isn’t exquisitely good

​​Phoebe Bridgers sings modern folk pop, has recorded with Taylor Swift, and is exquisitely good. Beautiful voice, magnificent songs, delicious works of art. Start with Motion Sickness and you won’t stop.

Americana funk

Twisted Pine have pop sensibilities, deep groove, and traditional instruments. It’s a glorious combination. 

Epic original newgrass

Julian Pinelli is a fiddle player who studied under a master, and has developed a beautiful and original sound. He surrounded himself with exquisite young talent for this stunning first album. I love it all.


Westbound Situation plays at the intersection of classical and acoustic stringband music. It’s like chamber music for cello, bass, violin, and banjo. Moving and delightful.

Living master

Tony Trischka defined modern banjo and his album “Territory” makes a strong case that nobody does it better. “Fox Chase” is my favourite track but you can’t go wrong on an album that spans gourd banjo, classic style, and full-on bluegrass bangers.

Modern mandolin

Thomas Cassell is a talented young mandolinist who just crushes it. He plays every style and genre, and you can hear him finding his own voice over the course of his albums.

Jazz-infused trio

Jon Stickley Trio play at the border of jazz and bluegrass. Fiddle, guitar, and drums use effects to make a bigger and wilder sound than you’d imagine possible with those instruments.

Bold and beautiful new voice

Sarah Jarosz is a singer and songwriter whose roots are in bluegrass but who now plays with genre as readily as her music plays with our hearts. The commissioned song cycle Blue Heron Suite is a tour de force, but don’t overlook the U2 cover I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.

A Banjo composer

Ben Krakauer is an ethnomusicologist who composes for the five-string banjo. His music blends the familiar with the unfamiliar, and is delightful.

Recording lost tunes

The John Hartford Fiddle Tune Project assembles kick-ass musicians to record the fiddle tunes that John Hartford wrote but never recorded. Hartford (who wrote “Gentle On My Mind” and leave a legacy of quirky original bluegrass) left notebooks full of these fiddle tunes and this is the first time any of us have had a chance to hear them.

Unconventional traditions

Jayme Stone hit my radar for his sensitive and thoughtful Lomax Project but he’s also experimented with lush pop production. Each time there’s a new Jayme album, I don’t know what it’ll be but I do know that I’ll love it.

Powerful new voices

Hank, Pattie, and The Current are a North Carolina band that play original contemporary bluegrass, sometimes with an orchestra.

Powerful minimalist folk

Nadia Reid uses her guitar, voice, and songwriting skills to great effect. Her most recent release is Out of My Province.

Her Dylan covers will melt your mind

Emma Swift recorded an album of Dylan covers, with Patrick Sansone from Wilco and Robyn Hitchcock guesting.

Banjo in unfamiliar genres

Jake Schepps’s output spans bluegrass, Brazilian choro, classical, Romanian Christmas carols, and more. His touch is deft and his taste impeccable. Check out Entwined for “some of the first ever long-form works written by classical composers for the traditional 5-piece bluegrass string band”.

Stretching out

You, Me, Everybody is the progressive bluegrass band from New Zealand that I play banjo in. We make original bluegrass inspired by Tony Rice, Alison Krauss, and Béla Fleck.

Jazz on bluegrass instruments

Bluegrass and the Abstract Truth shoots for the stars and lands somewhere beautiful and challenging. Bluegrass has a history of borrowing from jazz, but here they go full in.

Songs about a modern difficult faith

Chris Thile is simply the best mandolinist alive today, and he has the MacArthur Genius Grant to prove it. During the lockdown he released a song of songs inspired by his challenged Christian faith. (And a solo Bartok piece)

Folk rock for folk to rock out to

Albi and the Wolves play Mumford and Sons-inspired folk rock. Prodigy fiddle, strong harmonies, and catchy grooves aplenty here.

Old time for the best time

Allison de Groot and Tatiana Hargreaves are two young musicians who bring us nontraditional traditions — music from history that lies outside the white male traditional zone.

Jazz standards on string band instruments

Jacob Jolliff is a devastating mandolin talent who here applies himself to the world of jazz standards. This is that rare album — mellow and delightful to have in the background, inspiring and infinitely rewarding in the foreground.

Groove to your soul

Tony Furtado started as a banjo player with a rhythmic right hand, and became a powerful new voice with songs and the slide guitar. He has both guitar and banjo albums here, and all repay your time.

Beautiful voices in glorious original songs

The Danberrys are a husband-and-wife duo with exquisite voices and a taste for songs that move you. Their entire catalog is here, and it’s all mint. Start with Give and Receive but don’t go past Songs We Sing, which has some beautiful covers of songs you probably already know.

Energetic progressive bluegrass

Kyle Tuttle is a banjo player who jams out with the best of them. His recordings will make your body move, and your ears happy.

The GOAT herself

Gillian Welch has her entire catalogue here. It’s all amazing, but start with Revival where she blew everyone away, move to Time The Revelator which Chris Thile described as “our generation’s White Album”, and then soak in anything.

From Barcelona with love

Lluís Gómez is a Barcelona banjo player. Check out Flamengrass for his latest masterpiece, tastefully bringing the distinctive flamenco sounds to the American string band.

Intricate, Inspired, and Infamous

Punch Brothers are individually brilliant and collectively magnificent. Many albums to choose from, all brilliant. Three tracks to see if you’ll like them: Julep, Rye Whiskey, Three Dots and a Dash.

Musicians musicians

Hawktail are the band that, at bluegrass festivals, all the performing artists pile into the front rows to see. Beautifully composed, arranged, and performed music.

Mandolin every day

David Benedict was mandolinist for Mile Twelve (see elsewhere). Clean, precise, profoundly musical, and always interesting instrumental music.

Music for foxes

Andy Thorn became viral sensation with a clip of him playing music for a wild fox, but he’s been a gifted musician long before that.

Queen of tomorrow

Sierra Hull has a pure and powerful voice, often compared to her mentor Alison Krauss. Sierra plays a mean mandolin and writes wonderful songs, and has become a fearless explorer of where those gifts can take her. Start with Weighted Mind and compare to The Original Sessions to hear how much of an effect production can have.


Scroggins and Rose is a duet of Tristan Scroggins on mandolin and Alisa Rose on violin.

Progressive and historic

Joy Kills Sorrow haven’t played since 2014 but people are still listening. Pop bluegrass that doesn’t lose musicality in its stretches.

Delightful duo

The Foreign Landers are David on mandolin and Tabitha on banjo. Individually great, together exquisite.

Original jazz done right on bluegrass instruments

Jeff Picker is a jazz-trained bass player whose day job is with the very traditional Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder. By night he’s been writing jazz and here it is, performed by top-tier talent.

All-American singer-songwriter

Darrell Scott is a beautiful original talent. His catalogue here has something for everyone. I discovered him via Real Time (duets with Tim O’Brien) but came to appreciate everything he’s done. 

Strong young bluegrass talentAJ Lee & Blue Summit are a young Californian bluegrass band. AJ’s divine vocals are ably supported by the rest of this deeply musical band. I love every track.

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