Top Five Carolina Rock/Road Songs
This list is for those looking to cruise down I-85 with the top down, arm hanging out of the window, singing along to music blasting from the radio. We’ve all done it without a care in the world as to who’s watching. Or maybe just finding that one song that fits that moment when you find yourself on a highway far away from home. Rock music and road trips have been perfect partners for years, and we couldn’t resist a compilation of the best of that pairing.
For this list the same rules apply as in the previous list: The song has to contain some form of reference to Carolina, be it specific or vague. Additionally, it cannot contain the same artist or band twice for the sake of variety, as well as a challenge to myself. Needless to say this has made creating these lists a bit of a challenge. Well, challenge accepted; the top five Carolina rock/road songs.
5. North Carolina Line – Gene Vincent: I’m going purely on reference here. While better known for “Be Bop-A-Lula,” “North Carolina Line” is more of a raw, somewhat hidden gem. Sounding like a distant cousin to Buddy Holly’s “Rave On,” the only Carolina reference is in the title. It’s a great rock song, and if you’re heading towards the Carolina line, blast it.
4. Carolina Blues – Blues Traveler: I know “Carolina” in this instance is in reference to a woman; however, I did mention “vague” and this certainly falls under that umbrella. Keeping the protagonist up all night and throwin’ down the rest of the time, “Carolina” sounds like a handful. This song falls more under the heavy blues category, certainly sounding nothing like the poppy, Grateful Dead ripoff known as “Runaround” (a song who’s guitar passages were blatantly lifted from “Uncle John’s Band”). You’ll bang your head, stomp with your free foot, and pump your fist more than you’ll dance on your toes. No need to fear, the girl driving alongside of you won’t stare too much.
3. Let It Ride – Ryan Adams: I’ll make no bones about it: Ryan Adams is a genius. Chances are he’ll wind up on nearly every list I make, as long as it’s in a positive manner. “Let It Ride” is a slower song with a fast beat–think Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.” It’s those qualities that make it an overnight road companion. Adams is quick with the Carolina references in many of his songs and this one slips in under the wire with the line, “Tennessee’s a brother to my sister Carolina where they’re gonna bury me.”
2. Cadillac Ranch – Bruce Springsteen: One of the more driving tracks from “The River,” this is one which inspires throwing the cowboy hat on and turning up the volume. It has the country sounding guitar solo, the rock sounding sax solo, and lyrics involving cars, and a reference to a racing legend:
“James Dean in that Mercury ’49, Junior Johnson runnin’ through the woods of Caroline“.
You got it, boss. You also have the number two slot on this list.
1. The Promised Land – Chuck Berry: The granddaddy of all Carolina rock songs by one of rock music’s best. This is the ultimate traveler’s song, a rock n’ roll cross country trip from Norfolk, Virginia to California. It’s signature Chuck Berry, that “Johnny B. Goode” sound that has found itself in rock songs too numerous to mention, yet you never tire of hearing it. Aside from it being an all time great driving song, it contains specific Carolina references as well as references to our good neighbors to the north and south.
I left my home in Norfolk Virginia
California on my mind
I straddled that Greyhound
And rode into Raleigh
And on across Caroline
Stopped in Charlotte and bypassed Rock Hill,
And we never was a minute late.
We was ninety miles out of Atlanta by sundown,
Rollin’ ‘cross the Georgia state.
It’s one of the ultimate rock songs by one of the ultimate rock and rollers, a signature driving song if there ever was one.