Livin on the road my frieeend...
May 7, 2019 6:55 AM   Subscribe

What are your favorite country and folk songs for long distance driving?

I don't really like the following genre terms and understand their issues -- but for lack of a better quickly understood explanation I am hoping for alt-country / alt-folk. Or just old acoustic country music from before those terms arose. To give an example, one of my favorite driving-trance songs is "Windfall" by Sun Volt.
Looking for specific songs that I can download from ITunes -- this has to be a physical "mix tape" CD not a playlist. I probably have most of the obvious ones already but you never know.
posted by nantucket to Media & Arts (58 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
You need Steve EArle's "Home to Houston":

"When I pulled out of Basra, they all wished me luck
Just like they always did before
With a bulletproof screen on the hood of my truck
And a Bradley on my back door
And I wound her up and I shifted her down
And I offered this prayer to my Lord
I said, "God get me back home to Houston alive"
And I won't drive a truck anymore"
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:04 AM on May 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Number Six Driver by Eddie From Ohio.

It's the path of least resistance
I can measure my distance by a marathon runner's nightmare
I've got two states behind me,
I don't need you to remind me I'm still not getting anywhere

posted by bondcliff at 7:06 AM on May 7, 2019

6 Days on the Road. Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal-- 6 Days on the Road

I pulled out of Pittsburgh an I rolling down the eastern seaboard
I've got my diesel wound up and she's running like she never did before
There's a speed zone ahead all right, I don't see a cop in sight
Six days upon the road and I gotta see my baby tonight
I got ten forward gears and a sweet Georgia overdrive
I'm taking little white pills and my eyes are open wide
Just passed a Jimmy and a White, I've been passing everything in sight
Six days upon the road and I gotta see my baby tonight
posted by jeszac at 7:14 AM on May 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

Nancy Griffith!

Listen to the Radio and Ford Econoline come to mind immediately with specific traveling references.
posted by vespabelle at 7:15 AM on May 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

I've been everywhere man. Johnny Cash
posted by Draccy at 7:17 AM on May 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

Send the Sun - Nikki Haley
Amarillo by Morning - George Strait (maybe this is not folky enough/ too Nashville for you)
Outfit - Drive By Truckers
Do I Ever Cross Your Mind - Chet Atkins & Dolly Parton
Peaches - Delicate Steve
Feathered Indians - Tyler Childers
L. A. Freeway - Guy Clark
Rang Tang Ring Toon - Mountain Moon

Maybe too novelty-ish but I can never resist: George Jones Talkin' Cell Phone Blues - Drive By Truckers

Obviously you already know of Take Me Home Country Roads, and a Willie Nelson live version of On the Road Again.
posted by Hypatia at 7:27 AM on May 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Alabama Pines, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit.
posted by something something at 7:27 AM on May 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Ha. I came in here specifically to recommend "Windfall."

My selections are not tunes that have anything to do lyrically with being on the road -- they're just songs that feel right on a highway or a mountain pass or a desert road. They perfectly suit my Southern California peregrinations.

Freedy Johnston is an evergreen choice. Tons of great road stuff. If you want to stick to his more acoustic side, try "Remember Me".

Richard Buckner is another stalwart road-trip friend. Here's "Mile".

Recent MeFi darling Aldous Harding's "Hunter" has a breezy melancholy that I love.

Along similar tonal lines, Laura Veirs's "Rialto" (sample only) has a duskiness that suits the open road.

Josh Rouse's first album is a fantastic road record for me. Maybe try "Dressed Up Like Nebraska".

Taking the tempo down a notch, Paula Frazer's "Leave The Sad Things Behind" always gets a spin.

And if I may be so gauche as to recommend one of my own tunes, how about "Salt Lake Song"?
posted by mykescipark at 7:31 AM on May 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

These are more on the rock end of folk, except for Stan Rogers, but since you did say Son Volt:

Wilco, particularly Being There
The Jayhawks, Hollywood Town Hall
Grateful Dead, American Beauty
Stan Rogers, Fogerty's Cove for a little Can-Con (except he is impossible to sing along with, his vocal range is so ridiculous)
Big Star, #1 Record

I kind of prefer listening to whole records, so I didn't narrow it down to songs.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 7:36 AM on May 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Clem Snide, "I Love the Unknown"
posted by neushoorn at 7:39 AM on May 7, 2019

Bruce Springsteen's "Erie Canal" might suit, if you're willing to broaden out to traveling/long-haul songs.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:40 AM on May 7, 2019

Anne Hills, "The Water is Wide/Wild Geese", and indeed pretty much anything from the second half of Don't Panic.
posted by Frowner at 7:56 AM on May 7, 2019

Buffy Sainte-Marie - God is Alive Magic is Afoot
posted by box at 8:31 AM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Albums that absolutely must be in the car for a road trip (or on a USB stick):
All four Uncle Tupelo
Son Volt, Trace
Nanci Griffith's "other voices" and "other voices, too"
Lyle Lovett, Pontiac
Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter, "Reckless Burning"
Calexico/Iron & Wine, "In the Reins"
(Honestly, I have a thumb drive with everything Calexico has ever put out)
Richard Buckner's first three albums
Matthew Sweet, Girlfriend
Freedy Johnson, This Perfect World (if you sing, this album will teach you new things about harmony)
Ass Ponys, Lohio...great album to start a trip to.
Some Townes, but you probably already knew that based on the title
Some Sigur Ros, in case the weather in the mountains gets really ugly

Couple straggler songs:
Buck 65, "wicked and weird"
Willie Nelson, "on the road again"
LZ, Kashmir

Last couple years, I've taken along a fair bit of the Wussy oeuvre.
posted by notsnot at 8:46 AM on May 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Drivin on 9 by the Breeders.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:48 AM on May 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

She turned into...kind of not the best, later on, but I used to love Michelle Shocked's Come a Long Way for road trips. I'd link it but I think at some point she got all her stuff pulled from youtube. (There's a really bad cover on youtube.) I think it's on "Arkansas Traveler."
posted by Smearcase at 8:57 AM on May 7, 2019

Wagon Wheel - Old Crow Medicine Show

200 More Miles - Cowboy Junkies

Northbound 35 - Jeffrey Foucault (the Richard Shindell version is also lovely)

The Next Best Western - Richard Shindell

Memphis - as performed by Cry Cry Cry

You Are Not Needed Now, Greensboro Woman, and Highway Kind - Townes Van Zandt

Forth Worth Blues (about Townes) - Steve Earle.

White Freightliner Blues (by Townes) - lots of good versions out there

Nothing Has To Be True, King of the World, and Emmylou - First Aid Kit

Another Traveling Song and At The Bottom Of Everything - Bright Eyes (and quite a bit of his other songs)

The Captain - Kasey Chambers (and much of her other work)

Song For Zula - Phosphorescent (and much of his other work)

God Damn Lonely Love - Driveby Truckers

A lot of my driving to country music hasn't been during good times..
posted by Candleman at 9:12 AM on May 7, 2019 [9 favorites]

Richard Thompson Walking the Long Miles Home
Roger Miller King of the Road
Colorblind James Experience I'm Considering a Move to Memphis
Iris Dement Our Town (for lots of crying behind the wheel)
Bobby Gentry Ode to Billy Joe
Lyle Lovett She's Already Made Up Her Mind
K.D. Lang Constant Craving
Lucinda Williams Pineola
Carolina Chocolate Drops Hit Em Up Style
Avett Brothers I and Love and You
The Tallest Man on Earth King of Spain
posted by frumiousb at 9:18 AM on May 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

I Dream a Highway by Gillian Welch. It's 15 minutes long, and it has a hypnotic rolling rhythm that goes well with travel.
posted by rollick at 9:32 AM on May 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you're looking for a traveling theme:

Woody Guthrie:
- Blowin' Down This Road
- Going Down the Road (Feeling Bad)
- Hard Travelin'

Standards, but best on Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison album (if you ask me):
- Orange Blossom Special
- Jackson

Henry Thomas (more blues than country, but old-school Texas blues):
- Railroadin' Some
- The Little Read Caboose
posted by eotvos at 9:33 AM on May 7, 2019

Tyler Childers. I love almost all of his stuff, but maybe especially I Swear (To God), Whitehouse Road, &/or Purgatory for your road trip.

Jason Isbell, Speed Trap Town
posted by kochenta at 9:34 AM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Might be too folk for you, but maybe try Highway Song by Aztec Two-Step
posted by gudrun at 9:48 AM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Little Feat, Willin'

"I've been from Tucson to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonapah
Driven every kind of rig that's ever been made
Driven the back roads so I wouldn't get weighed
And if you give me weed, whites and wine
And you show me a sign
I'll be willin', to be movin' "
posted by MinPin at 10:24 AM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Indianapolis - Bottle Rockets

Can't go west, can't go east
I'm stuck in Indianapolis with a fuel pump that's deceased
Ten days on the road now I'm four hours from my home town
Is this hell or Indianapolis with no way to get around
posted by Mid at 10:32 AM on May 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

That was demo version - here is the album version.
posted by Mid at 10:35 AM on May 7, 2019

Pretty much everything by Sturgill, but particularly, Long White Line.
posted by teleri025 at 10:49 AM on May 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

I had a sort-of collection of this type many years ago, most of which escapes me now, but some I remember that might work: Steel Rails by Alison Krauss, Cornershop's Back on the Road Again, John Prine's Angel From Montgomery (2000 version, Souvenirs album), and also by Bonnie Raitt (who could choose?!), Summer Wine by Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra (also, maybe "Some Velvet Morning"; serial killer theme mix or road song? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

I had some version of "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" ... maybe Johnny Rivers, Patsy Cline's Walking After Midnight, Jackson by Johnny Cash and June Carter, Lookin' Out My Back Door by Creedence Clearwater Revival. I'll keep thinking what else was on that big ol' mix. (Also, you probably know this, but the entire O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack)
posted by taz at 11:03 AM on May 7, 2019 [6 favorites]

Band of Heathens, "Hallelujah."

Ray Wylie Hubbard covering James McMurtry's excellent "Choctaw Bingo."

James McMurtry, "How'm I Gonna Find You Now" ("I've got a cup of black coffee so I don't get lazy/I've got a rattle in the dashboard driving me crazy"), and "It's a Small Town (Talking at the Texaco)" for your fueling in a tiny town needs.

A really nice cover of "Willin'" from Steve Earle.
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:04 AM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I love listening to Kansas City off of The New Basement Tapes when I'm driving.
posted by Jacob G at 11:15 AM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh my goodness, where is my head? You'll probably want a whole pile of Hank Williams Sr, but definitely Ramblin' Man and Lonesome Whistle.
posted by taz at 11:38 AM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Might not be quite country enough, but Podunk's song Dashboard Mary is one of my favorite driving tunes.

Also, Indiana by David Mead.

Seconding King of the Road!

Now I have a lot of new music to go listen to thanks to this question.
posted by PussKillian at 12:30 PM on May 7, 2019

The Gambler by Kenny Rogers

City of New Orleans by Steve Goodman
posted by chillmost at 1:05 PM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

posted by fourpotatoes at 2:12 PM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

The better part of a decade spent as a country and western musician in the southwest, and incurring about 300k miles of all night driving across desolate places... and then a few years as an overnight country DJ, and I came in here to recommend f’ing “Windfall” too. It is the ultimate late night road song. Bar none. Steve Earle does a nice cover of it if you want variation.

Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper”
Merle Haggard’s “White Line Fever”

Really much of Springsteen and Haggard.

Any of the 942 covers of Dave Dudley’s “Six Days on the Road” will do. Or really all the canonical trucker country stuff (try Dale Watson’s double album, “The Trucker Sessions”).

Me, I would take the complete recordings of Townes Van Zandt, who was fond of quoting Ramblin’ Jack Elliot (I think) that “folk music is 5% picking and 95% driving.” (Roughly.) But his premium road trip songs are “Snowing on Raton” and “Colorado Girl.”

And then there’s Tom Waits. And Gram Parsons. I mean, is “Return of the Grievous Angel” not the ultimate western road song?

Here’s an insider tip: look up Chris Ledoux. Lost him young, a great poet of the rodeo life.

Lucinda Williams is great at landscape painting.

The theme is so pervasive to such a long history of music that there are a million points of entry.
posted by spitbull at 5:16 PM on May 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

Lyle Lovett — “LA Freeway” ’for when you’re feeling murderous.

Peter Wolf’s cover or Patty Loveless original of “Nothing but the wheel” if you’re feeling bereft.
posted by spitbull at 5:21 PM on May 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Neko Case
Lucinda Williams yesss
Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris
The McGarrigle Sisters
posted by Lawn Beaver at 6:00 PM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Lyle Lovett — “LA Freeway” ’for when you’re feeling murderous.

I'm pretty sure you meant "L.A. County," but I'd still like to hear Lovett covering Guy Clark...
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:02 PM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I love the entire Too Far to Care album by the Old 97's

Timebomb is a classic
posted by OHenryPacey at 6:04 PM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Sorry I mislabeled Dale Watson’s “Truckin’ Sessions” (vol. 1 and 2) as “Trucker.”

Hey Driver.
posted by spitbull at 6:04 PM on May 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yeah lol sorry, I meant Lyle Lovett’s LA County but Guy Clark’s LA Freeway will do too! Just played LA Freeway so it was on my mind.
posted by spitbull at 6:05 PM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

And hell, because most people won’t look it up here is Peter Wolf’s cover (from Sleepless) of “Nothing But the Wheel.” It’s a John Sherrill song, a hit for Patty Loveless in the 90s, and one of my favorite contemplative road songs of all time. I think Wolf does it real justice.

And yeah that is who you think it is on backing vocals, he gets a couple of solo lines in at the end.
posted by spitbull at 6:11 PM on May 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Wheels by The Flying Burrito Brothers
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:13 PM on May 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you're driving Interstate-80 from west to east, then: "Highway 80, She's A Mighty Good Road" by Dave Carter & Tracy Grammar.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:39 PM on May 7, 2019

Wayne "The Train" Hancock -- Thunderstorms and Neon Signs
posted by dancestoblue at 12:03 AM on May 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

There's a particular type of country song about long, lonely highways and waiting at the crossroads....
David Allan Coa -- The Ride
Alan Jackson -- Midnight in Montgomery
Randy Travis -- Three Wooden Crosses
Red Sovine -- Phantom 309

And speaking of Red Sovine....
Teddy Bear
Little Joe
The Last Goodbye

And for Mother's Day -- Roses for Mama
posted by TrishaU at 4:31 AM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding Gudrun's suggestion of "Highway Song" by Aztec Two-Step.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:37 AM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

The first two of TrishaU’s suggestions (Coe and Jackson) are both about meeting the ghost of Hank Williams on the road. There’s a lot of those. Another is Dave Alvin’s “Long White Cadillac.”
posted by spitbull at 6:49 AM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also one of my favorite trucker songs: Kathy Mattea’s “18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses.”
posted by spitbull at 6:50 AM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also highly recommend Tom Waits’ cover of “Phantom 309.”
posted by spitbull at 6:52 AM on May 8, 2019

Lucinda’s cover of Gram Parsons’ “Hickory Wind.” Haunting.
posted by spitbull at 6:55 AM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Trampled by Turtles - "Thank You John Steinbeck".

...I left in a hurry, my clothes barely buttoned
And Travels With Charley tucked under my arm
Got the road to yourself when you're out this early
I'm thinking about you wherever you are

posted by jilloftrades at 8:00 AM on May 8, 2019

DonnaThe Buffalo!
posted by chocolatetiara at 11:59 AM on May 8, 2019

Also Mefites are too cool to admit to this, but the truth is all that cheesy California country rock from the 70s sounds awesome when you're crossing the Continental Divide -- yes, even the Eagles.

Anyone who can't find "Peaceful, easy feeling" charming while cutting through the high plains ain't got a rock and roll heart. I don't care how many wilco records you have.
posted by spitbull at 12:28 PM on May 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thanks so much everyone! These should all be best answers, and there are many suggestions here that I love but didn't mark , -- I marked "best" answers that I want to use but didn't already have in my own list to help me go back to find them. As people guessed, it's a heavily Lucinda, Johnny, Lyle, Townes, Hank Sr list from the get-go.
Anyway hope this list keeps growing.
posted by nantucket at 12:38 PM on May 8, 2019

(and Emmy Lou/Gram, Dolly, George, Loretta...)
posted by nantucket at 12:45 PM on May 8, 2019

Another group that came up on my USB stick of driving music, just this morning: the Be Good Tanyas. Their voices are love-em-or-hate-em, but if you love 'em, they're great.
posted by notsnot at 6:25 AM on May 9, 2019

yes, even the Eagles.

Lyin' Eyes is more urban in its subject matter, but it does seem to contain long drives in and around greater L.A. And more to the point, as a not particularly big Eagles fan, let me just say, "Man, what a great song!"
posted by philip-random at 8:03 AM on May 9, 2019

spitbull: "but the truth is all that cheesy California country rock from the 70s sounds awesome when you're crossing the Continental Divide -- yes, even the Eagles. "

Maybe this is the problem -- despite 10 years in California (and resulting flights east), I've never driven cross-country.

That said, you can't go wrong with "Take Me Home, Country Roads."
posted by crazy with stars at 11:51 PM on May 9, 2019

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