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Any road dogs, big truckers, or folks with long commutes know this feeling well…You shift in your seat as your eyes start to glaze over. You pound coffee, roll the windows down for cold air, or scream song lyrics at the top of your lungs, hoping some magic force will keep you awake. I realize we shouldn’t drive when we are tired, but here are some songs that will help you stay awake when you need to steel your resolve for those last 30 miles…

(These songs also double as workout songs and/or things to play in your car after you visit your mother-in-law.)

(1) “Exploder” by Audioslave

When drummer Brad Wilk hits the quick round-house drum fill into this chorus, a force beyond your control will kick the gas pedal into overdrive. As beat one comes down, the left/right guitars set fire and add color to an otherwise lifeless gray sky…

If you’re free, you’ll never see the walls
If your head is clear, you’ll never free fall
If you’re right, you’ll never feel the wrong
If your head is high, you’ll never fear at all

Cornell couldn’t have put the mantra more clearly in four lines: Become exactly who you are. Let doubt and fear go. Trust your gut. Dear music, thank you for saving my life again. Add another five miles to that speed limit. I’m sure the cops are on your side today, honey…

(2) “The Other Side” by The Roots

If your booty doesn’t start shaking when Questlove kicks this beat off, then pull over ’cause your heart has already stopped and you are a danger to yourself and others.

World travelers that seen it all and did it up
Only to return to learn the world wasn’t big enough

Undun I am becoming, and when he’s tired of running
Through the layers of the onion
He’ll probably shed a tear ’cause there’ll be no more fast times
Just his weak mind scrolled out like a bad sign
He never had enough and got confused when they asked why
Life is only a moment in time, and it passed by…

Enjoy where you are ’cause it’s never enough. I spent the first three decades of my life waiting for the “big break” instead of realizing how lucky I am to be making music and living a gypsy’s life.

We’re all on a journey
Down the hall of memories
Don’t worry ’bout what you ain’t got
Lead with a little bit of dignity

A quick note on self-reliance. I am stone-cold Democrat. My friend Frosty says I’m a hippie in wolf’s clothing, as I wear leather jackets but I’m vegan and I drive an “eco-bus” but run a gas-powered generator all night to watch West Wing in my bunk. I want to help everyone I can but also know that we cannot blame anyone for our lot in life. Someone always has it much worse, and no one is gonna do the heavy lifting for us. There is real power in taking everything in our own hands and not blindly listening to others. My feeling is that much of the lyrics from the Roots’ Undun album stresses this type of self-reliance. Figuring out if the means are worth the end/not wasting precious time/not blaming everybody else for our own BS. Easier to preach than practice, I realize, but nothing is better than a long drive to dive into your own head and find out if you are being honest with yourself.

After this song on the album, “Undun,” comes “Stomp,” which may contain the heaviest and darkest verse ever written. This whole record is insane musically and lyrically. I always think of how heavy this kind of poetry is when older folks (and oftentimes incredibly talented folkies) tell me they enjoy every kind of music but hip-hop. Dylan wasn’t the last guy to hold a candle lyrically to mos def, roots, q-tip, etc., but he had it right in his book, Chronicles, that it would most likely be an urban artist that would speak his kind of truth to power and crack the sky in half again lyrically.

(3) “Touch” by Battleme

Matt Drenik is the force behind Battleme. He has several songs in one of my favorite shows of all time, Sons Of Anarchy. I met Matt at SXSW a couple of months back, as we share a mutual friend in my old hometown of Wichita, Kansas. Matt is awesome, and this song is everything that is great about simple, pulsating rock ’n’ roll.

I want to get some new blood flowing down into my lazy feet…

Ride on, Drenik. Onto the next mile marker. One by one till it’s done…

Thanks to Weeklings for a great column and to you for reading. I’m at FB/Twitter/Instagram/web at goodingmusic if you have any feedback.


Originally published in The Weeklings, June 15, 2013.

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