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What do Krispy Kreme and Nina Simone have in common? They’re both from the great state of North Carolina.
Many successful musicians are from North Carolina, and it offers scenic views and historical landmarks that make it a wonderful state to visit.
Did you know that one of the most effective ways to learn about a place is to listen to music about it? Music helps your brain to absorb information more easily.
So we’ve put together these 12 songs about North Carolina as an introduction, with tracks detailing its unique beauty and other reasons to love the state.
12 Songs About North Carolina
1. “Carolina in My Mind” by James Taylor
“In my mind I’m gone to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine?
Can’t you just feel the moonshine?
And, ain’t it just like a friend of mine.”
The majority of North Carolina has a “humid subtropical climate,” apart from the subtropical highland climate found in the higher elevations of the Appalachians. The most pleasant weather can be experienced throughout May, September, and October.
However, deep in the Appalachian Mountains lies a secret.
For over three centuries, North Carolina was a source of illicit moonshine manufacturing. Farmers would set up illegal liquor stills concealed in the enormous mountain landscape to make more money distilling their surplus grain instead of selling the crops. That is why North Carolina is known as “the Moonshine State.”
In this 1969 soft rock track by James Taylor, the narrator feels homesick for Carolina and reminisces about the sunshine, moonshine, and other familiar comforts.
2. “North Cack” by G Yamazawa
“Bull City cornbread, cornbread fed
I’m Bull City cornbread, cornbread, cornbread, cornbread.”
“It’s the North Cack baby I’m a boss
Carolina barbecue sauce, with the slaw.”
The primary cuisine North Carolina is barbecue. They have two styles: Eastern and Lexington. Eastern BBQ is a whole hog seasoned with tangy vinegar and pepper sauce and cooked over oak coals.
Lexington BBQ (also called Western-style or Piedmont) uses “dip” made from tomatoes, vinegar, red pepper flakes, and other spices. The sauce is also used as a seasoning base for the “red slaw” of “barbecue slaw” instead of mayonnaise.
3. “Cornbread and Butterbeans” by Carolina Chocolate Drops
“Cornbread and butterbeans and you across the table
Eatin’ beans and makin’ love as long as I am able.”
“Growin’ corn and cotton too and when the day is over
Ride the mule and cut the fool and love again all over.”
North Carolinians are known for their love of hearty food, period.
In addition to barbecue, the state is abundant with culinary tradition shown in local favorites such as chicken-fried steak, Indian tacos, fried-onion burgers, and much more.
This track offers an appetizer for another area of their traditional music and culinary history.
4. “Carolina Moon” by Scotty McCreery, Featuring Alison Krauss
“Now the years have blown by me like the wind through the pines
But the song of the south is ever sweet as homemade wine
Oh, how I miss those mountains when the laurels are in bloom
And the southern stars are dancin’ ‘round a North Carolina moon.”
North Carolina is known for its magnificent mountains.
As well as visiting the beaches, you can head inland to experience the multiple sub-ranges of the Appalachian Mountains. Stretched across Carolina’s western region are the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains.
In this track, the narrator expresses missing the mountains, the moon, and Southern stars.
5. “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show
“Headed down south to the land of the pines
And I’m thumbin’ my way into North Caroline
Starin’ up the road
Pray to God I see headlights”
Carolina is renowned for its rugged pine trees.
Historically, the longleaf pine has been harvested for tar and timber products. Pine trees are so essential to North Carolina that in 1963 they were recognized as the state tree.
6. “Crop Comes In” by Chatham County Line
“Come see me when the crop comes in
When the water’s high, you can afford to spend.”
North Carolina is home to many successful musicians.
Though the lyrics in this track do not directly reference North Carolina, they offer a traditional North Carolinian musical arrangement. Chatham Country Line established itself as bridging the gap between customary bluegrass music and a new interpretation of those influences.
Their “Crop Comes In” track can be described as a bittersweet but beautiful example of Carolina’s modern collection of exceptional roots musicians.
North Carolina is known as a music state, offering music from across all genres. With recognized traditions of rock and roll, bluegrass, jazz, blues, funk, hip-hop, and everything in between. There’s a long list of musical artists who made it big in the industry that were either born or raised there.
Many of these artists helped shape American music, including Nina Simone, Ben E. King, and Tori Amos. The state has also produced successful American Idol contestants like Fantasia, Kellie Pickler, and Clay Aiken.
7. “Tobacco Road” by John D. Loudermilk
“Grew up in a dusty shack
And all I had was a’hangin’ on my back
Only you know how I loathe
This place called Tobacco Road.”
This semi-autobiographical song is essentially about Loudermilk’s viewpoint and struggles growing up outside of Durham. Durham is a city in North Carolina known for its scholarly institutions and technology companies.
Loudermilk originally recorded this track in 1960, which became a hit for many artists, notably The Nashville Teens in 1964.
8. “Crow Jane” by Etta Baker and John Dee Holeman
“You know, I let her down with a golden chain
And every link I would call my Crow Jane’s name
Crow Jane, Crow … Crow Jane, Crow …”
The musical composition of “Crow Jane” by Baker and Holeman demonstrates the style of fingerpicked acoustic music closely connected to Durham’s former thriving tobacco industry.
Their rendition of “Crow Jane” was credited to Delta blues singer, pianist, guitarist, and songwriter Skip James. Holeman occasionally performed in Durham up until his recent death at age 92.
9. “Oh, My Sweet Carolina” by Ryan Adams
“Oh, my sweet Carolina
What compels me to go?
Oh, my sweet disposition
May you one day carry me home.”
Ryan Adams has sung many songs about Carolina. Since “Carolina” is also a woman’s name, his songs cleverly take on different meanings. His “Oh, My Sweet Carolina” track is essentially about feeling lost as he travels and distracts himself in random cities with meaningless activities from wanting to return home to her.
10. “Pretty Girl From Raleigh” by Avett Brothers
“And I would like to thank you
For coming round and doing this
My nights have been pretty painful
Losing that pain was always the trick …”
Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina.
“Pretty Girl From Raleigh” has no direct references to North Carolina. However, it’s about ending a relationship with a girl from Raleigh. Its musical arrangement has a heavy North Carolinian influence as an homage to the state.
11. “Raise Up” by Petey Pablo
“This one’s for North Carolina, come on and raise up
Spin it like a helicopter
North Carolina, come on and raise up”
Rapper Petey Pablo gave North Carolina a prideful, aspiring anthem with this high-energy “crunk” track. To this day, you’ll hear this bona fide radio hit blasting through the rafters during a basketball game at the Dean Dome.
12. “Gone to Carolina” by Shooter Jennings
“Every time I think I smell that sweet southern rain
It takes me to a station on the long black train.”
“So I’m gone, yes, I’m gone
Gone to Carolina, where I know that I belong.”
The theme of missing North Carolina and wanting to return appears to be felt by natives, nationals, and visitors alike.
This country track by Shooter Jennings perfectly captures North Carolinians feeling homesick and getting back home no matter what.
Final Thoughts on Songs About North Carolina
We hope these 12 songs about North Carolina have given you some insight into how incredible the state is. Many of the tracks are about how eager the author is to return. It sounds like the place to be!
If you’re planning to visit, be sure to check out these tracks and when you get there, sample the delicious food and enjoy the abundance of musical culture and history.
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