Aside from coal mining songs from songwriters who’ve never set foot in a mine, and moonshining songs from people who have only consumed the final product and know nothing about the actual production of the stuff, let alone outrunning or shooting at “revenuers,” we bluegrass songwriters draw on what we know for song material: lost love, missing home, being poor, or doing jail time.
There’s also a tendency, if we’re not careful, to get a little too inside our own bubble. This is perhaps what has led to the recent rise in the number of bluegrass songs about bluegrass (don’t get me started on that subject). Then there are the musician road songs. I’m as guilty as anyone there, having recently released one called Bend in the Road.
It’s only natural, though: bands are named from road signs, or band names are at least inspired by them: Newfound Road, Springfield Exit, Grass Food and Lodging, North Carolina Welcome Center, etc. (yes, I made that last one up). Tunes are named that way, too, and this was even done by Bill Monroe, as Road to Columbus will attest. This is what comes of naming your band or tune while driving down the road.
When it comes to song content, though, I’m wondering if we songwriters need to expand our view of the road song, and not limit it strictly to “white lines,” the “rhythm of the wheels,” being “on my way back to you,” or being “late to soundcheck again” (from the song Another Flat Tire by Round Bales of Grass).
Here are some potential road song ideas along with working titles. Feel free to use and alter as you wish, but do remember my 20% cut rule:
Cruisin’ in the HOV Lane
That Weird Front End Grinding Noise Sounds Expensive
Crappy Atlanta Drivers
My Bandmates Could Smell Better
Passing on the Right
Truckstop Junk Food Indecision Blues
Or the follow-up to the above:
Expired Pork Rinds
Stop Writing On the Wall (Men’s Room Graffiti Has Me Seriously Worried About Our Society)
Are There No Decent Drivers in This Band?
California State Line (Quick! Ditch the Fruit!)
Too Tall For The Drive-thru
Are 15 Cups of Coffee Too Many?
Dogfight at the Rest Area (possibly just a fiddle tune)
Human Fight at the Rest Area
We Forgot That Toll Thing Again
I-24 Gun Billboard Boogie
Day-old Dunkin’ and a Three-day Beard
Play Me Another Lonesome Waffle House Jukebox Song
You Make Me Feel Scattered, Smothered, and Covered
Right Lane Ends, Merge Left (Or Just Keep Driving As Long As You Can in the Right Lane Because It’s Moving Faster And You Should Never Have Been Given a Driver’s License)
I’m In Love With My GPS (Even Though She Yells At Me Every Time I Stop For Gas)