Music recommendations for a desert road trip?
May 12, 2008 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Music for the Great American Southwest?

In a couple of months I'll be taking my first road trip through the Southwest (West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona). Help me set the mood. What's some of your favorite music for long desert days and nights on the road? Individual song and album recommendations appreciated.
posted by Roman Graves to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Anything by Calexico is good.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:36 PM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

As a native of Texas, I would have to say Joe Ely, ZZ Top before 1983, and Stevie Ray Vaughn should be on this list. But I'm not very cultured in Texas music so I'm probably overlooking some better stuff.
posted by crapmatic at 12:49 PM on May 12, 2008

Goddamn, le morte beat me to it. Really, buy the whole damn catalog...their music works anywhere you're driving, not just the southwest.

I've found Sigur Ros great for night driving, even though it's Icelandic.

Another Arizona band which works well is Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. (you may know Roger from his days in the Refreshments.)

And of course for Texas, you've got singer-songwriters. Townes Van Zandt is my favorite, but Guy Clark, Eric Taylor, Richard Buckner, and Lyle Lovett (including his tribute to singer-songwriters, Step Inside This House) are great. From the ladies, Emmylou Harris and Nanci Griffith are my faves. The latter has a couple covers albums Other Voices, Other Rooms and Other Voices, too, that will get you started in all manner of ways.

And getting out toward the Mojave, you can't top Gram Parsons, or his bands - Sweetheart-era Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, and International Submarine Band.
posted by notsnot at 12:52 PM on May 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Jazz pianist Ferde Grofé's 1931 Grand Canyon Suite.
The Desert Music by Steve Reich.
"...Finally, there is another desert that is central to The Desert Music: White Sands and Alamagordo in New Mexico, where weapons of the most intense and sophisticated sort are constantly being develloped and tested. Hidden away from the eyes of the rest of the world are these infernal machines that could lead to the destruction of the planet - and it is to this possibility that the words of William Carlos Williams, which I set in the third movement, refer ('Man has survived hitherto because he was too ignorant to know how to realize his wishes. Now that he can realize them, he must either change them or perish'). So it was these images that particularly struck me, though they seem to be ingrained in people's thinking generally when the idea of the desert comes to mind." Steve Reich in conversation with Jonathan Cott
posted by paulsc at 12:53 PM on May 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Oh, Tom Russell, too, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and...
posted by notsnot at 12:55 PM on May 12, 2008

I think the Old 97's might be just about perfect for this. And some vintage Bob Wills.
posted by chez shoes at 12:58 PM on May 12, 2008

posted by ericb at 1:14 PM on May 12, 2008

posted by aswego at 1:19 PM on May 12, 2008

The Soundtrack to Paris, Texas. An entrire album of Ry Cooder playing a lonesome steel guitar. Fits in perfectly with the dusty, drawly desert scenarios you conjure up in your head.

Oh, and enjoy the trip. I did it several years ago and loves the simple, stark beauty of it all.
posted by Rewind at 1:22 PM on May 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Horse with no Name by America. I always like to have this around when I can get a day free to drive out into the desert and not be around people, jobs, stress, etc.

Woops... Late for a meeting.
posted by krisak at 1:27 PM on May 12, 2008

For West Texas, you need any of the Asleep at the Wheel, albums; all are good, but their "Tribute To The Music Of Bob Wills" is probably your best bet.

Even if you don't get to Lubbock, inlude a couple of her sons: Buddy Holly will make any trip rock, and you definitely need a copy of Mac Davis's "Lubbock in My Rear View Mirror".

Saving the most important for last, the absolute must-have song for this portion of the trip is "London Homesick Blues" by Gary P. Nunn. Any version will work, but the definitive is probably the one performed on Jerry Jeff Walker's "Viva Terlingua" (iTunes link). It'll bring a tear to your eye.
posted by dinger at 1:30 PM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Carlos Nakai.
posted by proj08 at 1:33 PM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Essential Bob Wills. Best music ever recorded.
posted by sully75 at 1:33 PM on May 12, 2008

Neko Case
posted by bluefly at 1:36 PM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Cusco endorsed by Art Bell.
posted by hortense at 1:56 PM on May 12, 2008

I confess, I know these guys, but nothing makes me feel more at ease with the possibility of the post apocalyptic west than Badman.

The Pixie's album Trompe le Monde has a song called "Motorway to Roswell," but I'd bring the whole album. Hell, bring the whole Pixie's catalog.

Iggy Pop's Theme from the Repo Man Soundtrack, as well as the Plugz "El Clavo Y La Cruz" and "Hombre Secreto" (also from Repo Man) are worthy additions to any road trip.

There's always The Gypsy Kings cover of "Hotel California." (Even if you're not going all the way to California.)
posted by clockwork at 2:50 PM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Townes Van Zandt, the Soundtrack to Dances with Wolves, most Neil Young but especially Dead Man soundtrack, anything by the Beltones, Death Valley (Austin, '90s spaghetti western surf guitar), Patty Griffin, early Lucinda Williams, Neko Case, The Immortal Lee County Killers, Nine Pound Hammer, Social Distortion, Porter Hall Tennessee, Lanterna, The Waco Brother and the (International) Noise Conspiracy.

That will be the soundtrack to the first leg of my trip that starts a week from Friday.

In reality, you should listen to whatever floats your boat and try to match music (based on the feeling you get) to the scenery. The west has a lot of things in it. Desolation and solitude. Mountains and deserts. Tight, close verdant places and sweeping scenery. Denuded slopes and strip mines that will make you want to kill nasty humans. Small towns full of sweet kind people who, despite partaking in that clear cutting and mining, will make you lose that misanthropy. Asshole truckers who cut you off and truckers who stop on a deserted stretch of highway to help you with an overheated engine. Rattlesnakes and roadrunners, bobcats and bunnies, coyotes and red-tailed hawks. Whatever, bring your entire collection on your ipod. Life was hard for me before the ipod when I would spend all summer driving and hiking. I had every cd I owned copied in binders behind the passenger seat. You never know when Ween is going to be the only thing that scratches that itch.

And clockwork, you are dead on about the Repo Man soundtrack. The last song is a great one for lying on the hood in the middle of nowhere looking at the stars.
posted by Seamus at 2:57 PM on May 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Never been to Texas but I've got a few tracks that might feel right. Wayne Hancock - Thunderstorms and Neon Signs, and Andre Williams- Only Black Man in South Dakota. Feel free to look through that folder for anything else that strikes your fancy
posted by nola at 3:25 PM on May 12, 2008

If you're driving through West Texas, you could do worse than All Hail West Texas. And for the long drive middle of the night, put Son Volt's "Windfall" on repeat.
posted by wemayfreeze at 3:26 PM on May 12, 2008

DJ Shadow ("Dark Days"), Tragically Hip ("Grace, Too"), Iron & Wine ("Burn That Bed"), Friends of Dean Martinez ("All the Pretty Horses"), Mono ("Halcyon (Beautiful Days)"), Thurston Moore ("Silver > Blue"), and Woody Guthrie ("Pastures of Plenty") have always found their ways onto my desert mixes. [Can't provide sound links; sorry!]

There should be two moods for your southwest mix: "night" and "day. "Night" should be a trance-inducing mixture of psychedelia and melody. "Day" should be a combination of lazy slide guitar and folk rock.

None of your music should be manic (unless you're going through Denver, in which case, play "Get Out Of Denver" by Blues Traveler, on repeat, at high volume) or metal (Rob Zombie only works for the desert if you're out stuck in rush hour traffic in Phoenix) -- stick with rootsy, folksy stuff for daytime desert driving.
posted by parilous at 4:08 PM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Bloomed, Devotion and Doubt, and Since (iTunes store links) by Richard Buckner are all records I listened to over and over and over while driving back and forth between Tuscon and Texas.

Those records used to rock my socks off.
posted by elmer benson at 4:20 PM on May 12, 2008

When I went west last summer (I, my husband and two friends rode the Continental Divide on dualsport motorcycles from Canada to Mexico... pictures here), the soundtrack to my trip was Cross Canadian Ragweed, an alt-country band from Oklahoma.
posted by workerant at 4:25 PM on May 12, 2008

Gram Parsons, Lee Hazlewood and Kyuss.

Kinda hard to make good suggestions without your providing any clue of your existing taste, though.
posted by rhizome at 6:52 PM on May 12, 2008

Phoenix, AZ band Turning Point

Hot 'N Spicy
posted by netbros at 8:45 PM on May 12, 2008

It's not OF the area, but I've brought U2's Joshua Tree on two trips to that region and damned if I didn't end up blasting "Where The Streets Have No Name" (and, frankly, the rest of the album) at Mach Q levels on the highways.

Another collection needs a little explanation: Kevin Costner was in a movie called Fandango in 1984, which was about four college friends having one last big fling before their graduation from the University of Texas in 1971. No "official soundtrack album" was ever released, but it was QUITE a collection, and the DIY mix-tape soundtrack I made was the other music I brought -- and also worked very well. It used everything from "Badge" by Cream and "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" by Elton John to instrumental jazz with Pat Metheney and Keith Jarrett. The film has a cult following, and a fan site has a page on the soundtrack so you can make your own. (I also recommend the movie in general -- you get to see Kevin Costner before he got all serious, and you get to see Judd Nelson play a nerd. Hee!)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:32 AM on May 13, 2008

"Horse with no Name"? Christ.

The first thing that sprang to was the genre known as "desert rock." It comes out of psych revival and is (ideally) a dry, acrid and spacey. It's bands like Kyuss, Earth, Om, Sleep, Comets on Fire, Crystal Antlers and Howling Rain.

I'd also recommend Verbena's first album, Souls for Sale, which includes a great song about the desert.
posted by klangklangston at 11:35 AM on May 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding U2's The Joshua Tree, the cover art of which was famously shot in the national park of the same name. The songs on "side 2" especially are very fitting for desert driving, IMO.
posted by shannonm at 3:02 PM on May 13, 2008

Thirding Joshua Tree. "In God's Country" a particular favourite while Greyhounding it across the West years ago.

Strangely, Radiohead worked equally as well.
posted by chronic sublime at 5:19 AM on May 14, 2008

I second, third, etc. the Calexico recommendation. I was in NM recently on vacation and also found the following from my collection particularly enjoyable and fitting while driving out there:

Iron and Wine - The Shepherd's Dog
Black Mountain - Black Mountain

I found myself wishing I had brought along these albums as well:

Giant Sand - Chore of Enchantment
Friends of Dean Martinez - The Shadow of Your Smile

I brought along some Kyuss as well totally thinking desert rock, but have to admit to forgetting how much the vocals are not to my preference. I much preferred listening to High on Fire out there. Enjoy!
posted by safetyfork at 11:30 AM on May 14, 2008

« Older Apart from that it's an awful idea.   |   Gift For A New Mother Who Happens to be My Wife Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.