Virtually everyone has heard the siren song of the open road at some point or another. Out of the thousands of great road songs, here are five which provide a soundtrack to that long journey we're all forced to take at least once: to try to figure out what we're supposed to be doing with our lives.
Songs for Getting Lost (and Found)
How Many Miles
How Many Miles
by The Waifs
It's almost eerie how effectively "How Many Miles" conjures the harsh glare of early-morning light on the windshield. The good news about this tune is that the Australian trio makes you feel -- or actually, makes you know -- that you're making the right choice by packing your bags and leaving it all behind. The band does it by acknowledging in a straightforward way that "you never asked me what I wanted / you just told me what you thought I need." It doesn't get much clearer than that.
The title track to Ray Bonneville's first CD in five years is more about the feeling you get while driving than the trip itself. You've got to be in the right kind of groove, the right kind of mood to really travel successfully -- to not get irritated by the long stretches of never-ending highway, the stops you've got to make, the bone-tiredness that overcomes you when you're halfway to your destination, and the inevitable soul-searching over life decisions. In "Goin' by Feel," Bonneville shuts his eyes, hears the words, and just feels what the trip is really about. It doesn't hurt that "Goin' by Feel" has the key to any good road song: a beat that keeps your foot firmly and steadily on the gas.
For her second album, Corinne West is joined by a stellar team of players, including dobro master Jerry Douglas. "Hell Yes" is about something we all do (or think we should do) at some point in our lives: Move on, move away, take chances, and try to figure out what it's all about. West has always had a serious case of wanderlust: She's been traveling around the country making music since she was 15. "Hell Yes" offers a perfect mix of humor (she sings about broken-down buses and random marriage proposals) and serious life questions ("I haven't yet settled myself / How does one settle oneself?"). The upbeat tempo and cheerful lyrics offset the soul-searching, ultimately making it feel like it'll be okay, eventually.
In many ways, cars represent the ability to get the hell away. Think about it: How amazing is it to be able to grab your keys and escape? Jimmy LaFave understands that feeling. "Car Outside" is a slow tune: It doesn't have speed, but it does maintain a steady pulse -- and, at the same time, it illustrates the elusive call of the road. LaFave knows that good things await him inside the house or the town or the job. He knows there are reasons to stay, but he also knows that "there's a car outside / and there's a road / There's a time to stay / and a time to rock 'n' roll." He admits to not understanding the reasons behind wanderlust -- and that it's okay not to understand. Sometimes you've just got to go with the feeling and hit the road, and in this opening song from his most recent album, LaFave gives a good reason to head out onto that road and rock 'n' roll.
Few songs are more vital to any road-trip playlist than this Dylan masterpiece. The newly minted Pulitzer Prize winner recites a story about a man who makes bad -- or maybe just interesting -- choices because of a woman (women?), and must ensure the consequences. He could just as easily be telling his story over a cup of coffee in a crusty diner right off I-95. When he meets up with a woman after a long journey and sings, "I must admit I felt a little uneasy / when she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe," you know (or think you know) exactly how he feels.