Flyover America: 10 (More) Songs for an American Road Trip
Travel Blog • Jenna Schnuer • 04.29.09 | 4:32 PM ET
While the invention of iTunes has made things far easier than the days when we had to go through stack and stacks of cassettes to create the perfect on-the-road mix tapes, there’s still an art to creating the perfect road-trip playlist.
It takes time, thought, a sense of humor, and a wide-ranging music collection in whatever digital format you prefer. It also needs a theme. It can be about a mood, a time of day, your love for hot dogs, or whatever. You don’t even have to announce the theme. You don’t have to name the playlist “hot dog music” but, to make it all hang together, the theme must at least be in your mind during the song selection process.
When Sophia suggested we each create a 10-song playlist perfect for a road trip—and with state or place names at the heart of the songs—I was all ooh, fun! until the pressure smacked me. You all turned into the the picky music-snob staff from High Fidelity. But I forged ahead, tossing beloved tunes out of the way in order to create what could be the best mix of all time (especially when combined with Sophia’s dazzling list of goodness). OK, it’s not the best of all time. But I dig it.
Mildly nervous and semi-sensitive being that I am, my temptation is to make apologies for my list or cheat and try to add things in but ... I won’t. Instead, I say: have at it. Comment away.
And, when you drive out into America, tunes ablazing, please remember: enjoy and behave. After all, you don’t want to end up singing the Folsom Prison Blues.
America (Simon & Garfunkel) There are a few reasons it’s on the list: 1) It’s an umbrella policy that eases some of the guilt of cutting so many state-named songs off my final choices. 2) It’s a damned good song. I have yet to find somebody who dislikes it. If that person exists, I have a feeling I wouldn’t want to know him. I definitely wouldn’t want to travel with him. Would you?
Oh, Atlanta (Alison Krauss & Union Station) There’s a line in it that sums up how I feel about so many of the places I’ve visited around America: “I hear you calling. I’m coming back to you one fine day.”
Stars Fell on Alabama (Billie Holiday. Wait, Frank Sinatra. No, it’s Billie’s version.) It’s the story of a perfect moment of beauty and joy in somebody’s life. It’s, I think, part of what we’re all looking for when we go out on the road. Oh and Billie’s voice? Yeah, talk about heavenly.
My Clinch Mountain Home (The Carter Family) It’s always good to remember where you came from—no matter where you’re going.
Rapid City, South Dakota (Kinky Friedman & The Texas Jewboys) Some people may dismiss Kinky Friedman as a bit of a novelty act. He’s not. While there are definitely some good knee-slappers (and plenty of reasons to take offense) in some of his songs, this one is just the story of a boy heading out on the road.
Bus to Baton Rouge (Lucinda Williams) If I had to choose just one album to take on the road, it would be Lucinda Williams’ “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.” But, if we’re talking place names, “Bus to Baton Rouge” (from the album “Essence”) is the way to go. It isn’t the cheeriest of songs—it’s about going back to a home that was, more often than not, a sad place to be. But it’s beautiful.
Nashville Jumps (Cecil Grant) A great reminder that places are much more than their stereotype. Nashville may be the epicenter of country music, but that’s not all there is to it—and its past was far more varied, as well.
Alaskan Nights (David Schwartz) Never heard of it? Well, it’s obscure in an odd way. It’s from the “Northern Exposure” soundtrack. The show kicked off my mad love for Alaska. The piece still makes me smile. (Seriously, the whole soundtrack is good fun. Give it a shot. It’s also a great housecleaning soundtrack.)
Thick in the South (Wynton Marsalis) This piece is one long hot sultry night (or, in this case, drive). It’s Louisiana or Alabama or wherever in August, and the car air conditioner is just barely holding on.
Jack & Neal/California Here I Come (Tom Waits) Tom Waits is a night in a town you’ve never visited before—slightly welcoming, slightly off-putting. He’s essential.
Ooh, got a little sad there at the end. This should lighten things up. Ladies and gentlemen, Simon & Garfunkel ...