North Carolina has as rich a history in country music as any state in the country, except maybe Texas and Oklahoma.
From bluegrass greats like Doc Watson to living legends like Eric Church, many of the genres best have called North Carolina home.
Charlie Daniels, Randy Travis, BJ Barham, Scotty McCreery, and Luke Combs, to name a few more, hail from the state as well. Old Crow Medicine Show spent their early years busking on the streets of Boone, North Carolina, not far from the location of the iconic MerleFest music festival.
The list could go on with other notables, but I would be remiss if it wasn’t also noted that Emmylou Harris spent time studying at the University of North Carolina – Greensboro before her career took off, too.
While I’m sure everyone can think of countless songs with “Carolina” in the title, the list of songs that are named for North Carolina cities is not quite as exhaustive.
Nevertheless, there are some great songs out there named for specific cities, and here are the ten best.
10 Songs Named For North Carolina Cities
“Greensboro Woman” – Townes Van Zandt – High, Low and in Between (1971)
Perhaps the greatest songwriter of all time, Townes Van Zandt undoubtedly had a way with words.
“I’m in Asheville” – John Hiatt, Jerry Douglas – Leftover Feelings (2021)
“On a road I never traveled to a place I’ve never been From these leftover feelings a vision of you comes up again And your dancing by the radio in some hotel room in my mind And I’m in Asheville and I’m sorry for leaving you behind”
“Raleigh” – 49 Winchester – III (2020)
“And I know your heart is hurtin’ and I know your back is too And I know you’re almost certain that I’m no good for you But just give me a shot, honey give me a chance I’ll make you laugh, I’ll make you dance”
“Reidsville” – American Aquarium – Small Town Hymns (2010)
American Aquarium frontman BJ Barham grew up in Reidsville, a small tobacco town in North Carolina’s Rockingham County, before attending North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
Perhaps more than anyone, Barham’s experiences living in North Carolina have shaped his music, and it shows in this tune about the small town life he grew up around.
“When I turned eighteen, I sold that car Traded wheels for a wedding band A Plymouth hunter-green, big block with three on the tree With every nut and bolt turned by these two hands It was a good start, then things just got so hard Where the hell did we fall off track? Now I work for her dad, and the pay it ain’t half bad Keeps a roof on her head and the bank off my back”
Ryan Adams, the lead singer and frontman of Whiskeytown during the band’s 1994-2001 tenure, was born and raised in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Whiskeytown was one of the leading bands in Raleigh’s alt-country scene in the late 1990s that garnered comparisons to Seattle’s alt-rock/grunge scene that had exploded earlier in the decade.
Whiskeytown may have been short lived, but songs like “Jacksonville Skyline” are still alt-country staples 20 years after the band’s demise.
5 “Rockingham” – BJ Barham – Rockingham (2016)
Barham’s 2016 solo album Rockingham is some of his best work, and gives even more insight into the area of North Carolina that he grew up in.
“I never thought that I’d end up here So much of the world to see But just like people, my plans began to change And this town became the only place for me This town became the only place for me”
“Jacksonville” – American Aquarium – Burn. Flicker. Die (2012)
For a town without much in it, Jacksonville has inspired some pretty great songs.
“Well the powder picks me up and the pills, they pull me down When the evenin’ ends they’re the only friends that seem to stick around I think I’ll spend the rest of my days with poison in my veins Keep livin’ the lie that Rock ‘n’ Roll’s alive, that things are gonna change And if I make it out alive I’ll call, you know I will If I can just survive one more night in Jacksonville”
“Red Eye to Raleigh” – Mipso – Dark Holler Pop (2013)
Mipso is about as North Carolina as it gets. The bluegrass band formed in 2012 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the four-piece band has been killing it ever since.
“Boone” – The Marcus King Band – Soul Insight (2015)
This song may not be much of a country song, but it is too good to be excluded from this list. Besides, Marcus King is one of this generation’s greatest guitarists, he has played the Grand Ole Opry on multiple occasions, and his soulful blend of rock, country, and blues ought to be appreciated by everyone.
Growing up in Greenville, SC, less than three hours to the south of the mountain town of Boone, NC which is home to Appalachian State University. In a cautionary tale, King warns “don’t let your women move up to Boone.”
“Charlotte’s in North Carolina” – Keith Whitley – A Tribute Album (1994)
Keith Whitley is one of the most underappreciated country singers of all time. While his career and life ended too soon, he left behind a masterpiece of a music catalog for us to enjoy forever. “Charlotte’s in North Carolina” is one of his best.
“I was kinda hoping she’d call, let me know she made it okay Now that phone’s driving me up the wall, it hasn’t rung all day I hope she finds what she’s looking for, that’s all that matters to me Cause all it cost me was my heart to set my sweet Charlotte free”
Honorable Mentions – “Asheville Nashville Austin” (Band of Heathens), “Pretty Girl from Raleigh” (The Avett Brothers), “Black Mountain Rag” (Doc Watson), “Asheville Turnaround” (The Del McCoury Band), “When You Get to Asheville” (Steve Martin, Edie Brickell)