Seven Instrumental Songs For Your Next Cross-Country Adventure

Liorah Goldsmith is a Los Angeles writer who has written often about the realities of life in L.A. Her most recent story, “Here’s Why Homeless People Aren’t the Problem” is a deeply-sourced dive into the real causes of homelessness in L.A. and beyond.

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A journey through cracked one-lane highways and warm autumn foliage is never complete without the perfect album or playlist. Though COVID-19 continues to keep us indoors, long drives can calm our stress and bring us the sense of adventure so many of us crave. Instrumental music helps us become immersed in the world around us. Like a soundtrack to a movie, it enhances landscapes from coastal oceans to desert cacti to evergreens.

  1. “Momma Miss America” by Paul McCartney

From his 1970 self-titled debut album comes Paul McCartney’s instrumental ode to an American woman, “Momma Miss America.” It’s the album he made at home, playing all the instruments himself. Its Lo-fi sound, lack of echo and other effects give it the distinction of being dubbed the first Indie album. Powered by Paul’s pounding, primal drums and his insistent, percussive bass part, “Momma” bursts with simmering momentum. His steady minor-key riffs on guitar underscored by visceral piano give it a raw, robust sound. Infectiously hypnotic and pure, it’s good for a drive because it sounds great loud. Turn it up!

2. “Embryonic Journey” by Jefferson Airplane

“Embryonic Journey” is an acoustic guitar-heavy instrumental tune by Jorma Kaukonen on Jefferson Airplane’s classic journey into psychedelia, Surrealistic Pillow. Short yet dynamic, this upbeat song creates a beautiful echo as Kaukonen effortlessly plays his guitar.

3. “Gypsy Flame” by Armik

“Gypsy Flame” is a great instrumental by Armik, an Armenian-Iranian guitarist. A phenomenon of New Flamenco, he was born in Iran to an Armenian family. A child prodigy he developed his artistry on his own at first. At seven, he pawned his watch for a guitar, which he mastered on his own, surreptitiously learning jazz. During a trip to Spain he saw the legendary Paco de Lucia perform, and from then on he was devoted to Flamenco. He practiced daily away from all eyes and ears in his basement, knowing his parents would not support a life in music without some proof that he was capable. After five years of steady, secret woodshedding, his playing far exceeded his expectations, and astonished and impressed his family. They supported him from then on. He started formal lessons and by 12 began recording his own music. He’s since recorded 37 albums. “Gypsy Flame” merges his Iranian-Armenian upbringing with his Flamenco passion, amd embodies his signature style.

4. “Shringara” by Jatayu

Jatayu is a jazz-rock quartet from Chennai, India. With bass, two guitars and drums, they fuse modern jazz with Indian classical music, and the Carnatic music of southern India. This song, “Shringara,” takes its listeners on an emotional journey by weaving those modern and ancient sounds together with virtuoso instrumental artistry and unchained passion.

5. “Just Teasin’” by Buddy Guy

Take a trip back to the times of electric blues with Buddy Guy’s “Just Teasin’.” The Chicago legend has long been considered one of the world’s greatest guitarists.“Just Teasin’” shows why. It’s essential Buddy. First included on his 1982 album, DJ Play My Blues, it carries an air of heartfelt soulfulness and sentimental nostalgia.

6. “Home Sweet Home” by Carl Jackson

This one is all about the great, cheerful sound of Carl Jackson’s spirited banjo playing. It’s hard not to be happy when you hear this, his sparkling take on the old folk song, “Home Sweet Home,” from his 1982 album Songs of the South. He was raised with music, growing up Louisville the son of a musician. He joined his father’s bluegrass band as a kid, and from there got heard by bluegrass legends Jim & Jesse, who invited him to join their group, the Virginia Boys when he was only 14. Both a songwriter and instrumentalist, he moved to Nashville to play with Jim & Jesse, and started playing with everyone at the Grand Ole Opry. He met Glen Campbell there, with whom he played often.

7. “Jerusalem Ridge” by Tony Rice

Known as one of bluegrass’ most imaginative flatpick guitar players, Tony Rice played an integral part in creating a style of bluegrass called “New Grass,” also known as “Dawg Music.” His cover of the Bill Monroe-clasic “Jerusalem Ridge,” brings Rice’s signature bluesy flatpicking style to this fast-paced bluegrass song. It’s from his album Church Street Blues, 1982.

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