Roadtrip Soundtrack: Americana in Autumn

autumn leaves in forest by kenny louie

Autumn is a time for road trips: to football games, to family gatherings, to visit friends, to see the leaves turn, to go to a festival, and as many other reasons as you devise. Road trips need soundtracks. Musicians make a good part of their livings on the road, through travel. Check out the music of these five traveling musicians to choose a soundtrack for your next road trip.

David Olney started life out in Rhode Island, moved to the deep south, and settled in Nashville. Across the years he’s found success as a performer — a hard to classify one, a bit too edgy for folk, a bit too dark for mainstream country, a bit to rock n roll for blues — and as a songwriter, with Emmylou Harris, for example recording a memorable take of his song Jerusalem Tomorrow. Olney’s recent release When The Deal Goes Down goes from biting to gentle, from blues tinged rock to quiet ballad, and it all works as a set of markers on the journey. Listen out for the wry modern day gospel story in Servant, Job, enter in to the raucous honky tonk rock of the title track, and stay tuned for the unexpected bit of gentle introspection in Little Bird.

Dulcie Taylor knows about introspection, and she knows about travel, too. The South Carolina native grew up in a house filled with music, made a name for herself in the lively music scene surrounding Washington DC, and now lives on the central California coast. On Only Worn One Time her thoughtful tales of changes, questions, and love lost and found are set in creative arrangements. Possessed of a clear, distinctive soprano, Taylor is unafraid to step aside and let her co-writers and guitar players, George Nauful and Tony Recupido, take the lead voice on selected songs. Look out for On a Rainy Day, Only Worn One Time, America in a Day, and New Stone. Taylor’s earlier albums have won recognition across folk, roots rock, and Americana styles. She brings all that together with deft grace on Only Worn One Time.

Kyle Carey‘s travels have taken her across the United States, to Scotland, to Ireland, and to Cape Breton in Canada, where she she immersed herself in Celtic music and in the Scottish Gaelic language. The result of all this is a music Carey calls Gaelic Americana. On her recording North Star she offers graceful and thoughtful storytelling on her original songs, tales which range from a spooky story of emigration in Wind Through Casper to a song of love gained and lost through changes of season and heart on Northern Lights. Her distinctive voices is well framed and supported by musical friends from both sides of the ocean including James Macintosh on percussion, Natalie Haas on cello, and Chris Stout and Katie McNally on fiddle. Producer Seamus Egan wisely sets Carey’s voice at the center of things, though, whether she is exploring her own tales or bringing in an Appalachian tinge to Sios Dhan Abhainn/ Down to the River sung in Scottish Gaelic, or giving a Celtic twist to Kate Wolf’s song Across the Great Divide. Note the harmony singers on each of these songs, too: English singer Josienne Clark adds high harmony to Divide, while Gillebride Mac IlleMhaoil, Gillebride MacMillan, sits in on Sios Dhan Abhainn — you will have heard him as the bard on Outlander.


Jesse Winchester was a writer and a man of humor and grace, shaped by his experiences growing up in the deep south of the United States and of moving north to Canada during the Viet Nam War. His own voice holds the elegance and warmth of a well worn denim shirt. Beyond his own recordings there have been four decades of pop, country, folk, and r & b musicians who have chosen to cover Winchester’s songs, artists including Reba McEntire, The Everly Brothers, Joan Baez, George Strait, Wilson Pickett, Tom Rush, and many others. A Reasonable Amount of Trouble carries on Winchester’s tradition of mixing up roots genres in songs offering thoughtful questions and bits of wry humor, as well as soul and story. His own She Makes It Easy Now holds tinges of 1960s soul and pop. Just So Much works as a modern day hymn of questions and faith, and A Little Louisiana is a rootsy nod to the way place leaves its own markers. With his nine originals, Winchester and producer/guitarist Mac MacAnally mixed in three favorites from the doo wop era, and they make them distinctively Winchester’s own: listen out especially for Rhythm of the Rain. Jesse Winchester passed on this spring, just as he was completing this recording. His legacy of song and creativity live on.

Carrie Newcomer knows about song and creativity, and about the way places speak to you and lead you to speak to and for them, as well. The Indiana based songwriter feels grounded in her native place, and knows it is a grounding which serves her as she travels the world with her music and sees differing journeys and places. That’s one of the ideas behind the songs she’s written for A Permeable Life. There is The Work of Our Hands, in which she takes an afternoon putting up jam into a thoughtful consideration of how we all connect through the work we do. Writing You a Letter began while Newcomer was on a trip to India, where she’d unexpectedly been invited to share her music and considers different sorts of connection. It was Newcomer’s choice to have the production be a bit spare, to have it come across “as though we are sitting at a table discussing these important things, not that I’m on a stage,” she says. One of the important things, an idea that pulls through the dozen songs, is that of ways we connect. A Light in the Window, an idea sparked by a drive back home through snowy hills after a tour, frames the idea of connection in a way — in a light — any traveler will recognize.

Photograph of autumn leaves by Kenny Louie

Kerry Dexter is one of six writers who contribute to Perceptive Travel’s blog. You’ll most often find her writing about travels in Europe and North America in stories that connect to music, history, and the arts, including such things as an evening in Belfast and Julie Fowlis singing of her home in Scotland’s Western Isles

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