AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Whether you’re getting your kicks on Route 66 with Nat King Cole or planning for the worst with Billy Joel, there’s no shortage of songs about the Land of Enchantment. However, what are some of the favorites for locals around the High Plains?
MyHighPlains.com asked our audience to weigh in on what they think are the best songs about New Mexico, and used the responses to compile 10 of the locals’ most loved.
Albuquerque – Neil Young
Written and performed by Neil Young, “Albuquerque” first appeared in his sixth studio album in 1975, according to the New Mexico Music Commission.
“The most noticeable feature of this track is how disciplined Young’s vocal sounds,” noted author Johnny Rogan in the book, “The Complete Guide to the Music of Neil Young,” “It’s as if he’s sobered up completely, even though the lyrics would have sounded equally appropriate if he had sung them completely out of tune.”
The song has also been covered by other musical groups, including Phish.
Clovis, New Mexico – Hank Williams, Jr.
Settled as the sixth song on Hank Williams, Jr.’s 26th album, “Hank Williams Jr. & Friends,” it’s focused on a journey Williams took with a friend that led him through Bossier City, La., Abilene, Texas, and into the titular “Clovis, New Mexico.”
Land of Enchantment – Michael Martin Murphy
The “Land of Enchantment” album, which contained the song, was the 15th album released by Michael Martin Murphy and reached #33 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. The album also held tracks such as Bobby Troup’s “Route 66” and Michael Smotherman’s “Never Givin’ Up on Love.”
New Mexico – Johnny Cash
Written by Johnny Johnson and Leon Lambson, Johnny Cash performed “New Mexico” in the 1964 album “The Original Sound of Johnny Cash.”
However, despite the love for both Cash and his rendition of the song, “New Mexico” follows the tale of a disastrous cattle drive. Initially promised a pleasant summer with good pay, the narrator is met with storms, thorns, and other misfortunes before being denied his wages.
New Mexico Rain – Michael Hearne, Bill and Bonnie Hearne
Originally written and performed by Michael Hearne, “New Mexico Rain” is an anthem that has seen covers produced by other artists such as Johnny Rodriguez as well as Hearne’s uncle and aunt, Bill and Bonnie Hearne.
The song also shares a title with the 2019 film “New Mexico Rain: The Story of Bill & Bonnie Hearne,” which focuses on the pair, their relationship, and their musical career.
Portales – Ray Wylie Hubbard
“Portales” is the seventh track on Ray Wylie Hubbard’s 1991 album “Lost Train of Thought.” Noted by the New Mexico Music Commission as a Texas singer/songwriter born in Oklahoma, Hubbard’s work was described as “tough but literate” and ranging from introspective to enthusiastic anthems.
Route 66 – Nat King Cole
Composed in 1946 by Bobby Troup and recorded that same year by Nat King Cole, with the King Cole Trio, “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” is a rhythm-and-blues journey across the western United States. It has become a standard and has been covered by a range of artists including Bing Crosby, Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones, Them, Asleep at the Wheel, John Mayer, and Depeche Mode.
Santa Fe – Jonathan Larson, Billy Aronson
“Santa Fe” is a first-act solo from the musical “RENT,” written by Jonathan Larson and Billy Aronson. In the song, the character Tom Collins discusses his dream to move to Santa Fe from New York City and open a restaurant with his lover, Angel.
However, Larson’s “Santa Fe” is by far not the only well-loved song by that title. A few other popular “Santa Fe” songs have been produced by artists including:
Tucumcari – Goodnight, Texas
Released on Goodnight, Texas’ “Conductor” album in 2019, the song focuses on its narrator’s intention to find asylum from his violent past and build a future in Tucumcari.
Worse Comes to Worst – Billy Joel
Released as the second single in the 1973 album “Piano Man,” Billy Joel’s “Worse Comes to Worst” reached #80 on the Billboard Hot 100. As described by author Ken Bielen, the song is “a little bit country, a little bit rock and a little bit gospel.”
The album also had its titular song “Piano Man” peak at #25 on the billboard list and #4 on the Adult Contemporary singles chart. The album overall peaked at #27 on the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in 1975.
Did your favorite song about New Mexico make our list?
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