Songs about roads make great additions to road trip playlists — Photo courtesy of iStock/vvvita
We’re back with the third round of our road trip playlist series, which you’ve hopefully been enjoying while on the road, or perhaps at your desk while daydreaming about getting away.
In our last installment, we covered songs about driving. This time, we’ve put together a compilation of songs about the paths that get you from point A to point B: roads.
“Ventura Highway” – America
In “Ventura Highway,” vocalist and songwriter Dewey Bunnell recalls the feeling of traveling the Pacific Coast Highway with his family as a child, in contrast with the cold winters he endured in Omaha.
With the whimsical sound of the guitar and lyrics like “‘Cause the free wind is blowin’ through your hair / And the days surround your daylight there / Seasons crying no despair / Alligator lizards in the air…”, you can’t help but smile as you drive and daydream.
“Down I-5” – Neko Case, k.d. lang, and Laura Veirs
“But for now, all is well / I see the horses on the hill / I smell the cut grass on the air / Feel the wind hot in my hair / Down I-5”
Before Neko Case sang about the “Curse of the I-5 Corridor” on her latest album, she took the lead on this ode to roadside beauty and the quiet joys of driving. Interstate 5 holds a special significance to Case, k.d. lang, and Laura Veirs, as it’s the highway connecting all the places these three collaborators had lived in the Pacific Northwest.
“I-76” – G. Love & Special Sauce
If anyone were going to pen a Valentine to the interstate system in the greater Philadelphia area, it’d be hometown heroes G. Love & Special Sauce. As its title suggests, yes, you are treated to some rhymes about I-76, although I-95 and I-676 – “the most expensive, expansive piece of interstate ever made” – also get some love.
“Two Lane Highway” – Pure Prairie League
The title track on Pure Prairie League’s 1975 album, “Two Lane Highway” tells the tale of a man who makes his living on the road. The two lane highway is a double-edged sword as it takes him away, but also delivers him “home at last.”
“Route 66” – Depeche Mode
Arguably the most popular song ever written about a road, “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” has been scattered, smothered and covered since its original release in 1946 by Bobby Troup. You can enjoy renditions by numerous different artists including Bing Crosby, Chuck Berry, John Mayer and The Rolling Stones.
For our playlist, we chose the version by Depeche Mode because it offers a startingly different electronic take on this road trip classic.
“Highway 49” – Howlin’ Wolf and Eric Clapton
“Malvina my woman / She out on the Highway 49 / I’m gonna get up in the morning / Roll on down the line”
“Highway 49” tells the story of a man looking for his love, who seemingly doesn’t want to be found. But he persists, traveling up and down the highway, determined to find her. Howlin’ Wolf, one of the greatest Chicago blues artists of all time, teamed up with Eric Clapton, one of the greatest guitarists of all time, to release their version of the tune.
“Take the Highway” – The Marshall Tucker Band
The first track on The Marshall Tucker Band’s eponymous debut album, “Take the Highway” is a classic. The Southern rock track is infused with a jazzy jam band sound, emphasized by the outstanding use of the flute.
The driving drum beat and rolling rhythm of the guitar will have you yearning to take the highway, too.
“Highway 101” – Social Distortion
Having already celebrated their 25th anniversary by the time they recorded “Highway 101,” SoCal’s Social Distortion was no stranger to driving up the coast or passing Ventura and Santa Barbara as fast as their motor runs. This is a song about reveling in the sights, sounds and scents of home, and following the palm trees under the California sun.
“Highway Forever” – The Presidents of the United States of America
You’ll find it on an album titled “Love Everybody,” but this song is about a single, specific object of affection. “Highway Forever” tells the story of one man’s frantic, seemingly endless journey across the country to return home to the lady he loves.
Singer Chris Ballew may be speaking from experience about this sort of ordeal; to stay closer to his family, he now only plays regional shows and has waved farewell to life on the road.
“I-95” – Fountains of Wayne
With the band’s discography including albums titled “Utopia Parkway” and “Welcome Interstate Managers,” how could we not showcase Fountains of Wayne on a roads and highways playlist?
The story that “I-95” tells is a familiar one: about traveling the long road separating two lovers. Unlike the propulsive, manic take on that same premise in “Highway Forever” earlier in the playlist, “I-95” adopts a more wistful approach. It’s about longing, isolation, and devotion – a long trek that’s sometimes beautiful and sometimes tedious but proves to be well-worth it in the end.
That’s it for this edition of our road trip playlist. Come back next week for “Songs about America.” Let us know what you think, or if you have any playlist suggestions in the comments below, on Facebook or on Twitter.