Though primarily associated with the interest taken in, and the urbanization of, folk music by young (and eventually professional) performers in the USA during the 1950s and 1960s, the folk music revival has had direct parallels in Canada. Just as collectors had been active in rural USA earlier in the century, recording for posterity the traditional music that survived for years only by oral transmission, and thereby establishing the foundation for such a revival, Marius Barbeau, Father Anselme Chiasson, E.-Z. Massicotte, W. Roy McKenzie, Helen Creighton, Edith Fowke, Louise Manny, Luc Lacourcière, Germain Lemieux, Kenneth Peacock, and others documented closely Canada's folk music heritage as recalled (and sung) by such respondents as O.J. Abbott, Tom Brandon, LaRena Clark, Vincent Ferrier de Repentigny, Marie Hare, and Finvola Redden-Bower.

During the 1940s, the US singers Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie spearheaded the renewal of interest in performing traditional songs, as well as new material written in traditional styles, and were popular in Canada. The Canadian-born Oscar Brand was one of several performers to assist in the circulation of this material in the USA. Their counterparts in Canada at this time included Alan Mills and the US-born Ed McCurdy, both heard on CBC radio. Some newly-composed songs were introduced into the Canadian folk repertoire at this time - eg, McCurdy's 'Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream' and Wade Hemsworth's'The Black Fly Song'.

Other folksingers, including Jacques Labrecque, Hélène Baillargeon, Tom Kines, and The Travellers, followed in the 1950s, taking advantage of the growth of communications technology (radio, TV, recordings, etc) both to bring this old folk literature to a new audience and to carry it back to its rural origins. Other singers and ensembles to perform or record traditional Canadian material in the 1950s and 1960s were as diverse as Angèle Arsenault, Omar Blondahl, Edith Butler, the Couriers, the Highriggers (who included Philip Thomas), Charles Jordan, Tom Kelly, Penny Lang, Allan MacRae, the Mountain City Four (see Kate and Anna McGarrigle), Joyce Sullivan, the Treetoppers, and Mary Jane and Winston Young

By the early 1960s, the folk revival led in North America to the rise of a new generation of singers-songwriters born in the 1940s, most of whom began their careers performing traditional songs before refining their own lyric and melodic styles and identifying the topical concerns that spoke to the attitudes and concerns of their peers. Initially the singer-songwriter co-existed with the traditional folksinger in coffeehouses and concert halls and at folk festivals. However, by the end of the 1960s, the singer-songwriter, exemplified by Bob Dylan in the USA and by Gordon Lightfoot in Canada, emerged as a significant 'pop' figure and in the public mind became synonymous with the idea of a 'folksinger'

The same and subsequent generations, however, have had their share of singers and instrumentalists dedicated in some measure to the maintenance of folk music in its traditional form. Among them, in Canada, are the Barra MacNeils, Stewart Cameron, Margaret Christl, Friends of Fiddler's Green, Grit Laskin, Eileen McGann, the Rankin Family, Ian Robb, Stan Rogers, Tim Rogers, Tamarack, and Tip Splinter, for the most part devoted to the traditions of the British Isles. Others, including the groups Barde, la Bottine souriante, Éritage, and Rêve du diable, have similarly preserved traditional Québécois music. Traditional forms also could be heard, now merged with pop elements, in the music of such groups in the 1980s and early 1990s as the Crash Test Dummies, Figgy Duff and Spirit of the West.

See also, Folk music, contemporary