I drove 10,000 miles around the county and saw lots of amazing things – but I could never have done it in silence! This post is a tribute to all the music and other sounds that emanated from my stereo and carried me through the unending plains, dark nights, and twisting turns along the way.
Top 10 – Soundtrack
1. Trampled by Turtles
On the advice of friends, I had been to a Trampled by Turtles show in Madison the spring before my trip. It had been “okay,” at least partly due to the fact that the venue it was held in was not my favorite. However, I accepted a couple second-hand CD’s of the band, and loaded them onto my i-pod for this trip… and soon found myself listening to Trampled almost daily! Now I’m hooked on the energy, lyrics, and musicianship of this young bluegrass band with all the excitement of their rock ‘n’ roll colleagues. I bought their newest CD, and I’m looking for a show near me… but the ones in Duluth (their home town) and Madison (new-grass friendly in the extreme) seem to sell out quickly. Turtles, come to Marquette soon!!!
As anyone who has traveled our great land knows, sometimes the only thing you can pick up is Public Radio – so it’s good that I like it! I liked being able to grow weary of music, advertisements, or asinine DJs and be able to say things like, “It’s 4 o’clock; I bet I can find All Things Considered somewhere,” or “Oooh, I hope I’ll be able to pick up Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me and This American Life on Saturday!” It didn’t hurt any that I had recently acquired an i-pod, and an i-trip, and had figured out that free downloads of most NPR shows are available online… so I could listen to some of my favorite shows even when I wasn’t in range.
3. Bob Dylan
I don’t actually remember specifically listening to Dylan on this trip, except that I’m sure that I couldn’t have lasted very long without his music. My favorite album is Freewheelin’, which I only have on cassette, though I was recently introduced to Blood on the Tracks and I know that I had that along with me, too. His newest, Together through Life is also pretty darn good. Now that I think about it, I am sure that I listened to a lot of Telltale Signs: The Bootleg Series, Vol.8, which I got for my dad for Christmas a couple years ago. I would recommend that album of ulreleased acoustic recordings to anyone, whether you think you like Dylan or not. I, for one, think that he’s among the best!
4. Lou Harrison
A friend introduced me to Lou Harrison’s musical style years ago, when I was living in California, and although it took me a while to get into that “weird music,” I came to appreciate it. Then, a few years back, my parents told me about this great new CD they had bought – and Harrison surfaced again. The music is very easy to listen to, as a result of the “just intonation” scales used, as well as the instrumentation and relaxed tempo. I wouldn’t call it “easy listening,” though. Some might consider it “new age” or “classical,” but I tend to steer clear of those genres, so I personally wouldn’t. All I know is that it came in very handy on my journey… though I’m a little ashamed to admit the reason.
So, I’ve already mentioned… several times… that I had an i-pod along with me. It was a tiny one, only 2 MB, and weighs almost nothing. So, contrary to my usual practice, I decided to bring some music along with me when I took my week-long backpacking trip to Isle Royale. Normally, back in the days of the Walkman, I would simply relish the sounds of nature… and besides that carrying a heavy electronic device and bulky recordings just doesn’t work. The i-pod has now revolutionized my solo camping experience: I used to lie awake at night, worrying about moose or wolves or bears or raccoons or goodness knows what until I’m cold and sore from lying on the ground and ultimately never get enough sleep for the walking I have to do the next day. Now, though, I can put on some music and fall asleep in 45 minutes to a night of sound slumber… as long as nothing rustles the leaves too close to me! Lou Harrison’s Serenado helped me do that on Isle Royale, and across the country. Thank you, Lou!
This is another album that I usually only listen to when I’m taking a nap, because it is so beautifully relaxing, but it rarely puts me all the way to sleep. It is a traditional-style band from Easter Island, which a friend in Chile introduced me to, and which I’ve listened to every since. They have this instrument that’s kind-of a cross between a ukelele and a mandolin which I find completely awesome!
6. Mix CD’s from friends
Well, of course I had some of these along! Not only do my friends have great taste in music, and I get to learn about bands or even musical genres that I never knew existed, but I get to think about the wonderful people I know at the same time. There was one in particular that I always put on when I was in an amazing new situation, such as a national park or a spectacular sunset, because it was just the right combination of subtle and exciting. I wish I could show you all a video I took, driving past cows and antelope into the sunset and over Lemhi Pass – it actually looks like this inspiring music is the soundtrack for my adventure!
7. Amazon Free Music
I don’t like to “pirate” music, not only because it’s illegal but also because I think it’s important to support the art that makes my life more pleasant and exciting. However, if it’s being given away free, I won’t sneer at it! Amazon.com offers a lot of free mp3 downloads of all genres, mostly new artists who want to get some exposure, and compilations that smaller record companies put out so that people buy their artists’ albums. It’s a great way to get to hear new music that doesn’t get played on the radio and I’ve found some hits in there (some duds, too, but that’s why it’s free, right?). Check it out yourself!
8. Country Radio
It’s pretty hard to get around the country without listening to a lot of “Country” music. Good thing I (mostly) enjoy it. It’s best when I can find a station that plays a good smattering of Classic County, up through the Outlaw Country phase, but I do also enjoy singing along with some “Top 40” Country… for about 2 hours, that is, until they’ve played all 40 songs in their playlist and start over again!
This was a cool band that I discovered through the aforementioned Amazon giveaways… and their plan worked, because I wound up buying the whole album. Some of their music is listed as “acid jazz,” other as “electronic,” or “electronica” or “dance.” I would call it kind of jazzy electronica. I’m not sure how good it would be to dance to. But it is fun to listen to!
10. Lewis and Clark Journals
I had listened to most of these over the summer, before my trip began, along with my work crew, and we had all enjoyed them then. However, once I started crossing the same landscape that the Corps of Discovery had, and eventually began visiting their historical sites, I ran through all 6 discs again. While I listened to several audio books along the way, this remained my favorite. I would highly recommend this edited version of their journals, whether in a regular old bound book or as I experienced them – though Tom Wopat as Clark makes a convincing case for the audio version! The Essential Lewis And Clark edited by Landon Jones. Enjoy!