Somehow we added about an extra two hours onto the drive. Not really sure how it happened. Google Maps tells me it's roughly nine hours from Baltimore to Charleston, SC. It took us about 11, even without much traffic. Any good road trip needs the right kind of playlist. You can't depend just on the radio for 11 hours or you'll end up with nothing but shitty CMT-style country, American Idol pop and classic rock hits (sure to hear: ELO—"Don't Bring Me Down"; Led Zeppelin—"Whole Lotta Love"; Tom Petty—"Into the Great Wide Open"; etc.) Below, in no particular order, some of my favorite road albums:
1) David Dondero—South of the South
Dondero is a singer songwriter out of San Francisco who writes roughly the same folky-emo story songs as Conor Oberst or Simon Joyner—alternately lazily strummed guitars or roll-licking country-rock, the songs driven by his sad angsty lyrics. South of the South is, if not his best album, his most accessible, and the best for a long haul down the interstate. Take the opening track, "South of the South," with Dondero's characteristic long rambling descriptive lines, gentle pedal steel and horns building throughout:
2) Modest Mouse—This is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About
Not my favorite Modest Mouse album, and definitely not their best, but early Modest Mouse is always better than later Modest Mouse (more shrooms = more rock). At 16 songs and 74+ minutes, the album drifts along, nothing but hazy drugged-out rants about suburban boredom and the loneliness of the road. Really, depending on how long the drive is you should have Lonesome Crowded West and The Moon and Antarctica with you, too.
3) Sun Kil Moon—Ghosts of the Great Highway
Ghosts of the Great Highway is easily the best thing Mark Kozelek will ever do. A perfect album that took everything from Kozelek's Red House Painters days and turned it into a beautifully haunting and complete view of what Mike Baker at Splendid called Kozelek's "blackened balladry." Everything here works: from the gentle folk of "Glenn Tipton" to the sprawling rock of "Duk Koo Kim." Kozelek's poetic lyrics carry through as always.
4) Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions—Bavarian Fruit Bread
The first of Hope Sandoval's solo albums after Mazzi Star broke up in the mid-90s. Bavarian Fruit Bread is nothing but slow echo-y folk all the way through, with Sandoval's warm smoky vocals the only thing that holds the album together. Perfect for all those flat states in the middle of our country that everyone's always driving through but never actually stopping in. Judging by past road trips, I'm also convinced this is the only album that will get you through Nebraska with some small part of your sanity intact.