ANY ROAD DOGS, long-haul truckers or folks with long commutes know this feeling well—you shift in your seat as your eyes start to glaze over… You pound coffee, roll the windows down for cold air, maybe try screaming song lyrics at the top of your lungs, hoping some magic force will keep you awake. And yet, your eyelids fight you every step of the way.
I realize that we shouldn’t drive when we are tired, but the reality is that sometimes you absolutely, positively have to get there overnight. For those long, lonely stretches, here are three songs to keep your eyes open, your blood boiling and your resolve as steely as the axles beneath your feet for those last thirty miles.*
When drummer Brad Wilk hits the quick round-house drum fill into the chorus, a visceral force well beyond your control will push the gas pedal into overdrive. As beat one comes crashing down, the left and right guitars explode into a wondrous maelstrom of bright, spectacular colors, pitched against an otherwise lifeless grey sky.
If you’re free you’ll never see the walls
If you’re head is clear your never freefall
If you’re right you’ll never feel the wrong
If you’re head is high you’ll never fear at all
Vocalist Chris Cornell could not have laid out the mantra more clearly in those four lines; become exactly who you are. Let doubt and fear go. Trust your gut.
Dear music- thank you for saving my life again. Add another 5 miles to that speed limit. I’m sure the cops are on your side today, baby.
If your booty doesn’t start shaking when Questlove kicks this beat off, then pull over as quickly as you safely can, because your heart has already stopped and your lifeless ass poses a grave danger to yourself and others.
World travelers that seen it all and did it up
Only to return to learn the world wasn’t big enough
Undun I am becoming and when he’s tired of running
Through the layers of the Onion
He’ll probably shed a tear cause they’ll be no more fast times
Just his weak mind scrolled out like a bad sign
He never had enough and got confused when they asked why
Life is only a moment in time and it passed by…
Enjoy where you are, because you’ll throw away an amazing life worrying that where you are or what you have is never enough. I spent the first three decades of my life waiting for the “big break” instead of realizing how lucky I am to be making music and living a gypsy’s life.
We’re all on a journey
Down the hall of memories
Don’t worry ‘bout what you ain’t got
Lead with a little bit of dignity
A quick note on self-reliance: I am stone cold democrat. My friend Frosty says I’m a hippie in wolf’s clothing; I wear leather jackets, but I’m vegan; I drive an “eco-bus,” but I run a gas-powered generator all night to watch West Wing in my bunk. I want to help everyone I can, but also know that we cannot blame others for our lot in life. Someone always has it much worse and no one, I mean no one, is gonna do the heavy lifting for us. There is real power in taking everything in our own hands and not blindly listening to others.
My feeling is that many of the lyrics from the Roots’ Undun album stress this type self-reliance; figuring out if the means are worth the end, not wasting precious time, and not blaming everybody else for our own BS. Easier to preach than practice I realize, but nothing beats a long drive for diving into your own head and finding out just how willing you are to be honest with yourself.
After this track, the next cut on Undun is “Stomp”, which may contain the heaviest and darkest verse ever written in modern music. This whole record is completely insane, both musically and lyrically. I always think of how heavy this kind of poetry is when older folks (and often times incredibly-talented folkies) tell me they enjoy every kind of music but hip-hop. Dylan wasn’t the last guy to hold a candle lyrically to Mos Def, The Roots, Q-Tip etc., but he had it right in his book Chronicles when he suggested that it would most likely be an urban artist that would speak his kind of truth to power and lyrically crack the sky in half again.
Matt Drenik is the force behind Battleme. He has several songs in one of my favorite shows—Sons of Anarchy. I met Matt at SXSW couple months back as we share a mutual friend in my old hometown of Wichita, KS. Matt is seven shades of awesome and this song is everything that is great about simple, pulsating rock n’ roll.
I want to get some new blood flowing down into my lazy feet…
Ride on Drenik. Onto the next mile marker. One by one, til it’s done.
*These songs also double as work-out songs and/or things to play in your car after you visit your mother-in-law.