When I was a kid, we went on a lot of road trips as a family.
We’d pack up the Ford Camp-O-Van with our sleeping bags, crossword puzzles, and all our changes of clothes the night before departure. Then we kids would go to bed, and Mom and Dad would go do God Knows What all night — I know they didn’t sleep. Then Mom and Dad would wake us up in the morning, around 3:30 am, and load us into the Camp-O-Van in the dark in our PJs. Then Mom’d warm up the engine, back out the driveway, and rumble out the lane. My Dad was deep in his phase of discovering old blues and bluegrass at the time, so in my head, that’s the soundtrack these memories have.
It’s that sneaking out of town in my jammies — under the cover of darkness and by the sound of a guitar — that inspired this list of traveling music. It’s mostly scratchy old blues, but what the hey. It’s all about getting the hell outta dodge, and the consequences thereof.
Libba Cotton created/popularized a particular style of guitar picking, and she lived for many years in my adopted hometown of Syracuse. This would be my first pick for a mix tape of traveling music, because of the longing and sense of place in this song.
Rollin’ & Tumblin’
My great good friend Colin has a dog named Elmore, and I remember singing this song to him (Elmore, although Colin was there) as I walked out of a lake at 5 am in Green Lakes State Park, after a most enjoyable bout of skinny-dipping.
I love the Muddy Waters version, but have to stick with Elmore.
Hellhound On My Trail
If this song doesn’t help you out at the crossroads, nothing will. Or help you to stay away from the crossroads in the first place, depending on your personality, and personal demons.
Keys To The Highway
“You done drove this poor boy from his home. But he’s got the keys, keys to the highway…”
Had a chance to see John Hammond last October in Eastham, in a very small room. I was too broke and car-less, but my Dad managed to scam his way in for free and work the merch table. So much cooler than me.
Big Mama’s Door
Alvin Youngblood Hart
I did manage to see this guy in a small room in Syracuse, and OhMyGod. Go on. Take that right hand road.
Goin’ Up To The Country, Paint My Mailbox Blue
I like just about every song Taj Mahal has done, and he’s influenced many of my favorite musicians. This is yet another great song by my main man.
Angel From Montgomery
Not scratchy blues, but it could have been if Prine had been older, and I love it so much, and it does involve a mode of transport (flying).
We’re Outta Here
Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown
An upbeat, swingin’ tune by Gate. Picks up your spirits and makes you ready for that next stop on the thruway for some awesomely awful coffee.
Folsom Prison Blues
The ultimate song about longing to travel.
“When I hear that whistle blowin’…
I hang my head and cry.”
Sure makes you happy you’re in the car, and not somewhere else.
The sun is just coming up here on the easternmost coast of the US, so I imagine I’m an early poster, but I’ll be linking to the other lists as the day goes on… so check back!