Despite what the weather may be thinking on the east coast of the United States, it’s finally Spring! And by Spring, I mean it’s only a few months until road trip season begins and everyone starts hitting the highways during the Summer. Any good and proper road trip needs the right soundtrack to keep the energy and excitement flowing, so I figured I’d give you some options early for your convenient trip planning needs.
Personally, I could go on about a good bass groove for days, but instead, here’s 20 bands to look into for any good road trip, ranging from classics, potential hidden gems, and some relatively newer talent. This is not close to a definitive list and will skew towards rock, but don’t let that stop you from checking out great music, new or old.
Well, let’s just go ahead and get this one out of the way. The Sydney rockers have been around since the early 1970’s and their entire catalog is designed for this experience whether you have Bon Scott or Brian Johnson handling vocal duties. You can play a classic album like “Back in Black” from beginning to end, or pick and choose off other classics like “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”, or the appropriately named “Highway to Hell” and still get the same results.
Mixtape recommendations: Girls Got Rhythm, Whole Lotta Rosie, It’s a Long Way to the Top, Shoot to Thrill, If You Want Blood
At this point you may know some of the WWE-focused writing I’ve done on here, so including the artists responsible for the 2015 Royal Rumble theme, “Gonna Be A Fight Tonight“, shouldn’t be a complete surprise. Danko Jones is a Canadian rock trio that’s been active with in-your-face rock since the late 90’s. If you want hard-hitting rock that epitomizes what the genre’s all about at its core, this may be the only entry on the list you need. Their latest album, “Wildcat” contains features catchy vocals, great guitar riffs, and a rhythm section that will keep you beating along on the steering wheel. “Below the Belt” is one of my personal favorites as a rock album, even aside from music to have on the highways.
Mixtape recommendations: Tonight Is Fine, First Date, Just A Beautiful Day, Cadillac, I Gotta Rock
Staying in Canada, we have 2016 JUNO Awards nominee for heavy metal album of the year, Diemonds. A sleazy (in an awesome way) combinations of hard rock and classic heavy metal, if C.C. Diemond’s riffs don’t catch your attention, Priya Panda’s voice will make sure you’re lured in. The band released their second full-length album in 2015, “Never Wanna Die“, and are one to watch in the near future.
Mixtape recommendations: Wild At Heart, Ain’t That Kinda Girl, Livin’ Tonight, Highway, Free N’ Easy
Currently touring the United States in support of their new album, “Pinewood Smile“, the British glam rockers have been on a triumphant return since reforming in 2011. Their new album is a catchy masterpiece that should grab your attention the same way that the band did with 2003’s “Permission to Land” and its high-charting single “I Believe in a Thing Called Love“. If you want some glam full of catchy double entrende for the whole family (okay maybe not that far with some of their lyrics), their live act alone is worth planning a road trip around.
Mixtape recommendations: Rack of Glam, One Way Ticket, Open Fire, Black Shuck, All The Pretty Girls
From a personal standpoint, I could also recommend Scott Gorham’s more recent project with the Thin Lizzy lineup in Black Star Riders, but I decided to ultimate go with the classic boys. Particularly if you’re a fan of live albums, Thin Lizzy’s “Live and Dangerous” holds up favorably all these years later. The boys really are back in town under the Black Star Riders moniker keeping the spirit of the former band alive, but when you’re taking a late night drive, a little bit of Phil Lynott’s bass and vocals coupled with the band’s multi-guitar assault should be all that you need.
Mixtape recommendations: Emerald, Bad Reputation, Cowboy Song, Southbound, Are You Ready
It doesn’t all need to be hard-hitting rock, sometimes a sultry jazz or a fun pop number might fit the mood a bit better. Whether you know Haley from her time on American Idol, or from her collaborations with Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox, she’s more than worth a listen with her powerhouse vocals. Sometimes you just need to focus on a beautiful singing voice to relax during an otherwise stressful drive.
Mixtape recommendations: Keep Coming Back, Wonderland, The Letter, Let’s Start, White Rabbit
You may very well know the hard rock band from video games such as Madden 09, Madden 10, NHL 08, 11, and 14, or WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2009 and 2010 if you were a particular fan of former WWE superstar Mr. Kennedy during that time. The Australian hard rock band has been around for a while, but has kept the heavy hits coming. Their music is perfect for the road no matter which album you happen to look at, and many songs even fit the theme of hitting the open road.
Mixtape recommendations: Runnin’ Wild, Heads Are Gonna Roll, No One Fits Me (Better Than You), Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast, Runnin’ Hot
If you like British rock music that can flawlessly mix in some electronic beats, you probably already know Kasabian. Alternatively if you were a fan of the Juiced series of racing games or various FIFA titles you’re probably familiar with the catchy beats within songs like “Club Foot“. Another great band to experience live, Kasabian weaves through multiple genres for their own unique sound. “West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum” as an album could also complete a trip on its own merit.
Mixtape recommendations: Vlad the Impaler, Ill Ray (The King), L.S.F., Underdog, Club Foot
With so many connections to wrestling did you really think I’d leave off Chris Jericho’s rock band, Fozzy? Whether its explosive originals, or Rich Ward’s great guitar renditions on cover tracks, Fozzy hits on all cylinders and doesn’t stop. Whether you may have heard of them through Rich Ward’s other prominent act, Stuck Mojo, Jericho’s outstanding pro wrestling career, or their latest hits like “Judas” and “Painless“, Fozzy is always improving as a band, and always puts out a great effort that’s worth drinking in (man).
Mixtape recommendations: Wanderlust, Lights Go Out, Freewheel Burning, Judas, All That Remains
The mighty English band that helped lead the new wave of British heavy metal are still putting out excellent music for the open road, going strong for about 40 years. Whether touring with relatively newer acts like the previously mentioned Fozzy, or with metal staples like Judas Priest, Saxon always puts on a great show. It can be a hit from this year’s “Thunderbolt” or an earlier classic, and it’ll still make your adrenaline kick up and ask for more.
Mixtape recommendations: Battering Ram, Princess of the Night, And the Bands Played On, Motorcycle Man, Strong Arm of the Law
An iconic “rock and roll” band that has been pivotal to heavy metal, punk rock, and hard rock in general, Motörhead is a band you can never go wrong with. The late Lemmy Kilmister’s unmistakable voice and powerful bass set the tone no matter what lineup of the band stands out to a particular person. They’re similar to a band like AC/DC in the sense that really any album or song can pretty much fit the mood of a trip. Perhaps more than any band on this list though, Motörhead works the best with the windows down and the volume threatening to break your speakers.
Mixtape recommendations: Killed By Death, Iron Horse/Born to Lose, (We Are) The Road Crew, Going to Brazil, Built for Speed
Lemmy actually penned the band’s lyrics for the song “I Want to **** You to Death“, but the heavy metal band out of California has quite a few tracks that are good to get the aggression out. Despite being a heavy metal band, you can hear clear influences of thrash and darker metal genres mixed throughout the music. With storytelling lyrics no matter what the topic touches upon, a band that always sounds tight, and Jill Janus’ ability to change octaves and mix in screaming vocals at will, Huntress is one of the more unique metal bands around.
Mixtape recommendations: Flesh, Zenith, Black Tongue, Eight of Swords, Static
Swiss rockers Krokus have been making music since the 1970’s, but really found their sound during the 80’s as fast-paced heavy metal was erupting everywhere. After returning to a largely classic lineup in 2007 when a younger may have found them through the Guitar Hero games or even through the previously-mentioned Fozzy. If you want heart-pounding drumbeats, or classical 80’s metal tunes, Krokus is an often overlooked option despite selling well back in Switzerland.
Mixtape recommendations: Eat the Rich, Headhunter, Screaming in the Night, I’m on the Run, Long Stick Goes Boom
While perhaps best known for their hit album “Get Born” which featured the iconic “Are You Gonna Be My Girl“, Jet reformed relatively recently in 2016 to keep rocking everyone’s faces off. Rather than fellow Australian rockers AC/DC and Airbourne on this list, Jet is closer to a garage rock and power pop sort of sound instead of a hard rock sound. They still have songs that pack a punch, but bring a different sort of versatility with their music.
Mixtape recommendations: Black Hearts (On Fire), Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is, Skin and Bones, Cold Hard B****, Rollover DJ
Going further into garage rock, the Swedish rock band, The Hellacopters, is yet another force to be reckoned with. With high octane guitar riffs, and a boatload of songs to choose from, you can’t really go wrong with twin guitars. With clear influences from bands like Motörhead, Kiss, Venom, The Ramones, and The Stooges, they’re another band that has a little something for everybody. Their 1996 debut won a Swedish Grammy for Best Hard Rock, and they’ve even dipped into covers of somewhat unexpected bands like Black Sabbath (Dirty Women).
Mixtape recommendations: Bring It On Home, I’m in the Band, Hopeless Case of a Kid in Denial, Baby Borderline, I Wanna Touch
Delving back into classic rock with 1970’s supergroup Bad Company, there’s a bit more of a bluesy flavor for those who want a different tone. Formed by members of Free, Mott the Hoople, and King Crimson, Bad Company stands the test of time on own with releases that are still staples for any self-respecting classic rock station today.
Mixtape recommendations: Bad Company, Rock Steady, Electricland, Honey Child, Silver, Blue, & Gold
In Montrose, we have another 70’s rock band with an underappreciated legacy and some incredible music. Ronnie Montrose was a successful session musician on his own, but the band he would create with future Van Halen singer Sammy Hagar would create music that still holds up favorably today. Their influence is found in bands like Iron Maiden and Mötley Crüe, and has even been featured in the CW television show DC’s Legends of Tomorrow during the show’s debut season. For straight shooting rock music, Montrose should be a staple in any road trip playlist.
Mixtape recommendations: Bad Motor Scooter, Rock Candy, Rock the Nation, I Got the Fire, Space Station #5
As someone who has worn the makeup at their shows, I couldn’t possibly leave Kiss off a list like this. Most of Kiss’ discography is a great soundtrack for any drive where you want to feel on top of the world. With a plethora of live and studio albums to choose from and the band’s underrated ability to switch genres, Kiss has much more to offer than the standard classics you hear on the radio like “Detroit Rock City”, “Love Gun”, or “Rock and Roll All Nite”. Even the “Dynasty” album that blends a disco sound is great for a long night out (and has a terrific cover of 2,000 Man).
Mixtape recommendations: King of the Night Time World, War Machine, Parasite, Strutter, Hide Your Heart
I have to admit I’m not the biggest fan of country to give too many recommendations, but Chris Stapleton’s blend of outlaw country, southern rock, and blues hits all the right notes on my end. His well-received debut solo album, Traveller, earns his place in these recommendations by itself. When you need to clear your head, it’s a good soundtrack to let your emotions out to.
Mixtape recommendations: Outlaw State of Mind, Parachute, Tennessee Whiskey, Traveller, The Devil Named Music
Fronted by former Iron Maiden singer Blaze Bayley, Wolfsbane packs an aggressive punch that is quite different from the current stylings of Iron Maiden. Wolfsbane was active in the 80’s and 90’s until Blaze joined Iron Maiden, but has since reunited and has even released newer music that sounds as great as the early work did. Though I have the personal bias of Iron Maiden being my favorite band, Wolfsbane is a very different musical force, and is incredibly strong with Blaze’s vocals and fast-paced beat on many of their tracks.
Mixtape recommendations: Manhunt, Killing Machine, Money to Burn, Smoke and Red Light, Blue Sky
And while 20 artists is already more than enough to get a good travel mix going, I couldn’t help myself while listening to the tracks and talking to others while I wrote. So while I might not get into more details here, this is far from a definitive list, even if the artists mentioned do fit within your taste of music. Just for fun though, here are another 30 artists you may find worth your driving time, in no particular order:
Scorpions, Texas Hippie Coalition, Hellyeah, UFO, Golden Earring, Greta Van Fleet, Volbeat, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Priestess, The Runaways, Ratt, Hanoi Rocks, Queens of the Stone Age, Mötley Crüe, Judas Priest, Cake, Joe Jackson, Pantera, Molly Hatchet, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Backyard Babies, Clutch, Anthrax, Accept, Guns N’ Roses, Skid Row, L.A. Guns, Steel Panther, Morgan James