Man, I wish I was out West writing this right now.
It’s hard to beat the scenery out there and the weather this time of year, especially in Colorado. While the state isn’t necessarily known for country music, it still holds an important role in the genre. The MusicFest at Steamboat Springs brings many of the best artists from the Texas and Red Dirt scenes to the colorful Colorado ski town, and is a bucket list festival for any fan of good country music.
Furthermore, the Red Rocks Amphitheater outside of Denver may be the best music venue in the entire world. While the venue’s clientele may be more into Grateful Dead type acts (who isn’t?), you can still catch some good country shows there too every once in a while (hello, Tyler Childers.)
While the presence of country music is definitely bigger in some other states than it is in Colorado, there are still tons of country songs out there that make reference to the state, and some are even named for specific cities.
Here are the ten best of those songs named for Colorado’s cities.
10. “Goodbye in Telluride” – Dierks Bentley – The Mountain (2019)
9. “Denver” – Willie Nelson – Red Headed Stranger (1975)
This Willie Nelson song may be only 53 seconds long, but it’s gotta be the best song of all time under a minute long. Doesn’t hurt that it’s on such a legendary album either.
As some people may not know, the entire album follows the journey of the red headed stranger, a preacher-turned-fugitive. In “Denver,” the red headed stranger is searching for a new life outside of Montana in the Colorado city.
“The bright lights of Denver are shining like diamonds Like ten thousand jewels in the sky And it’s nobody’s business where you’re going or where you come from And you’re judged by the look in your eye
She saw him that evening in a tavern in town In a quiet little out-of-the-way place And they smiled at each other as he walked through the door And they danced with their smiles on their faces And they danced with a smile on their face.”
8. “Telluride” – Kate Wolf – Back Roads (1976)
A lesser known folk artist, Kate Wolf died at the young age of 44 from leukemia. While she may have never gotten all the recognition she deserved as a musician, her songs have been recorded by the likes of Emmylou Harris and a tribute album recorded after death included songs sung by Harris, Lucinda Williams, Kathy Mattea, and more.
7. “Durango” – Vincent Neil Emerson – Vincent Neil Emerson (2021)
Vincent Neil Emmerson is a name every country music fan needs to know.
His self-titled, newly released album is definitely one of the best of 2021 so far. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure whether this song is about Durango, Colorado or Durango, Mexico, or none of the above, but I’m including it anyway because he’s just that damn good.
6. “40 Miles from Denver” – Yonder Mountain String Band – Elevation (1999)
“It’s a cold, cold moon out tonight And it’s a cold, cold point on your knife Could I call myself a man if I left by the morning line?
And I’d be forty miles from Denver when you woke up all alone I’d be forty miles from Denver and three days from my home In that cool mountain air on an Appalachian trail Ohh, life is better there.”
5. “Telluride” – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – Partners, Brothers and Friends (1985)
Who knew there were so many songs about Telluride?
4. “Telluride” – Tim McGraw & Faith Hill – The Rest of Our Life (2017)
“Telluride” was originally recorded solo by McGraw on his 2001 album Set This Circus Down, but it’s hard to beat this duet with his wife.
“You hit me up in the beat-up car that’s just south of tell you right You lit one up and never said a word til we got mountain high You said he was bound for Texas to a dusty old ghost town I said well, honey, what the hell, let’s chase the sunset down.”
3. “Boulder to Birmingham” – Emmylou Harris – Pieces of the Sky (1975)
An all time classic by one of the greatest voices of all time. This song was also included on the list of Ten Great Country Songs Named for Alabama Cities.
“Well you really got me this time And the hardest part is knowing I’ll survive I have come to listen for the sound Of the trucks as they move down Out on ninety five And pretend that it’s the ocean Coming down to wash me clean, to wash me clean Baby do you know what I mean.”
2. “Rain in Durango” – Guy Clark – My Favorite Picture of You (2013)
A pioneer of outlaw country, contemporary of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Townes Van Zandt, and one of the greatest songwriters of all time. Guy Clark’s My Favorite Picture of You was the last studio album before his death in 2016, and “Rain in Durango” is one of the more underrated songs in his catalog.
“She’s a long way from Houston Long way from those Texas blues And she came down from Telluride On a steam train bound for somewhere new There’s a rainbow in the mountains And she’s waiting on the sun to shine on through You can’t tell the tears from the rain If you ain’t walked a mile in her boots
Standing in the rain in Durango Right side of wrong, wrong side of gone Standing in the rain in Durango She’s waiting on some cowboy To lasso her heart and take her home.”
1. “O.D.’d in Denver” – Hank Williams Jr. – Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound (1979)
About as outlaw as it gets.
“I guess you could say that my love life was not up to par Too many nights alone had left some permanent scars She told me she’d love me and I told her I’d do the same Then I O.D.’d in Denver and I just can’t remember her name
I brought it on myself and I guess that I shouldn’t complain Doc said son you can’t do anymore of that cocaine But she made me higher than all of those expensive things But I O.D.’d in Denver and wish I could remember her name.”
Honorable Mentions – “Boulder Skies” (Pure Prairie League), “Denver Girls” (Gill Landry), “Starwood in Aspen” (John Denver), “Get Out of Denver” (Bob Seger), “Mile High in Denver” (Jimmy Buffet)