The following is excerpted from a feature in this week’s Entertainment Weekly.
To read the full story, find the issue on newsstands now — and scroll down to stream our ultimate folk-rock playlist featuring ten essential tracks from the current crop of stars, plus a starter kit of earlier classics.
The future of rock & roll looks a whole lot like the past. It’s wearing vintage suspenders and playing the banjo. It’s singing high-lonesome harmonies and rediscovering Woody Guthrie. And it was all over the Grammys this month, as some of the year’s biggest bands took the stage with old-timey instruments and formal attire straight out of There Will Be Blood. Before taking Album of the Year, the night’s top prize, for their Americana-fueled barn burner Babel, British folk-rockers Mumford & Sons showed off their fingerpicking and their fedoras, stomping their weathered boots to their floorboard-rattling anthem “I Will Wait.” Denver indie band the Lumineers strummed their ubiquitous “Ho Hey,” while their bow-tie-clad drummer kept time with a tambourine. After picking up their Best Country Album prize, Atlanta bluegrass lovers Zac Brown Band joined Elton John, Mumford, and more for an all-star Levon Helm tribute, performing the Band’s 1968 classic “The Weight.” For one night, at least, Hollywood felt just about as down-home as the Midnight Ramble, Helm’s legendary Woodstock jam session.
Backstage after the show, sipping from a plastic cup, Marcus Mumford celebrated his win: “It’s f—ing awesome!” he shouted. But he wasn’t quite ready to declare a victory for folk rock just yet. “I think it’s always been around,” he told EW. “And you guys”—meaning Americans—”did a good job of inventing it. The media likes to focus on things at certain times, and that’s good for us. That means we get to play lots of shows.”