It’s not easy picking a great road trip album. The ideal album keeps a steady, toe-tapping beat while still managing to ebb and flow enough to keep you engaged and sing along at the top of your lungs. It’s almost like the music is driving you as much as you’re driving the car.
The album should reflect your road trip, after all. A sense of wonder, freedom, desire, carefree wistfulness. Picking the tunes is a tricky situation! And we’re not cutting corners here with any of those mixtapes. We’re talking one artist all the way through.
It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. So, without further ado, here are five essential albums for your summer road trip.
And yes, there must be at least one Tommy Boy moment on each record (but please keep your eyes on the road).
READ MORE: The Ultimate Texas Music Road Trip
Randy Rogers Band — Burning The Day
Randy Rogers Band struck road trip gold with their 2010 release Burning The Day. The record has the perfect mix of hooks and rhythm to keep you moving along at just the right pace, but also hits a few big “sing along at the top of your heartbroken lungs like they do in Tommy Boy moments.” Standout driving tracks include “Interstate,” “Starting Over For The Last Time” and “Last Last Chance.”
Tim McGraw — Greatest Hits (2000)
Tim McGraw’s first greatest hits album will provide you with all the sing-along 90s moments your heart desires. You’ll chuckle at the ridiculousness of some of his first singles like “Indian Outlaw” and “Down On The Farm,” and your heart will melt at the tenderness of his tunes like “Just To See You Smile” and “It’s Your Love.”
This album is chock full of Tommy Boy moments too. “Please Remember Me” is your best chance for you and your friends to belt it and probably scare drivers on the road next to you.
Johnny Cash — At Folsom Prison
The record that cemented Johnny Cash as a bona fide American legend, At Folsom Prison will get your motor going. Driving train beat and attitude abound, and there’s nothing quite like Cash’s classic baritone barreling through his set list to a group of grateful convicts. Cash’s catalog fluctuates between deflated hubris, humor and heartbreak, and the historical significance of At Folsom Prison makes it a must for any country fan’s summer road trip.
Lucinda Williams — Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
Lucinda Williams broke out in a big way with her 1998 album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, and the Grammy-winning record is as appropriate for driving as its title suggests. Williams’ relentless swagger keeps you nodding along right in time almost the whole way through. The whole record has a certain attitude that just screams “Get out and make your own path.”
Songs like “Right In Time,” “Can’t Let Go” and “Still Long For Your Kiss” are best played at full volume with windows rolled completely down. Preferably somewhere in the middle of a big patch of sky and countryside, if that’s where your travels are taking you.
Garth Brooks — Double Live
Hands down the greatest entertainer country music has ever seen, Garth Brooks has sold more than 21 million copies of his record-shattering live album Double Live. And for good reason. His energy on the compilation is absolutely electric. You understand why the album, which was recorded during Brooks’ 1996-98 world tour, is seen by many as the definitive collection of Garth Brooks tunes, even if he had several more albums on the way.
This two-disc set (no, it’s not cheating to include a 2-disc album) clocks in at just over 100 minutes of raucous entertainment. You can feel the crowd’s excitement and imagine yourself in their shoes the whole way down the road. Nothing quite passes the time like imagining you’re at a Garth Brooks concert with tens of thousands of other rabid fans while he rips through “Fever.”