A Musical Tour Around the American Southwest


Driving has a symbiotic relationship with music – think of a time when someone in a movie has been driving, even while communicating with another passenger in the car, without music or some sort of ambient noise filling the background. It provides context and imbues emotion in situations that would otherwise be directionless and monotonous. To me, there is a time and place for various types of music and ways of listening to music, and I let it all flow naturally into place in order to create the right atmosphere. Sometimes I will be in the mood for an entire album in one sitting, whereas other times I’ll be searching for a single song to listen to and then get on with whatever I was doing after it’s finished. Driving often calls for a combination of the two – a continuity ordinarily found within a single album, but a spontaneity and uniqueness only found in a state of flux.

Driving calls for a playlist –a handcrafted combination of songs – to capture the experience of driving in all of its thrills, boredom, discontinuities, and endless minutia.

Thus I bring you a playlist I wrote over the summer. Living in Colorado –especially when driving around the southern edges near New Mexico and Arizona – has a certain flavor that can only be captured in music. Each tune invokes a different feeling, be it the wide open expanse of dirt and shrub that opens itself up before a car only to be enveloped behind the driver, or a small adobe town with the sun rolling over the rounded-off tan edges of the buildings.


I took a trip this summer that brought me down past the Great Sand Dunes through Alamosa and Durango, up the slopes to Pagosa Springs and into Moab, Utah. During my planning phase before I had left my house, each song that I placed into the playlist invoked an image of a place in my trip that had yet to come, finally making the image a realization after having the song shuffle through and come out the speakers in a location that was neither prescribed nor predictable.

While there were no criteria for my song selection, each song seemed to convey that sense I have of the American Southwest. A retroactive glance at the playlist makes it seem that there are several elements that seem to play into this theme fairly well: a fair amount of reverb, a twangy-sounding guitar that doesn’t hold back on the treble, and anything that references or relates to the southwest: Long, hot summer nights, tombstone shadows, and unknowns up around the endless twists and bends.

From there I tried to create a continuous feed of music, even though many of these songs span a wide range of genres and time periods. There is an emphasis on older sounding rock songs –probably because it constitutes the bulk of my music library, but also because rock has retained a greater tie to the land in western culture compared other genres of music.

The playlist, as a mode of listening to music, can never be called “finished”. A sudden bout of inspiration or a gradual change in taste can have dramatic impacts on the reception of the playlist, so by no means is this a static overlay on such an evanescent landscape. This merely reflects an experience that was possessed in a given time in a given space – a role that music often assumes in our lives.