Music for a Spring Road Trip

Kerry Dexter's picture

This a time of year when the idea of setting out on the road starts to appeal. Whether your road leads across the country, around the world, down the block, or over to your armchair, take a listen to these traveling companions.

Rock, blues, folk, Americana -- Hot Tuna has always been hard to categorize, and really, there’s no need to stick them into one category of music. Jorma Kaukonen, and Jack Casady first built the band back in the sixties, and they are both still going strong. Although they’ve continued to play gigs, it has been a good while -- twenty years -- since they’ve found time to go back into the studio together. Steady as She Goes finds the two of them, along with more recent band members Barry Mitterhoff and Skoota Warner and a few special guests, creating a mix that’s lively, funky, and likely to get you clapping your hands and singing along. even though the songs are mostly original ones that you may not have heard before. Children in Zion is a bluesy gospel song, Angel of Darkness is a full on roots rocker, and Smokerise Journey is a bit of a reflection on paths traveled. A dozen cuts in all, and, in the package, a temporary Hot Tuna tattoo for you to wear too...

If your rhythm moves more to the beat of Scotland, take a listen to the gorgeous new album Highlander’s Farewell from Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas. Fraser plays the fiddle and Haas plays the cello. The bright sounds of the small fiddle and the darker voice of the big fiddle converse on a journey through a range of jigs, reels, breakdowns, and strathspeys. The title track comes as part of a set which they describe as one tune on an epic journey, from a strathspey in Scotland to a reel in Ireland, a jig in the Gaeltacht, and crossing over to Appalachia as a a breakdown. Two contemporary Cape Breton tunes make a fine pair in another set. There’s a Gordon Duncan tune put over from piping, and several Fraser originals including Whitewater, which is dedicated to the beauty and strength of the Yuba River in California. That’s just a brief taste of the hour of music Fraser and Haas offer, aided by special guests including Brittany Haas, Hanneke Cassel, Martin Hayes, and others. Though each set stands well on its own, once you start listening, you’ll want let the program unfold as they’ve designed it.

Bluegrass is always a fine companion for a road trip. On I’ll Take Love: from the pen of Louisa Branscomb, a handpicked few top bluegrass musicians come along to sing Branscomb’s songs on a project she produced herself along with fellow musician Missy Raines. The title track finds Dale Ann Bradley taking lead with harmonies from Steve Gulley and Alison Krauss. John Cowan and Dave Peterson team up for a rousing version of State Line, while Becky Schlegel gives just the right emotional space for bluegrass blues on Extra Blue. Claire Lynch turns her always insightful interpretation to Your Amazing Grace and backs up Bradley and Gulley on Surrender. The backing band of instrumentalists is made up of top notch folks as well. if you know bluegrass, and even if you don’t, you may recognize the names of Alison Brown, Stuart Duncan, and Jim Hurst. Branscomb herself sits in too. Songs of laughter, song of heartbreak, songs of insight, well written, well told, well played.

For a different turn of sound, take a listen to Love: songs of the Native American Church, from Kevin Yazzie. Yazzie ‘s tools are primarily percussion and voice, as he explores aspects of love in songs sung in Navajo. Titles include Holy Moments, Our Hope for the Future, Joyful Thing, and My Children. Though the language and music might be unfamiliar to you, the sound and emotion will draw you in.

If the idea of Kevin Yazzie’s music intrigues you, you may want to do some reading about southwestern art, as well. Vera Marie Badertscher, who also is an editor here at Wandering Educators, has a new book out called Quincy Tahoma: the life and legacy of a Navajo artist. Along with co-author Charnell Havens, Badertscher spent more than a decade researching the life and work of this early twentieth century southwestern artist whose paintings include fresh perspectives on traditional Navajo life, and creative views of nature in the southwestern United States. There’s more about the book, and the authors’ journey in writing it at

Kerry Dexter is the Music Editor for Wandering Educators.

Kerry's credits include CMT, National Geographic Traveler, Strings, and The Encyclopedia of Ireland and the Americas. She also writes about the arts and creative practice at Music Road. You may reach her at music at wanderingeducators dot com

Comments (1)

  • pen4hire

    11 years 9 months ago



    How nice to see Quincy Tahoma's biography mentioned here. He'd be very at home in a post on music since he was a lover of music. We even found a picture of him with a radio pressed to his ear! So thanks for the mention, and thanks for including a Navajo musician in your round up for a spring road trip. 


    Vera Marie Badertscher

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