Here are our top tunes, from Alabama to West Virginia.
Sure, there are plenty of classic country songs about sorbet sunsets, lakeside getaways, and pickup trucks. Love, heartbreak, friendship, birth, death, you name it, and there’s a country song. But there are also many meaningful odes to hometown pride that show the impact of so many Southern cities on a songwriter's soul. While every Southern country music fan likely has a personal favorite, here are our favorite songs about the South. They each tug on a different emotional string, but they all remind us of the importance of never forgetting where we came from.
Alabama: "Alabama Pines" by Jason Isbell
A fictional tune written by Isbell, "Alabama Pines" is a touching tribute to the Yellowhammer State. “I never realized this until hearing this song, but when you think of home, images of foliage of some sort tend to arise,” says Brandon Harrington, host / producer of Surviving the Music Industry, a Nashville-based podcast. “Alabama Pines are so distinctive that now every time I see a pine tree I think about this song, and Alabama too.” And Isbell certainly gives a hat tip to fellow natives as he weaves his way through the beautiful state: “You can't drive through Talladega on a weekend in October / Head up north to Jacksonville / Cut around and over / Watch your speed in Boiling Springs,” he croons.
Arkansas: "State of Arkansas" by Pete Seeger
"My name is Terry Roberts / From Little Rock I come," kicks off Pete Seeger in the quiet yet powerful hymn with unknown origins (though some believe its roots stretch to the pre-Civil War era). "Most of the popular versions were made in the late '50s and early '60s because of the surging popularity of folk and bluegrass music. Even Bob Dylan would perform a version of this song live," comments Harrington. "One popular version by The Weavers is the story of Charlie Brennan coming to Arkansas for work, and quickly becoming disappointed. The last straw for Charlie was after a job he was paid in mink skin. He was assured it was the state currency. To his disbelief, it was proven true after receiving change from a beer that was 14 rabbit skins and three possum hides!"
Delaware: "Delaware Slide" by George Thorogood and the Destroyers
The catchy chrous may be enough to hook you, but Thorogood's signature drawl as he sings about Interstate 95 is what really turns this song into a classic. "Driving the song with his guitar, Thorogood is a Delaware native who grew up in Wilmington. If you're thinking about country music and the state of Delaware, George Thorogood is one of the first names that should come to mind," shares Bobby Kittleberger, founder of Guitar Chalk. "Well I grew up with rock and roll but these blues wouldn't leave me alone / I didn't know what they meant 'til I ran far from home," the rocker sings, hinting that Delaware represents a happy escape for him, free from his newly-found blues.
Florida: "Floridays" by Jimmy Buffet
Off of Jimmy Buffet's eponymous 1986 album, we love the way this mid-tempo tune is like picking up a chapter from someone's diary. "I come from where the rivers meet the sea / That's part of why I'm so wild and fancy free," Buffet begins. "Better days, I sure could use a few better days / Floridays," he sings at the end, reminding us to hold close the simple joys of blue sky, sunshine, and slowing down to take all these blessings in.
Georgia: "Georgia Rain" by Trisha Yearwood
Could Trisha Yearwood's voice be any more beautiful than this? Recounting memories from yesteryear, this romantic ballad carves a place in the heart of anyone who has experienced their own small town love story: "The Georgia Rain on the Jasper County clay / Couldn't wash away what I felt for you that day / Just you and me down an old dirt road / Nothin' in our way / Except for the Georgia Rain," she sings.
Kentucky: “Kentucky Moon” by Jake Ousley
Jake Ousley's stripped-down, acoustic ballad overflows with Bluegrass State adoration, especially thanks to his subdued vocal delivery. “This is a beautiful song and you can feel his love for the state in his voice. The song plants visuals in your mind of a country night that, if you've never experienced one like it before, this might just be the next best thing,” says Nashville-based producer Mella Barnes of Brain Stamp Music. We can almost smell the fresh grass and summer dew as we wander through Kentucky's hills.
Louisiana: "Heart of the Night" by Poco
Helmed by Paul Cotton, country rockers pay homage to Louisiana in this mid-tempo ballad that kicks off with Cotton's smooth warble, "In the heart of the night / In the cool Southern rain / There's a full moon in sight / Shining down on the Pontchartrain." As Anna Wilson, ASACP award-winning songwriter and member of Troubadour 77 puts it,"This song is such a heartfelt tribute to the city of New Orleans, the eros of the great state of Louisiana. Its reference to the Dixie moon over the Pontchartrain, the Southern rain and the ebb and flow of the river rising shines a light on the natural beauty that exists alongside the many cultural and celebratory things the city is known for." The way Cotton touches on the many things that make Louisiana so special as if "she," the state herself, were a lover gets us every time.
Maryland: "Pretty Girl from Annapolis" by The Avett Brothers
The soothing melody here mimics Maryland’s calming terrain: Rolling hills, sparkling lakes, sprawling farms, and laid-back bliss. “A wonderful folky / country song about Maryland and its state capital, the lyrics also throw in a shout out to Baltimore,” says Jake Posko, owner of Severn River Music, a music school in Maryland. “We don't get a lot of songs about Maryland ― and this one hits home in all the right ways.”
Mississippi: "Mississippi in July" by Charlie Worsham
Inspired by a real-life story when Worsham saw a local newspaper announcement for an old fling getting married in Mississippi in, yes, July, the twangy guitar riff here underscores the song's raw emotion. "Charlie paints a portrait of memories of cotton fields, railroad tracks, young love that got away, and Magnolia trees that transport you to a country painting in a song." We also love the way it captures the magic of a carefree summer night: "Mississippi in July, magnolia moonlight / The warm wind was just right for staying up all night / And letting love fly; Mississippi in July."
Missouri: "Missouri" by David Nail
"What more could you want from a contemporary country song? Here, David Nail gives us a sweet, slow, and sad summertime love ballad. When I think of country music nowadays this is what comes to mind," offers Posko. Hailing from Kennett, Missouri, Nail reveals his insight into heartbreak, finding closure, and moving on.
North Carolina: "The Boys from North Carolina" by John Hartford
It's hard to spin this tune off of John Hartford's album "Goin' Back to Dixie" and not get a little nostalgic for our favorite bluegrass songs. Journey with Hartford as he takes you through Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and beyond, before landing on "Well I stood in line around the block right back here at the Ryman / To hear that lick, that old mule kick from the boy from North Carolina."
Oklahoma: "Tulsa Time" by Don Williams
This 1978 Number One Billboard hit written by Danny Flowers and made famous by Don Williams has a catchy melody you'll be humming for hours. Equal parts swampy and slick, its inspired countless covers (we're partial to this one with Eric Clapton and Sheryl Crow) and given us a motto to live by: When the going gets tough, raise a glass and get back to "livin' on Tulsa time."
South Carolina: “South Carolina Low Country” by Josh Turner
“A song specifically about the state, by the time it's over you realize you've been looking up travel dates to make a trip there,” comments Barnes. “His voice is such a deep baritone that the ‘low country’ really hits home.” Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’ve got some “Southern words with an old Sandlapper tune / Palmetto trees swaying in that Atlantic breeze” to pay a visit.
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Tennessee: "My Tennessee Mountain Home" by Dolly Parton
One of our favorite classic Dolly songs, this 1973 single and album title track is a heartfelt sonnet to the singer's rural Tennessee upbringing. Does life get better than sitting on your porch in the summer and chasing fireflies as a kid? How about "walkin' home from church on a Sunday with the one ya' love?" We think not. "In my Tennessee mountain home / Life is as peaceful as a baby's sigh," Dolly bellows. We agree!
Texas: "Long Tall Texan" by Lyle Lovett
"Perfect for some cultural nods with a humorous twist," says Kittleberger. 'Though this is one of Lovett's lesser-known recordings, 'Long Tall Texan' [originally written by bassist Henry Strzelecki and released by The Four Flickers] highlights the culture of his home state by invoking imagery of ten-gallon hats, guns, spurs, and shiny badges." Everything really is bigger and better in Texas.
Virginia: "Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde" by Travis Tritt
It may be a long way to Richmond, as Travis Tritt wails in his 2002 single, but half the fun is getting there. "Tearin' down that highway / Like a modern day Bonnie and Clyde," Tritt recounts a memorable journey with a redheaded lover he first met in Johnson City, Tennessee.
West Virginia: "Take Me Home, Country Roads" by John Denver
Written by John Denver along with Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert, this timeless song got its inspiration from a poem written in a letter to the trio by their friend, John Albert Fitzgerald, who lived in West Virginia when he penned the note. "A wonderful tribute to the state of West Virginia, you can almost picture driving through the beautiful and picturesque mountains of the state," says Michael Stover, owner / president of music company, MTS Management Group/MTS Records. "'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' says it all, right in the very first line of the song," he adds. Not only evocative for those who have spent time in the majestic state, the anthem captures the joy of fresh country air, the magic of nature, and the beauty of living simply. The track has enjoyed several famous covers, including those by Olivia Newton-John and Toots and the Maytals.