You know you’re listening to a country song when you hear the smooth cry of a fiddle or the lonely whine of a steel guitar.
And you know you’re road-tripping with your family when you hear the shrill cry of an overtired infant or the incessant whine of a cranky preschooler. It comes with the territory, and it’s brutal.
On my last road trip with the family, we hit the open road in the middle of nowhere and, with five hours to go until our final destination, a symphony of noise erupted from the back seat. But rather than give in to the snack-gobbling brood behind me, I clenched my jaw, set my eyes on the mile markers crawling past me, and turned up the volume on my country music playlist.
And before I knew it, the sounds of cranky kids suddenly became one with the sounds of the fiddle and steel guitar. In my minivan that day, I discovered that fiddles and steel guitars, if played at a certain (very high) volume, can drown out the cries of your whiny kids, and can save your sanity.
With schools starting soon, you might still have foolish thoughts of ending the summer with one last family trip. If so, here’s a list of steel and fiddle-heavy country songs you can deploy at the first signs of distress from the bored and hungry megaphones behind you.
Trust me and give it a try. Because when you’re trapped in a car with screaming kids in the middle of nowhere, you’ll try anything.
“The Bird Hunters” – Turnpike Troubadours
Turnpike’s talented fiddler, Kyle Nix, kicks things off with a memorable riff, sending a clear message to the backseat that we are listening to country music (NOT the Ninja Turtles theme song on repeat), for the foreseeable future.
“Family Tradition” – Hank Williams Jr.
Why sing along to “Let It Go” when you and Bocephus can punctuate the gaps between the fiddle and steel guitar features in his 1979 hit with the highly chantable (and relatable) “Whyyyyy do you drink?”
Hint: it has something to do with these road trips.
“Callin’ Baton Rouge” – Garth Brooks
The high energy song made popular and seismically relevant by Garth Brooks features a steady flow of memorable fiddle licks that will challenge the lungs of even the loudest baby.
“Motorcycle” – Colter Wall
Wall’s distinct, deep vocals might shock your kids into silence for a few precious seconds. And halfway through the song, the whiny pedal steel picks up, just in time to mimic your kids’ incessant requests for snacks.
Just ignore that whole part about wrapping a vehicle around a telephone pole or driving it off a cliff…
“Country Squire” – Tyler Childers
Another upbeat number to match the pent-up energy in your car, Childers’ title track from his 2019 album features short, punchy fiddle and steel cameos throughout to keep your kids guessing.
“In Dreams” – Sierra Ferrell
As Ferrell says:
“Won’t you sit down, you know I love you honey And you look so tired…”
So please, son, for the love of God, go to sleep and give me some peace. The dream-like steel guitar in the background of this one is especially sorrowful… especially if that kid stays awake.
“Oklahoma City” – Zach Bryan
In case your kids’ cries are more sad than mad, Zach Bryan’s fiddler, Lucas Ruge-Jones, lays out some long, sorrowful sequences to match your most melancholy minion in this one.
“Where the Green Grass Grows” – Tim McGraw
The memorable fiddle intro to McGraw’s platinum hit from 1998, coupled with the themes of nostalgia and longing for a place where the grass is greener, is perfect for that long drive with the kids that you’re already regretting.
“Little Bitty” – Alan Jackson
AJ’s classic layers both fiddle and steel under a fast-paced song that evokes the frenetic pace of life with young kids (or at least it does for me). Turn it up for those little bitty buttholes piercing your ear drums right now.
“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” – Charlie Daniels
You’d need to have at least six screaming kids to rival the pace of the “best there’s ever been” of fiddle-heavy tunes. Charlie Daniels’ iconic song will go to battle with the loudest screamers while you keep pressing the pedal deeper and deeper into the floor, eyes fixed on the horizon.
And just when you think you’re hitting the sound barrier and your eyes are close to bursting out of their sockets…
You’ll pull over for gas and buy a giant bag of Cheetos for those damn kids. And then hit the road again (twenty minutes later than you wanted to) and start it all over again. Sorry dads, that’s just how it goes.
And if that still makes you sad, here’s a gift from me to you: the “world’s smallest violin” (another word for “fiddle,” fyi).