Hey Steve Earle fans. We're counting down the top 100 Canadian albums of all time, with each pick written up by stars like Russell Crowe, so check it out here if you want to discover some more great music.

When Steve Earle starts talking about songwriting, you should listen. He's crafted a five-decade career of critical and popular success with his carefully crafted songs, built out of tradition that dates back to boxcars and travelling troubadours.

"Bob Dylan invented this job," he says. "He based the job on Woody Guthrie. Everybody who does what I do are post-Bob Dylan singer-songwriters. John Lennon definitely wanted to be Bob Dylan and Bob Dylan wanted to be John Lennon. So that’s kinda the point where rock and roll becomes art. And that’s the kind of songwriting I do. It is a form of literature. I consider it to be [art] and I approach it that way."

Earle sees much to be happy about, with modern music and the continuation of that songwriting tradition. He says bands like Mumford & Sons have taken it to large, new audiences.

Today, that mainstream of popular music is look far back to those old-time roots that inspired Woody Guthrie. But which of these acts impress Steve Earle? Here, he offers up his picks of the best new traditional artists going today.

Willy Mason

“I think the best young songwriter out there is Willy Mason and I hope we see more out of him than we’ve seen. He released a couple of records, he’s way better known in England than he is over here but he lives in Martha’s Vineyard. He doesn’t get off the island enough.”

Joe Pug

"There’s a kid named Joe Pug from Chicago who I think is really good. An old school songwriter in the way that I am."

Aoife O’Donovan

“She's the singer in Crooked Still. She’s getting ready to release her first solo record. But her thing is she’s in this kind of nouveau bluegrass band, and a really good one. She’s like hearing Joni Mitchell when she was 20. She’s really, really good. Good songs, great singer."

Punch Brothers

"The best band in the world right now are the Punch Brothers, in any kind of music. They’re better than any jazz band that I know of, any rock and roll band that I know of, any bluegrass band that I know of and they can do all three of those things. I really think they’re the best band on the planet."

posted by Mike Miner on Jul 02, 2013