35 Best Songs About Alabama: The Cotton State

Alabama is a state with a long and controversial history that is evident in the music made about it. The quintessential Southern state, it’s home to a wide array of people and perhaps the most rabid college football fans in the nation. In this article, we’ll take a look at the 35 best songs ever written about The Cotton State.

1. Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd 

Sweet Home Alabama

There’s absolutely no shot that I could start this list with absolutely any song other than Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama. It’s a ubiquitous Southern rock track that resonates with anyone living across the South, whether they actually have a home in the state or not. It was released in 1974 in response to Neil Young’s song Southern Man, which the band felt blamed the entire South for slavery.

That isn’t an apple I plan on biting into in this article, I’d rather focus on how awesome the track is. It rose to number eight on the Hot 100 in 1974 and became a signature song and the highest charting single of their career. It’s an absolute classic and easily the best track about Alabama out there. 

2. My Home’s in Alabama – Alabama 

My Home's in Alabama

I also have no way of doing a list like this without including the band whose namesake happens to be the state I’m writing about. Alabama is a musical staple of the Southern country scene, and while they may have more popular hits that name drop their home state, there is no better ode to Alabama in their repertoire than this one. It served as the title track of their fourth album, pays homage to their southern rock roots, and was also released alongside their first two number-one singles. 

3. Midnight in Montgomery – Alan Jackson 

Alan Jackson - Midnight in Montgomery (Official Music Video)

Midnight In Montgomery brought home several well-deserved awards for Alan Jackson. It served as a mournful tribute to Hank Williams, a country music legend who was from the city of Montgomery, Alabama. In the song, Jackson visits the grave of Williams and encounters his ghost, who thanks him for stopping by before disappearing into the wind. It referenced several of Williams’ hit songs and is set in the state as a whole. 

4. Paint Me a Birmingham – Tracy Lawrence

Tracy Lawrence - Paint Me A Birmingham (Lyric Video)

Paint Me A Birmingham is about a singer encountering a man painting ocean scenes. He asks him to paint the life he had planned for himself before he lost the woman he loved, including a Birmingham-style house, which becomes the focus of the song and the place where the two can reconcile their love. It was a hit for both Tracy Lawrence and Ken Mellons—the artists released it as a single concurrently—but her version was the bigger one, rising to number four on the country charts. 

5. Talladega – Eric Church 

Eric Church - Talladega (Official Music Video)

Talladega was one of the biggest hits to come from Eric Church’s album The Outsiders. While the title of the song is in reference to the city in Alabama, most of the track takes place in the state along Interstate 65. It’s a song about a road trip, which is in essence about enjoying the special moments with the people around you. After being released as a single in 2012, the track broke into the Hot 100 and rose as high as number two on the country charts. 

6. Alabama – Bishop Gunn 

Bishop Gunn - Alabama

Not all of the songs on this list are a celebration of Southern culture. Bishop Gunn’s Alabama takes a darker look at the region, telling the story of a “good Samaritan” who gives a ride to an attractive woman. On the radio, he hears a radio bulletin about a woman wanted for murder who matches the description of the woman he’s giving a ride to. The track transitions to his thoughts as he wonders whether he’s doomed to die in the state, but whether or not he does is left up in the air by the end of the song.

7. Stars Fell On Alabama – Billie Holiday 

Stars Fell On Alabama

Stars Fell On Alabama was originally written by Frank Perkins and Mitchell Parish in 1934, and it became a jazz standard in the decades following its publication. It’s mainly focused on the Leonid meteor shower that was observed in the state in 1833, which also inspired a 1930s book of the same title as the song. Over 100 artists have recorded the track over the years, with singers like John Coltrane, Bob Dylan, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, and Billie Holiday all taking a turn with the song. 

8. Alabama High-Test – Old Crow Medicine Show

Old Crow Medicine Show - "Alabama High Test" Live at Lightning 100 studio

Alabama High-Test is a fun and energetic song about a driver who happened to be under the influence while driving through the state. After being pulled over, they’re subjected to a test to see if they consumed anything illegal in Alabama—which is most things—and if they get caught they’ll be thrown in prison. While it could be a lyrically dark story, the track ends up being a great comedy set in the state that discusses Alabama’s strict laws. 

9. Angel From Montgomery – John Prine 

Angel from Montgomery

Angel From Montgomery first appeared on John Prine’s 1971 album, but it’s been covered extensively by other artists in the decades since its initial release. It speaks from the viewpoint of a woman in an unhappy marriage, dreaming of flying away and heading to the rodeo. But the song isn’t just about escaping a loveless marriage, it’s about escaping the city and the state of Alabama itself. 

10. Song of the South – Alabama

Alabama - Song Of The South (Official Video)

Song Of The South might be one of the band Alabama’s most famous songs, but their version is actually a cover. It was originally written by Bob McDill and recorded by Bobby Bare for his 1980 album Drunk & Crazy. Alabama’s version was a number-one hit on the US and Canadian country charts in 1988 and turned out to be one of their most memorable tracks.

It tells the story of a poor Southern family that owns a cotton farm where they work hard for very little payoff. It ended up being a track that told the story of many poor families in the South, especially Alabama, eventually being forced into the cities for work. 

11. Alabama Pines – Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit "Alabama Pines" (Official Video)

Jason Isbell’s Alabama Pines is a major nitpick of city life in Alabama. He highlights how tough the cops can be to deal with, even for minor things, and laments the state of the place he’s staying as well as the traffic and congestion of the place. The majority of the song is spent pining—see what I did there?—for his home in rural Alabama. It’s a nostalgic track about homesickness that most people will be able to relate to, even if they aren’t thinking of the state when they listen to it for themselves. 

12. Alabama Song (Whisky Bar) – The Doors

Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)

The Doors recorded Alabama Song (Whisky Bar) in 1967, but it found life much earlier. Their version was translated from a German track by Bertolt Brecht in 1925. David Bowie and The Doors both recorded versions of the song later on. The Doors’ version was changed significantly from the original, combining their psychedelic and ska influences into a single track. It’s a fun and dreamy song that has likely served as the theme music for quite a few drunken nights in the state. 

13. The Ride – David Allan Coe

The Ride tells the story of a hitchhiker thumbing their way through Alabama and being fortunate—or unfortunate—enough to encounter the ghost of Hank Williams Sr. The driver that picks him up had sunken eyes and was driving an antique Cadillac, a reference to the baby blue Cadillac Williams died in. The “ghost” asks the narrator if they have any musical talent, and the song is set on U.S. Route 31, a highway that parallels Interstate 65. 

14. Roll Tide Roll – Carter Hamric

Carter Hamric "Roll Tide Roll" Jamie Cooper Gloria Cooper

We can’t possibly talk about this state without bringing up college football and the University of Alabama. Even disregarding the team’s dominance of the sport over the last two decades—and earlier success—fandom for the school verges on cult-like.

Roll Tide Roll is based on one of the chants commonly heard at their stadium in Tuscaloosa. For Carter Hamric, the song was an immediate success, sounding much like the old country music people in the state thrive on despite coming out in 2009 and finding a huge amount of radio play after its initial release. 

15. Bama Breeze – Jimmy Buffet

Bama Breeze might not refer to a real bar, but it is about all the little bars that dot the Gulf Coast region’s beaches. An homage to all of the bars destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, both in Alabama and in states that were hit harder, Jimmy Buffet perfectly captures the beauty of those tiny dives and the special place they hold in the culture of the region. The title of the song was even used as the name of one of his tours in 2007. 

16. Honky Tonk Highway – Luke Combs

Luke Combs - Honky Tonk Highway (Audio)

If you want an optimistic song about life in Alabama and life as a musician, look no further than Luke Combs’ track Honky Tonk Highway. Touring is a lifestyle that most people don’t enjoy, but it seems to fit him just fine as he drives toward and through the state, discussing life on the road as he goes. It’s a sentiment tribute to Alabama and the lifestyle of musicians that rarely gets talked about by fans.

17. King Cotton – The Secret Sisters 

Cotton was the biggest crop in Alabama for quite some time, earning it the nickname of “King.” The Secret Sisters’ song King Cotton sees the group reminisce about the things they miss in their home state of Alabama, from the cotton fields to the wild carrots growing in unplowed fields. While it is a track about being homesick, it isn’t a sad one. Rather, it’s a celebration of the place they came from and the fact that they’re going back home soon.

18. Alabama Blues – J. B. Lenoir 

Alabama isn’t the place for everyone, especially the people who have lost loved ones or seen tragedies there. For some, like J. B. Lenoir, there’s nothing in the world that could make them return to the state. Alabama Blues is a slow blues song about all the sadness that came his way in the state. It’s also one of the earliest tracks that was a social commentary, being released in the 1960s, as it takes an unapologetic stance on the issues people of color have faced in the state.

19. Ala-Freakin-Bama – Trace Adkins 

On the flip side, perhaps nobody is more excited about Alabama as a whole than Trace Adkins. Ala-Freakin-Bama is a love letter to the state, rattling off all kinds of references about the state from Lynyrd Skynyrd to the Crimson Tide of Alabama University. While a country song that was released in 2010, it’s got old-school rock and roll flowing through its veins. And while it wasn’t a massive hit for him, it sure is a fun single about the state.

20. Alabama Getaway – Grateful Dead 

Grateful Dead - Alabama Getaway (7" Singles Vol. 17) [Official Audio]

Grateful Dead debuted Alabama Getaway in 1979 in concert and released it on an album in 1980. It spent most of the 1980s as a staple of their concerts but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a controversial song.

The lyrics mainly focus on violent imagery in the state of Alabama, and people have argued for decades over whether or not it’s meant as a tribute to the home state of the members who ended up leaving the band. But likely, it’s just a commentary on a certain type of people in the South who look down on others for things outside of their control. 

21. Three Great Alabama Icons – Drive-By Truckers 

Three Great Alabama Icons

Three men are often referred to as the icons of Alabama, namely George Wallace, Bear Bryant, and Ronnie Van Zant. A song that deals with the biggest themes of the state, from segregation and racial issues to a deep tradition of football, it’s a spoken-word piece that focuses on the three things most non-Alabama folks associate with the state: Sweet Home Alabama, college football, and casual racism. None of which does the song take an apologetic stance on when confronting them. 

22. Sunday Birmingham – Suzy Bogguss

The area around Birmingham is one of the most beautiful places in Alabama. It isn’t completely flat the way much of the state seems to be, and it has plenty of spots to take in the natural beauty Alabama should be known for. Suzy Bogguss’ song Sunday Birmingham appreciates how pretty the area is, seeing the narrator of the track take a break from roaming around the country to soak in the city as a whole. 

23. Postmarked Birmingham – BlackHawk 

BlackHawk - Postmarked Birmingham (Official Video)

Postmarked Birmingham is a bit of a bittersweet song, in that the news the narrator gets scares him as much as it excites him. They receive a letter from a lost love postmarked from Birmingham, Alabama, indicating that they are in that city. They spent time apart, but are likely drifting back together. The news isn’t all good though, as going to Birmingham to reconcile is something that the narrator both longs for and fears at the same time. 

24. What Was I Thinkin’ – Dierks Bentley 

Dierks Bentley - What Was I Thinkin'

What Was I Thinkin’ might be the best song Dierks Bentley ever released. The track is an almost comedic story of a shotgun wedding and a car chase that serve as the backdrop for a love story that verges on touching. In the end, it’s just a young couple that wants to be together regardless of the consequences, but it’s also very clearly set in rural Alabama. 

25. Alabama Waltz – Hank Williams 

Alabama Waltz (2019 - Remaster)

Alabama Waltz is a two-fold love song from the legendary Hank Williams Sr. It lovingly describes both the state and the nostalgia of home but can just as easily be about romantic love. The track is more of a dance number than it is a lyrical masterclass, throwing a few lines in about dancing with someone you love but mainly sticking to the instrumentals. It’s an old and catchy song about the state from one of its most famous inhabitants. 

26. Merry Christmas, Alabama (Never Far From Home) – Jimmy Buffet

Jimmy Buffett - Merry Christmas, Alabama (Never Far From Home) (Audio)

Merry Christmas, Alabama is a song that wishes a merry Christmas and a joyous holiday to a number of states that Jimmy Buffet loves. Chief among them is Alabama, but the heartfelt festive track is full of goodwill and is a bit slower than most carols, giving it some extra weight behind the words. It’s definitely not the first song that comes to mind when you think of the state, but it is a unique look at the holiday season in the South. 

27. All In Alabama – Hank Williams Jr. 

Hank Williams Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps in more ways than one, but he didn’t follow the same path in his musical career. Unlike his father, Williams Jr. left Alabama to begin his career, hoping to distinguish himself. He succeeded but found that he was homesick for the place he left, just like many other musicians who left their hometowns. All In Alabama is a tribute to the state and the home he loved so much. 

28. Alabama – Neil Young 

Neil Young - Alabama (Official Audio)

Alabama isn’t specifically about the state when you look at the lyrics; Alabama simply serves as the epitome of everything Neil Young wants to talk about when it comes to racism in the South. It draws heavily on imagery surrounding slavery but also pokes fun at the banjo, which was a shot I’m not sure should have been fired. While that description sounds dark, it offers hope in the fact that music can unify people and there is the potential for a better future. 

29. Birmingham – Zach Bryan 

Zach Bryan - Birmingham

Birmingham is one of those deeper Zach Bryan cuts that are just priceless. It tells the story of a man who kills another guy in the city who is at his breaking point and doesn’t plan on surrendering once the cops show up. 

30. Old Alabama – Brad Paisley Feat. Alabama

Brad Paisley - Old Alabama ft. Alabama

Brad Paisley both had the band Alabama sing backing vocals and borrowed the bridge of their song Mountain Music for this song about the old southern music tradition. It references quite a few tracks that pay homage to the state and the band whose namesake carries it onward.

31. Nothing Sweet About Alabama – The Lost Trailers 

Nothing Sweet About Alabama

Nothing Sweet About Alabama might sound like a negative response song to Sweet Home Alabama, but it’s actually a celebration of all the great things about the state. Unfortunately, none of those things hold any weight for the singer anymore, since after he lost his love, the best things about life in Alabama are no longer as sweet as they used to be. 

32. Hello Birmingham – Ani DiFranco 

Hello Birmingham is another song that takes on the rampant racism that used to—and still does—run through the state of Alabama. It brings up some of the biggest plot points of the Civil Rights Movement, from the death of Doctor King to the integration of schools in the state. It’s a sobering historical reminder of the fight for equality. 

33. Alabama – John Coltrane 

John Coltrane’s song Alabama is an instrumental that features him on the saxophone and picks up speed as the track goes on. He famously used the rhythm of speeches given by Martin Luther King Jr. to shape the tempo and rhythm of the jazzy tribute song, effectively creating a jazz standard and one of the most creative tracks on this list. 

34. Stars in Alabama – Jamey Johnson 

Stars In Alabama is another song that talks about the feelings of homesickness that musicians often deal with, though Jamey Johnson’s Stars In Alabama is much sadder than our earlier Luke Combs entry. While Johnson finds himself still in the South (Tennessee), it isn’t home, and he just wants to be able to return to Alabama. 

35. AA – Walker Hayes

Walker Hayes - AA (Official Video)

Walker Hayes’ song AA is a bit of a comedic take on trying to keep your life together from a Southern point of view. The narrator is just trying to live a good life and keep his family on the right track, cheekily pointing out that they want to stay out of AA if that’s even possible.

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