Road.Trip. The two words that make a parent’s hair stand on end, due to the ensuing four-worded phrases often uttered by children while on the open highway: “Are we there yet?” “I have to pee.” “Mom, he hit me.” While we can’t chauffeur you to your destination without incident, we can make the journey more pleasant by filling it with family-friendly tunes. Here are 10 top picks of favorite albums you can buy to create a fist pumping, toe-tapping, (or in some cases, snooze-inducing) mobile jam session for your next family adventure. Also featured are favorite tracks from each album in the event you want to hit up iTunes and make one stellar mix CD.
Why They Deserve a Place on Your Playlist: Witty lyrics and punchy tunes brought forth by the pure sounds of a banjo, a guitar, and the upbeat voices of two best friends, the Okee Dokee Brothers’ Americana folk music will have you whistling Dixie. Their songs are wholesome and reminiscent of simpler times. You’ll be hard pressed not to bounce your head and pat your knees to the beat.
Top Track: Haul Away Joe off their “A Mississippi River Adventure” album. Who can resist a song with the following sweet lyrics: “Toy cars and candy bars are just a waste of money… cornbread is all you need with butter, beans and honey.”
2. Renee & Jeremy
Why They Deserve a Place on Your Playlist: Musical duo Renee & Jeremy’s voices
masterfully complement each other as they ingeniously put their own unique twist on classic, beloved songs from iconic bands including retro faves the Beatles, Queen and Supertramp, to current it-band Coldplay. You already know all of the words to old-time favorite tunes, so you can instantly sing-along to Renee & Jeremy’s new spins.
Top Track: Yellow off their “A Little Love” album somehow manages to take one of the best songs written in recent years and make it even better. Even diehard Coldplay fans will agree that this rendition of Yellow is the ultimate modern lullaby.
3. Charlie Hope
Why She Deserves a Place on Your Playlist: Charlie Hope’s voice is smooth as silk, and her whimsical beats and lighthearted lyrics make her songs catchy and fun. Her melodic delivery and peppy guitar strumming makes even the most childish lyrics resonate with the adult set — and she sings about trains, frogs, rainbows, cowboy boots and fire trucks — and nearly every other topic tots adore.
Top Track: Welcome Song off her “Songs, Stories and Friends: Let’s Go Play” album. This is the perfect song to listen to as you initially rev up your car’s engine to head out into the great wide open. The lively tempo and idealistic message will make you feel like anything is possible and that the world is at your fingertips as you welcome and greet a new day.
4. Frances England
Why She Deserves a Place on Your Playlist: Indie rocker England deftly fuses folk and pop music while delivering clever lyrics via her gorgeous voice. You will drink up her refreshing and invigorating music as though it’s the auditory equivalent of a cold drink on a hot summer day. Her mellow songs are simple and sweet and her enchanting vibe translates kid-friendly lyrics into music with universal appeal.
Top Track: Vacation Delights off her “Mind of My Own” album is a song about a child’s perspective of a road trip, from the back seat of the car. It has a rock n’ roll edge and a catchy beat that will make it the tried and true theme song of the trip.
5. Barney Saltzberg
Why He Deserves a Place on Your Playlist: In addition to being an accomplished singer/songwriter, Saltzberg is an acclaimed storyteller and author of 30 children’s books. His songs are like short stories that will keep the whole family entertained and chuckling.
Top Track: Someone’s Sleepy off his “Goodnight Kisses” album. A departure from his typical looney lyrics and lively beats, Someone’s Sleepy is the perfect song for long road trips where a nap is required. Just make sure the driver doesn’t listen too intently, as it will be nearly impossible for any drowsy person not to fall asleep to this hypnotic lullaby.
6. The Not-Its!
Why They Deserve a Place on Your Playlist: Dubbed America’s most rockin’ kindie band, the Seattle based musicians perform rock music for kids and parents, and they want to be your kid’s first rock music experience. The Not-Its are the answer to the popular parental dilemma of wanting to listen to rock n’ roll music for the amped up guitars, drumming and high-energy, but needing kid-appropriate lyrics to make rock n’ roll suitable for the whole family.
Top Track: Great to be a Kid off their “Tag You’re It!” album. Great to be a Kid gets little ones psyched to get outside and play in nature and drum-up memorable adventures. This song fuels head-banging action for the pint-size set. The lively nature of this song will pull you through the final, seemingly endless stretch of the trip before arriving at your destination.
7. Jack Johnson
Why He Deserves a Place on Your Playlist: Nothing evokes the spirit of a summer vacation like the laid back vibe of Hawaii, and Jack Johnson’s music is infused with the graceful spirit of the island he calls home. Moms dig Jack’s sensitivity and it doesn’t hurt that he’s drop-dead gorgeous. And dads will think Jack’s a cool dude who can really play the guitar.
Top Track: Better Together off his “In Between Dreams” album
If there’s one thing that’s required for a road trip, it’s solidarity. Better Together drives home the point that your family is a team and that you should stick together like glue on the journey ahead, loving and appreciating each other every step of the way.
Note: Jack Johnson’s “Curious George” soundtrack is his best all around kid-centric album, but his other albums will resonate more with the entire family.
8. Lisa Loeb
Why She Deserves a Place on Your Playlist: Loeb’s silly stories sung to music will strike a chord with young children and make parents chuckle. Her new CD, Lisa Loeb’s Silly Sing-Along: The Disappointing Pancake and Other Zany Songs is a mobile musical story time and it just may keep kids content for a nice portion of the trip. The CD is part of a book set, so if your younguns don’t get car sick while reading, let them follow the music with the book. Kids and parents will quickly memorize the 10 songs and fall in love with the endearing characters in the “zany” stories.
Top Track: The Disappointing Pancake, the title track off her “Lisa Loeb’s Silly Sing-Along: The Disappointing Pancake and Other Zany Songs” album
This song tells a cute story about the adventures of a pancake and acts more like an audio book that will keep kids entertained as they imagine a pancake on its many travels around the world. It gives the meatball in “On Top of Spaghetti” a run for its money.
9. Rockabye Baby
Why They Deserve a Place on Your Playlist: If you’re traveling with an infant, lullabies are the stuff dreams are made of. When paired with the usually foolproof motion induced nap a car ride evokes, Rockabye Baby music will send babes off to dreamland in no time. The songs have no lyrics, and they are instrumental “lullaby renditions of baby’s favorite rock bands. “Guitars and drums are traded for soothing mellotrons, vibraphones and bells, and the volume is turned down from an eleven to a two.”
Top Track: Best of You off the “Foo Fighters” album will have parents quietly rocking out in the front seat while baby is in a deep slumber in the backseat.
10. Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band
Why They Deserve a Place on Your Playlist: Lucky Diaz and Alisha Gaddis are dripping with “cool” in both appearance and musical chops. It’s impossible not to feel downright giddy listening to their music, given its peppy harmonies and head-bopping, toe-tapping rhythm.
Top Track: Let’s Dance off of their “Oh Lucky Day” album will no doubt inspire a “family jam” in the minivan. Sing and dance along to burn off some pent-up steam!
Got some other suggestions for a great summer road trip playlist? Leave us a comment below and share the musical love.
— Beth Shea