A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Each month, Our State senior editor — and resident soundtrack maker — Mark Kemp, a former music editor of Rolling Stone, curates a one-of-a-kind Spotify playlist featuring North Carolina songs

Madison County Championship Rodeo

Each month, Our State senior editor — and resident soundtrack maker — Mark Kemp, a former music editor of Rolling Stone, curates a one-of-a-kind Spotify playlist featuring North Carolina songs

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Each month, Our State senior editor — and resident soundtrack maker — Mark Kemp, a former music editor of Rolling Stone, curates a one-of-a-kind Spotify playlist featuring North Carolina songs

An Our State Playlist: The North Carolina Music Primer

Each month, Our State senior editor — and resident soundtrack maker — Mark Kemp, a former music editor of Rolling Stone, curates a one-of-a-kind Spotify playlist featuring North Carolina songs and musicians.


It’s always hard to choose a finite number of essential songs for any occasion — and choosing 10 essential songs about North Carolina was even harder. There are very old songs by Randolph County-born Charlie Poole that hint at North Carolina life in the 1920s and ’30s, and there are contemporary rap songs by artists like Greenville-born Petey Pablo that boast about our state today in language that may not be suitable for work or family reunions. So, I’ve chiseled this list down to 10 songs that celebrate North Carolina’s beauty and wonder in music and words that would be appropriate for any occasion.

Everybody knows “Carolina in My Mind” by James Taylor, the nostalgic ode to North Carolina’s sunshine, moonshine, and skies that are on fire. And “Carolina Girls,” the playful beach-music classic about the beautiful people of North Carolina originally recorded by the Chairmen of the Board (and here represented by doo-wop singer Eugene Pitt). And then there’s the familiar acoustic-guitar folk-music classic “Freight Train,” written by a teenage Elizabeth Cotten as she sat on the front porch of her Carrboro home and listened to the roar of a passing train.

Have I left out some wonderful choices? Of course. That’s because there are way more than 10 great songs about North Carolina. And that’s where you come in: Enjoy these 10 essential North Carolina songs — and then tell us about the ones that you would have chosen.


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