Ahh, the great American Road Trip; There’s really nothing quite like it. The feel of the tires on the road, the beautiful sights and sounds of American all around; In my humble opine, America is best experienced at high rates of speed, coffee firmly in hand, looking through the wonder of this great nation through a bug-stained windshield.
Probably not too many know traveling via the American highway better than Haunted Windchimes frontman and cardigan sweater aficionado Inaiah Lujan; He and his band have criss-crossed the US on multiple occasions, from small town America to urban metropolis. So we decided to ask him what are his top five all time favorite albums to road trip to.
1) “The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack” – Ramblin’ Jack Elliot / A long time ago, on (fiancee and bandmate) Desi and I’s first tour, We stayed with some friends in Indiana, and my friend Liz burned us a stack of CDs. We were going through them while driving, and we ended up on Ramblin’ Jack, and it starts off with an introduction from Johnny Cash, so you know it’s the real deal. And I hear whispers of Bob Dylan, and Woody Guthrie, and it’s almost like a there’s a whole American roots music history lesson in there that I had never heard. Come to find out, Ramblin Jack Elliot was Woody Guthrie’s protege. He’s kind of, in a way in my opinion, the common link between old-timey roots music and the later Greenwich Village scene, with (Bob) Dylan and Joan Baez later on. Ramblin’ Jack, in a weird way, is a lesser known lineage between those two worlds. For me, it also signaled a change personally with the “Chimes, where we started to go more toward American Traditional music. Hearing that is where we seemed to turn a corner.
2) “Blonde on Blonde” – Bob Dylan / So we’ve been really bonding with the band, so we bought a car stereo. We’ve been trying not just throw the iPhone on shuffle anymore, but listening to full albums as a band. And this is one of those albums. There’s almost an air about the guy, kind of a “sold your soul to the Devil” kind of mystical thing. And, I feel like this is the pinnacle of his “electric years”. The majority of it was recorded live, just them in a room, no overdubs. Just killing it, you know? It’s raw and pure. Plus, I extra geeked out on it and made them listen to the mono version!
3) “The Best of the Carter Family” / The Carter Family / Way back when, bands didn’t cut full albums really, so this is a best of with a number of their singles and 78’s. You really won’t find any single albums. They’re all more definitive collections. To me, they took a lot of the music that was happening at the time, whether it be Appalachian, or Negro Spiritual and Gospel music. AP Carter was avid about learning songs and meeting people finding new music. A reason why a lot of those old songs even survived was because of AP Carter and (noted Folk Music archivist/field collector) Alan Lomax. Alan’s ability to record them and AP’s knack for hearing a song once and being able to re-create it was important. Some schools of thought would consider that stealing, but to me it was preservation and honoring the fact that this music is going to die off if no one is around to document it. The Carter Family are credited with the birth of Country music, and to me it’s the blues. Their version of the blues. To me, it also never sounds dated. Some of those songs AP arranged were 200-300 years old, and they still stand the test of time.
4) “20 of Hank Williams Greatest Hits” – Hank Williams / Hank Williams is kind of a weird one for me. I grew up on a Navajo reservation, and there ironically, the people there are really into Cowboy culture and Country music. So as a teenager I really rejected it, because it was always around. And then I got into punk rock, so I rejected EVERY other type of music for a while. But one summer, I was on 8 Mile Road in Beulah with my sister Chela. Her, my brother and I, we are all about mixtapes. That’s our thing. And on this particular one, the song “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” comes on, and something about driving through all the beautiful trees, the sun peeking through. All of a sudden, this song comes on, and it floors me. It was devastating, so good. And I ask my sister “Who was that?” And she tells me, “It’s Hank Williams.” So I’m like, “The country singer?!?” So I just thought about it and said “I think I like Country music now.” He’s been a big influence for me ever since. You can see the point of reference for so many different styles of music come through what he was doing. He could also take concepts down to their simplest form, in a way that didn’t seem hokey or cheesy that still seem universal. Simple song structure and killer melodies. Songs that get stuck in your head all day.
5) “American Beauty” – The Grateful Dead / I’m gonna catch a lot of flack from my punk rock friends, but this a new discovery for me. I just went and watched one of their last shows in Chicago. And now I’m all in it. For me, one of my aversions to the Dead were my friends who like them trying to get me to like them by overwhelming me with live stuff. It’s a large, like 50 year body of work. It’s intimidating. But it took a documentary about (Grateful Dead member) Bob Weir called “The Other One” to kind of peak my interest. So I pick American Beauty, probably their most accessible album. If I was going to turn on anyone to the Dead, this is the album I would use. It’s just full of 3 minute songs. Not a lot of jamming in it. Just solid, really good songs. And it cites the psychedelic era of music I love. To me, they came on the scene when folk music and traditional music had reached an epicenter and needed somewhere else to go. To be communicated to a different audience. But to me, they are an extension of that American tradition. Plus, it’s great music to listen to when you’re driving down the road, plays easily, no skippers. I would’ve never thought in a million years I’d even say that, but here we are. (Laughs)
Inaiah and his cohorts in the Haunted Windchimes will be appearing live at the Arise Music Festival in Loveland, CO on August 8th. Their new live album, the aptly titled Livechimes, is available via blanktaperecords.com or on iTunes.