Music for a Spring Road Trip

wild flowers and wall donegal ireland

Spring flowers, spring showers — and spring roadtrips. Whether your spring travels find you crossing wide open lands, climbing mountain roads, exploring a new or returning to a well loved city, heading for the shore or just down the street, you will need music to go along. Here are ideas for your road trip soundtrack this spring, a basketful of albums which hold in common good stories well told in word and melody, and in a range of differing ways. Take a listen…

Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem

Violets Are Blue from Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem explores many facets of love, from the complicated to the direct, from love of place to love of child to love of spouse and what changes these may ask you to walk through. Drawing on a range of musical backgrounds and influences from Cajun to swing to folk to Celtic to West African, the four New England based musicians who make up the band have, over the fifteen years they have been working together, creating a distinctive sound in which the trust and joy of their friendship shine as clearly as do their musical gifts. Rani Arbo plays fiddle, Anand Nayak’s main instrument is guitar, Andrew Kinsey specializes in bass, and Scott Kessel plays percussion; all four sing. All the tracks are keepers, but listen out especially for Walk Around the Wheel, Piece of Land, Heart of the World, and Sweet and the Bitter.

Hot Tamale Band

Stories well told and musical partnership well forged form the substance of Sunnyland, the most recent recording from Hot Tamale. Hot Tamale is Adrian Fogelin, who sings lead and plays second guitar, and Craig Reeder, who plays lead guitar and sings harmony. Together they have created a group of songs in which threads of reflection pull through. These are not stories of nostalgia, necessarily, but rather more of looking back, of sorting and savouring what’s been learned. The Florida based duo has a folk/ Americana style that finds them handling upbeat and laid back songs with equal confidence. Sunnyland, Song for Larry, and No Never Mind may especially catch your ear.

The Foghorn Stringband’s album Devil in the Seat offers high powered bluegrass to go along with your travels. While hewing true to bluegrass roots, the four band members bring along flavours of their own backgrounds too, from honky tonk to Acadian, to deep south USA. It’s a generally fast paced collection from four accomplished musicians: Caleb Klauder handles mandolin, Reeb Willms plays guitar, Nadine Landry is the bassist, and Sammy LInd plays fiddle and banjo; all four sing, and trade licks and leads and harmonies back and forth with the skill and connection that more than a decade on the road can bring. Standout tracks from the Portland, Oregon, based group include Paddy on the Turnpike, John Hardy, and Chadwell’s Station.

Perhaps, after that, you might be looking to slow things down a bit, and Corinne West has just the music for you with her recording Starlight Highway. West, a fourth generation Californian who lives in the redwood forests north of San Francisco, calls on musical friends including Kelly Joe Phelps, John R. Burr, and Mike Marshall to sit in with her as she takes a reflective and poetic journeys in song; it is her quiet yet commanding voice that inhabits and coveys and centers her ideas, however. Take a listen for Cry of the Echo Drifter, Give Our Ships Away, and. Starlight Highway.

natalie macmaster donnell leahy
Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy both grew up surrounded by and immersed in music, he in Ontario, she in Cape Breton. They each grew into world class careers as fiddle players, as well. When they married a dozen years ago, they talked about doing an album together, but high powered career commitments — and the arrival of six kids — slowed things down a bit. Now they’ve got to it, though, and the result, the album called One is proof that time only improves things. There is music from Cape Breton and from Scotland as well as original pieces, a touch of Irish, and a traditional lullabye. From jig to reel, fast pace to waltz time, it’s all great stuff and a fine companion for any sort of journey you may be making yourself this spring. You might want to listen out especially for Wedding Day Jig, Tribute to Buddy, and The Joyous Waltz.

Spring roadside photograph by Kerry Dexter.
Artist photographs courtesy of the artists.

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