These days, country music may present itself as more squeaky clean than hell-raising, but don’t let the often manicured image fool you: country still likes to sing about its weed. Kacey Musgraves, Brothers Osborne and Florida Georgia Line all keep the flame burning that Gram Parsons, Johnny Cash and, of course, Willie Nelson sparked up years ago. Even Kenny Rogers has had a hand in getting country music stoned. They’re all included here, in this list of the 20 best country tracks to play while smoking a little smoke. Or chewing on some edibles, if you prefer.
Kenny Rogers’ first Top 10 hit, with the First Edition, was already three decades old by the time it appeared in The Big Lebowski, soundtracking a dream sequence in which Jeff Bridges – reeling from a drugged White Russian – plays the world’s most cosmic game of bowling. The studio version of the song is trippy enough without the Coen Brothers’ cinematography, though, featuring an epileptic guitar solo from Glen Campbell and some backwards riffs inspired by the Beatles’ later albums.
Move over, “Rum.” The Brothers have a new buzz in town. Co-written with a pre-fame Maren Morris, “Green Pastures” offers up three-minutes of pot puns and honky-tonk haze, with singer T.J. Osborne celebrating the end of a no-good relationship by sparking up a joint. “I don’t want this dirt no more; I’m trading it for grass,” he announces on his way out the door, while his guitar-hero brother John chimes in with bursts of compressed, twangy Telecaster.
There’s something inherently stoner-friendly about double albums. Co-written with Brent Cobb, “Good Ol’ Days” helps kick off the second half of Lambert’s The Weight of These Wings, mixing vocal harmonies and acoustic guitars with an easygoing, breezy bounce. It’s the sort of song that’s built for back-porch guitar pulls and campfire singalongs, two prime opportunities for winding down and smoking up. The good ol’ days, indeed.
The longest track on 2014’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, “It Ain’t All Flowers” rides a seven-minute rollercoaster of twists, turns, lows and haunting highs. The final two minutes may be the psychedelic pinnacle of Simpson’s career, sending the listener down a rabbit hole of vocal loops, backwards instruments, phased percussion and guitar noise. Metamodern‘s kickoff song, “Turtles all the Way Down,” sings the praises of marijuana, LSD, mushrooms and DMT, but “It Ain’t All Flowers” sets those substances to music, finding art in the chemical chaos.
There’s a guilty pleasure quality to this song from the kings of bro country, which served as the second single from their second LP, Anything Goes. It’s vaguely reggae. It has mildly disturbing sexual innuendos (we could all live without “stick the pink umbrella in your drink,” for sure). It even uses a phrase that wasn’t really a thing: What is a “Sun Daze” anyway? A lazy weekend? A sweaty state of inebriation? It doesn’t really matter, because whatever it is, “Sun Daze” the song is a damn catchy ode to giving ourselves permission to kick back and get high. Besides, who wants to spend every stoned Sunday pensively pondering the meaning of life? This one’s for forgetting your troubles, bro.
While an electric guitar bashes out a Keith Richards-inspired riff, Stapleton howls, huffs and puffs away his problems, looking for salvation – or at least temporary distraction – in sativa. He then watches the evening news, committing the kind of stoner faux pas that can immediately sour a good, clean buzz. His response to watching a tear-jerking segment about dead soldiers: “Now I know they’ve got a job to do, but if I had one wish, I wish they’d all come home. . .so we could all get stoned.”
Part hippie, part hillbilly, “Panama Red,” from one of New Riders of the Purple Sage’s most successful records, The Adventures of Panama Red, is a groovy psychedelic romp perfect for cruising along the highways with the windows down – or up, if you’re in the market for turning your Ford into a fish bowl. New Riders, whose original lineup boasted members of the Grateful Dead, knew a thing or two about cranking out country-rock that thrived on California free lovin’ but always had solid roots. “Panama Red,” for example, was written by bluegrass musician Peter Rowan. Here, New Riders leave the blue behind but keep the grass fully intact.
Parsons was already dead by the time Grievous Angel hit stores, bringing with it a new batch of cosmic country classics. On the kickoff track, the late songwriter returns to town after a long adventure back east, eager to spill all the sordid details to his girl, the bonnet-wearing Annie Rich. His travelogue unfolds like something out of a Hunter S. Thompson novel, full of saloons, billboards and amphetamines.
The final single from 2009’s Carolina, “Smoke a Little Smoke” is a boot-stomping ode to relaxation, sung by a man who prefers Mary Jane to Marlboros. Church’s girl has flown the coop and his world is threatening to spin out of the control. Looking for some sort of anchor, he uncorks a wine bottle and packs a bowl, finding solace in substance. Is he regaining his bearings or just getting lost? Perhaps a bit of both. . .but once the chorus hits, who cares?
Harris stumbles into grace with this funky salute to getting busy, written alongside her former husband, Paul Kennerley. An earthy, joyous jumble of organ, noodling guitar, gospel harmonies and astrology mumbo-jumbo, “Jupiter Rising” nods to Harris’ early days, back when she was swapping harmonies with country-rock hippie Gram Parsons. Red Dirt Girl? How about Red-Eyed Girl?
you want to get to heaven you’ve got to D-I-E,” sings Waylon Jennings
on this Seventies outlaw classic that showed just how slyly the legend could
rock. “You gotta put on your coat
and T-I-E.” It’s a simple couplet, perfect for mulling over in an
intoxicated state of mind: this is country, existential style. As the lore
goes, the track cuts off abruptly because an argument in the studio forced
Jennings to use a version of the song that never intended to be heard – so part
of the fun is not only enjoying his particular breed of Southern badass, but
also imagining what may have gone on behind closed doors. And if you can’t use
your imagination while high, then what’s the point?
Willie Nelson and reggae go together like, well, Willie and weed, so it was no surprise when the Texas legend tapped into the spirit of Jamaica on 2005’s Countryman. On “Sitting in Limbo,” Nelson blends his Lone Star spirit with that classic off-beat island swank, and the result is a perfect merging of minds – and also the perfect soundtrack to scrambling yours to oblivion. Released first by Jimmy Cliff, “Sitting in Limbo” was often covered by Jerry Garcia, and it’s deceptively deeper than its infectious groove would suggest. “Sitting here in limbo, got some time to search my soul,” sings Nelson: he might allow plenty of time to get high, but he’s not going to waste those moments on mindlessness, either.
Sir Douglas Quintet, formed by Doug Sahm – perhaps one of country’s most unsung, soulful voices – took the psychedelic groove of Seventies rock and infused it with Texas grit, coming out with tracks like “At the Crossroads” that teeter between introspective jam and euphoric wayward drifter. With a smooth bass line, vox organ and Sahm’s delivery that’s booming, bold and broken, “At the Crossroads” doesn’t need to be listened to high to be transporting, but it certainly can’t hurt. It’s the kind of song made for closed eyes and open minds, when there’s nothing else in life to focus on but the music itself.
Written by Kris Kristofferson and made a hit by Johnny Cash, “Sunday Morning Coming Down” is not for those who seek a shallow high: devastatingly honest and packed with pain, it’s as sad as it is classic. Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest and reflection, but, for Kristofferson, it was one of despair, and this 1969 song was written after his wife and child deserted him in Nashville. “And there’s nothing short a’ dying / That’s half as lonesome as the sound / Of the sleeping city sidewalk / And Sunday morning coming down,” Cash sings. Time spent stoned has a way of forcing us to focus on what matters, and this track doubles down on that promise.
Working too much. Not spending enough time with the kids. Never seeing the Eiffel Tower. Typical end-of-life regrets, to which Gretchen Wilson adds something new: never getting high. On this track from 2013’s Right on Time, Wilson follows a 92-year-old grandma who has never been stoned and suddenly realizes what she has been missing. As she looks at, if her exhales are numbered, they might as well contain a little smoke. Even if you’re not 92 and picking up the pipe for the first time, there’s a lesson to be had: it’s never too late to seize the day. “You live your life until it’s gone,” sings Wilson in her raspy, Midwest drawl, encouraging grandma to YOLO with a little THC.
Kacey Musgraves got the shaft from country radio for referencing weed on “Follow Your Arrow.” Nevertheless, she persisted, repeatedly sing about pot over and over again on her second album, Pageant Material. That’s the rebel spirit alive and well. The beauty of “High Time” isn’t only in nods to the green stuff, but in the atmosphere: with handclaps, whistles and strings, it’s a relaxed breed of country perfect for reconnecting with life outside the fast lane. “I’ve been too low, so it’s high time,” sings Musgraves. If she can ditch the pageantry and the pressures, so can we.
Tasjan rides a stoned, swampy groove on this Silver Tears standout, offering up plenty of baked wordplay (“It’s quite a feat how they keep stepping on your toes“) along the way. A song about the various bummers of modern-day life – including cops, homophobes and Millennial malaise – “Hard Life” cushions its blow with blasts of brass and barroom piano, with Tasjan’s acoustic guitar gluing everything together.
Any self-respecting toker would queue up Willie Nelson in their required listening, but Phosphorescent’s take on the Red Headed Stranger casts a new spin on those timeless songs thanks to singer Matthew Houck’s ethereal palate. Nelson and Merle Haggard’s original self-aware stoner anthem gets a modern sheen on To Willie, Phosphorescent’s 2009 tribute LP. It’s never smart to be totally unaware of the consequences of getting high, and Phosphorescent ups that quotient here – it’s just a touch more battered and broken than the original, while still being beautiful, a sonic reminder of what gets passed over when you always pass the J.
In sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer and … for stoned and sober? All anyone ever wants to do is to be loved, and there’s nothing better than finding someone who loves you, habits and all. Especially when those habits include getting high. On Red Dirt ruffian Jason Boland’s “When I’m Stoned,” from 2009’s Somewhere in the Middle, an understanding partner gets the honky-tonk treatment. “Don’t want me in an office or in a three-piece suit,” he sings. Boland’s reminding us never to settle for a nagging lover, and “When I’m Stoned” is the perfect anthem for anyone who needs a little courage to a kick judgmental one to the curb.
Co-written with fellow Atlanta resident Shawn Mullins, “Toes” finds Brown sitting ankle-keep in tropical water, enjoying the virtues (and vices) of island life, with baking outside in the hot weather the only thing on his to-do list. “Gonna lay in the hot sun and roll a big fat one and grab my guitar and play,” he says, clearly more interested in pot than piña coladas. Behind him, the band builds its way toward a bilingual chorus that sings the praises of tequila, muchachas and marijuana.