Summer Road Trip Songs Critic Tom Moon assembles a playlist for summertime driving that makes the miles whiz by, with some intense songs for staying alert during the day and chill-out tunes to renew the spirit in the evening, when you still have hours more to go.

Summer Road Trip: Songs For Speed And Spirit

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Finally this hour, music to enhance a summer road trip. Heat and traffic and constant queries of are we there yet can make traveling tedious.

Our critic Tom Moon suggests this soundtrack to make the trip go faster.

TOM MOON: As soon as the first road trip of the summer is on the calendar, I began searching for music that can help make the ride from point A to point B a pleasurable experience.

I'm a creature of habit, so typically, I gravitate toward the old faithful, tried-and-true driving companions, like the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers.

(Soundbite of song, "Southbound")

Mr. GREGG ALLMAN (Vocalist, The Allman Brothers Band): (Singing) Well, I'm southbound. Lord, I'm coming home to you.

MOON: For me, this is the essence of driving music. It just pulls you along with sheer locomotive force. You can chew up lots of miles with this blasting. But according to my family, I've relied on the Allmans a few too many times. So before hitting the road this year, I sought out only new stuff.

(Soundbite of music)

HILL COUNTRY REVUE (Rock Band): (Singing) I don't know. I've been around. (Unintelligible) shake them down.

MOON: That's from the self-titled debut of Hill Country Revue, a spinoff from the North Mississippi All-stars. These guys come from the blues, but they specialize in a sweaty, supercharged update that owes as much to the Allmans as Muddy Waters. The whole album has this kind of energy.

(Soundbite of music)

HILL COUNTRY REVUE: (Singing): I'm going down to (unintelligible), sweet like mine. Sweet like mine. Sweet like mine. Oh, sweet like mine. Yeah.

MOON: In addition to intense rhythm, sometimes, what I need in the car is music that on some level engages my brain. The latest from Green Day, "21st Century Breakdown" does that. It's a full-blown rock opera about what it means to hold onto ideals when prospects are bleak. The Green Day mix — punk attitude, classic-rock hooks and comic book philosophy — is downright galvanizing.

(Soundbite of song, "East Jesus Nowhere")

Mr. BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG (Lead Vocals, Green Day): (Singing) Put your faith in a miracle. And it's non-denominational. Join the choir, we'll be singing in, in the church of wishful thinking. A fire burns today of blasphemy and genocide. The sirens of decay will infiltrate the faith fanatics.

MOON: Of course, you also need variety on the road, some intense music to keep you alert during the day and music that can chill you out and renew your spirit in the evening when you still have hours more to go.

The violinist and singer Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek has a wonderfully desolate late-night tune on her first solo album. It's called "Bygones."

(Soundbite of song, "Bygones")

Ms. SARA WATKINS (Musician): (Singing) As faint as a phantom. But I can pull you under. Bound to you in bygones. You took it to the limit and glimpsed all that you'd been missing. Found yourself a secret.

MOON: Some music makes a road trip better, and sometimes, the trip itself enhances the music. That's the case with Wilco's new album.

The band's seventh studio effort has lighthearted melodies and Morse code guitar blasts that seem to blossom when you're moving.

(Soundbite of song, "You Never Know")

Mr. JEFF TWEEDY (Vocalist, Wilco): (Singing) Come out children, you're acting like children. Every generation thinks it's the end of the world.

MOON: That tune has lots going for it, including a grabby refrain that's tailor-made for singing along.

(Soundbite of song, "You Never Know")

Mr. TWEEDY: (Singing) Yes, dream down a well. There's a lone heavy hell. I don't care anymore. I don't care anymore.

MOON: To me, that right there sounds like summer on the open road.

(Soundbite of song, "You Never Know")

Mr. TWEEDY: (Singing) We're here at the end.

SIEGEL: Our critic Tom Moon is the author of "1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die." And you can find all his suggestions for road trip music at

(Soundbite of song, "You Never Know")

Mr. TWEEDY: (Singing) Come on kids, you're acting like children.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.