Take a look at the map and you’ll see that Oregon’s a pretty big place — the ninth largest state (by square miles) in the Union, in fact. That means you’re going to need a good mix of music to blast on your next road trip. So why not spin songs inspired by this tuneful state while you’re out exploring it? From classic country to garage rock, we’ve chosen a few local favorites and critically acclaimed records made in and inspired by the Beaver State. (That’s our official nickname, by the way.)
“Roll On, Columbia”
In 1941 guitar-pickin’ Woody Guthrie rambled around the Pacific Northwest, where he was inspired to compose a number of famous tunes. He compiled these songs on a record called “The Columbia River Collection.” The rollicking number “Roll On, Columbia” celebrates the great river snaking its way along Oregon’s northern border.
You can’t talk about Oregon’s music scene without mentioning Elliott Smith, one of the most enduring singer-songwriters of the ’90s. His discography is defined by minimal acoustic arrangements, layered harmonies and melancholic lyricism — all present on the delicate love song “Say Yes,” a track frequently featured in films and covered by other artists.
A garage rock band from Portland, the Kingsmen popularized “Louie, Louie,” a song written by Richard Berry, and held the No. 2 spot on the Billboard charts for six weeks in 1963. Their rhythmic rendition remains an enduring classic. Little-known fact: The band first heard an early version of the song playing on a jukebox in a Seaside club.
Paul Revere & the Raiders
This upstart band, led by singer Mark Lindsay of Eugene, saw considerable success in the late ’60s and early ’70s with a string of chart-topping hits, including “Indian Reservation” and “Hungry.” But they are best known for their hit “Kicks,” which Rolling Stone included on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
In this toe-tappin’ tune penned by Leon Payne, Johnny Cash “heard the Oregon timber callin’,” and just as you’d imagine, he couldn’t resist. The song references the state’s hardworking past and calls out Eugene as the place you go to have fun on a Saturday night — some things never change.
Many members of this alternative country act got their start in Salem, but it didn’t take too long for the rest of the world to get hooked on their rootsy and tuneful songs, like “Furr,” which incorporates woodsy imagery and a mythical narrative.
Hailing from the storied port city of Astoria, Blind Pilot plays easygoing folk songs with laid-back guitar strumming and gentle drumming — making their tunes the perfect soundtrack for a contemplative drive along the Coast.
“Down by the Water”
Few recent Oregon bands have enjoyed as much critical acclaim as the Decemberists, who have been weaving folklore into their Americana-inspired songs since they formed in 2000. “Down by the Water” sees them collaborating with folk singer Gillian Welch for a rustic track with heavy harmonica and accordion riffs.