I mean given today's definition it seems to just apply to anything more acoustic than electric or something with socially conscious lyrics. It need not have both. I mean, originally, it was literally the music of a given people's, mostly in the public domain. Then it started to be a combination of traditional material combined with newly composed topical songs. In America this seems to have started during the Depression and continued until the McCarthy hearings got many of the preeminent folk acts of the day blacklisted in the early 1950's. During this era there wasn't a divide between "acoustic" and "electric" because amplified instrumentation hadn't become commonplace yet. There was an instrumental simplicity, certainly, when compared to the charts of the jazz based pop of the day. Then in the late 1950's you started getting commercially successful acts who, again, started out playing traditional material, but as the 60's began, you found more and more newly written songs being classified as folk. And many of these were of the "protest" variety that were, in actuality, quite out of step with the views of the lumpenproletariat that made up most "folk." Of course, WWII, the post WWII economic boom, the final stages of electrification and better roads, and, finally, TV, pretty much ended the rural isolation that was the original nurturing ground for traditional folk music. Then, of course, came the Folk Rock movement. But there was also a gradual shift from the topical to the personal. For me this, rather than strummed acoustic guitars, is what separates folk from "singer songwriter." But from a musical genrefication standpoint, it's admittedly a blurred line. After the 1970's I don't really know what was considered "folk" anymore, not counting some carryover artists. Heck, even Joan Baez had gone from "We Shall Overcome" to writing about her relationship with Dylan. In the late 80's we started seeing a few commercially successful artists once again labeled "folk." You had Tracy Chapman, Suzanne Vega, David Wilcox, The Indigo Girls, and I guess they all fit into the "primarily acoustic" and "topical" category. Though the Indigo Girls were really part of the Athens college rock scene and got labeled "folkies" when their sexuality became common knowledge. You also had some guys like Dave Allin and Kelly Joe Phelps dipping back into the traditional well. But what about now? I mean much of what I see labeled as "Alt folk" doesn't really seem particularly folkie. It's more just some instrumentation and productions choices. Is there a difference between "alt folk" and "alt country"? I mean some I get, like Old Crow Medicine Show is definitely on the "folk" side of things. But for others it just seems a catchall for music with a stringed acoustic lead instrument. Anyway, I know this rambled. Thoughts?