When I was in third grade I learned all 50 states in alphabetical order thanks to a catchy tune. Now I'm hoping to stick that bit of trivia in your heads just in time for the new school year by celebrating each state with an appropriate song all this week.
New Mexico: Heather Nova, "Out in New Mexico" You know how beautiful New Mexico can be? Here's Heather Nova, a woman born in the island paradise of Bermuda, who pictures the state when she wants to imagine a place of peace for her soul. What could top that endorsement?
New York: The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl, "Fairytale Of New York" You might think it's a sort of depressing, and yeah, it is, but I always feel better when I hear the Pogues' and their ode to Christmas in New York City, even with all the alcoholism and cursing.
Fun fact: Despite the lyrics talking about an NYPD choir, there actually isn't one, a fact the band found out when they invited said fictional choir to perform in the video. The NYPD offered their Pipe and Drum Corps instead. They didn't know the song "Galway Bay," so they played the theme from The Mickey Mouse Club instead, and the footage was slowed during editing to match the speed of the video.
North Carolina: Melissa Ferrick, "North Carolina" Ferrick was one of those artists that rose to prominence in the '90s, and then dropped out as the Lilith Fair set was rolled back. It's a shame because she is a hell of a free-form singer-songwriter, one that could give Patti Smith a run for her money. This track is more about coming apart at the seams than a tribute to the state, but since North Carolina has kind of been a backwards-ass regressive state lately, I thought it was appropriate.
North Dakota: Lyle Lovett, "North Dakota" I fell back in love with Lyle after hearing his rendition of "I Will Rise Up/Ain't No More Cane" on True Blood, which may be one of the greatest modern folk song recordings of all time.
Lovett's ability to draw you in with his masterful voice is uncanny. "North Dakota" is another love song, but I also like its message of peace over violence, and hint of forgiveness.
More fun with states on the next page.
Ohio: Electric Six, "Escape From Ohio" Modesty forbid me from placing my own work in this spot, so let's go with one of my favorite bands, Electric Six. I usually describe them as a Rob Zombie meets Parliament Funkadelic, but "Escape From Ohio" is more of a standard rock tune. It does have the band's typical over-the-top attitude, turning boredom over driving through the state into some sort of epic showdown for their very souls.
Oklahoma: The Residents, "On the Way to Oklahoma" And on a similar note, here's the one and only Residents from 2005's Animal Lover. I'm not even going to pretend that I'm qualified to interpret a Residents song, so I'm just going to have to assume this is the most musically accurate of our northern state that exists.
Oregon: Fatawesome, "The Oregon Trail Song (My Titties is Sick)" I probably get good music from Oregon more than any other place in the world -- except Sweden -- and that should probably be enough to prompt me into finding some brilliant indie act that has poured their hometown pride into a ballad. Yeah... not going to happen.
Oregon is always going to make me think of The Oregon Trail, and that is always going to make me try and share this brilliant comedy track from Fatawesome about robots, titties, and the path of pioneers.
More fun with states on the next page.
Pennsylvania: Everclear, "Pennsylvania Is..." Remember when Everclear was a grunge band? Nah, me neither. World of Noise was not a great record, which makes sense since it was supposed to be a demo. Nonetheless, it's got all those Art Alexakis hallmarks in the lyrics, though this track is dark even for him. What do you expect from the state that inspired David Lynch to make Eraserhead?
Rhode Island: The Softies, "Holiday in Rhode Island" I always though if the Wilson brothers had been born the Wilson sisters, they would have sounded a lot like The Softies. Two electric guitars, baby-voices, and a lot of easy to like but surprisingly deep tracks, stuff like "Holiday in Rhode Island" is a balm for the soul.
South Carolina: Archers of Loaf, "South Carolina" For such a pretty sounding state, there actually aren't a lot of songs in South Carolina's honor. Luckily, Archers of Loaf fixed that with their debut single in 1992, and all us disaffected '90s teens remember it from being featured in My So-Called Life. It still holds up as a powerful, aching track, though it does sometimes read like alt-radio buzzword bingo occasionally.
Catch up on the other 50 States of Songs so far:
Tune in Monday for the final installment.
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