West Virginia is the quintessentially Appalachian state. Home to football, coal mining, and beautiful mountains, it has a rich history and cultural heritage that firmly roots residents in the area where they grew up. West Virginia instills nostalgia in people, whether you’re someone who was born there or you just visited for a little while. A base of country and folk music, the state has more to offer than just those two genres. In this article, we’ll take a look at the 35 best songs ever recorded about The Mountain State.
1. Sixteen Tons – Tennessee Ernie Ford
There probably isn’t a more perfect thematic description for West Virginia than a song about coal mines. Tennessee Ernie Ford was one of several artists to put their stamp on Sixteen Tons, but the track is a snapshot of the grueling conditions miners across the Appalachian region had to deal with on a daily basis.
For a time, many didn’t even make any money from their labor, being forced to buy supplies, groceries, and tools from the very company they were employed with. This song is a reminder of the emotional and physical toll those jobs took on people in West Virginia and the way it shaped the culture of the region for decades.
2. Take Me Home, Country Roads – John Denver
I think this might be the top spot on the list if you could argue it was only about the state of West Virginia and not the western part of Virginia. The Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah River are mostly associated with the latter of the two, though both cross over West Virginia’s border a little bit.
Regardless of what you believe John Denver really meant, Take Me Home, Country Roads has become an anthem of both states and an unofficial anthem of the state of West Virginia, played at political rallies and sports events all the time.
3. Come Home to West Virginia – Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.
Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. is a West Virginia native and the winner of the sixth season of America’s Got Talent. In 2016, he released Come Home To West Virginia, a song that pays tribute to his home state and the people who live there. From the strength and resilience of the residents to the wonderful natural scenes of the state, it might shine one of the most positive lights on West Virginia of any track out there.
4. Leaving West Virginia – Kathy Mattea
Many people who leave their home states end up regretting it and wanting to go home. That’s definitely the case here, as Kathy Mattea’s song Leaving West Virginia is a track that both laments leaving and describes how much she wants to go home. It’s a nostalgic song, leaning on her memories in the state and the loved ones she left behind, but it’s also a very common feeling for artists after they’ve left home.
5. He’s in Dallas – Reba McEntire
He’s In Dallas is an emotional song from Reba McEntire that’s all about a woman from West Virginia who left the state for a man who made a lot of promises to her. She eventually becomes unhappy with her life outside of the state, deciding she has to go back to her roots in West Virginia to raise her son and find a little bit of happiness again. It’s another great track about getting back in touch with your roots, centered on the state being the best home for the protagonist of the song.
6. West Virginia My Home – Hazel Dickens
Hazel Dickens is one of the best folk singer-songwriters out there. Her entire album Hard Hitting Songs For Hard Hit People is incredible, but West Virginia My Home is a true look at life in Appalachia. She manages to create a sense of nostalgia for the natural beauty of the state she was born in but also tells the stories of working-class people who live there. It’s a deeply personal track and one that perfectly captures the spirit of West Virginia.
7. Hills of West Virginia – Phil Ochs
Hills Of West Virginia is a tribute to both West Virginia and the mountain regions of the western side of Virginia. The entire region is stunningly beautiful, full of green mountains and a distinctive Appalachian culture. The song itself describes the beauty of the landscape, from its rolling hills to its winding rivers. It’s both a touching love letter to the state and the perfect description of its natural wonders for people who have never visited, but it goes a bit deeper and discusses the lives of the working-class people who call the area home.
8. The Last Public Hanging in West Virginia – Flatt & Scruggs
The Last Public Hanging In West Virginia is a true track that’s based on the final public hanging in the state in 1897. It’s a mournful tune that tells the story of the man who was hanged and the reaction of people in the area, basing most of the lyrics on newspaper articles from the time. It’s a reminder of brutal Appalachian justice and how harsh life can be in the area, making it a standout song about West Virginia and its history.
9. Jamboree Jones – Johnny Mercer
Johnny Mercer found a hit when he released Jamboree Jones in 1942. The song is a happy swing track that talks about how fun a country jamboree can be. Much of the song is traditional, old-school folk music, perfecting the art of describing a close-knit community and combining it with the big band style of music.
10. Union, God and Country – Steve Earle
Steve Earle released Union, God And Country on Ghosts Of West Virginia, an entire album dedicated to the 2010 mine disaster in Raleigh County. Twenty-nine miners died in the explosion and much of the album draws from interviews with survivors and their families. This song references West Virginia as a home of mining and uses the team color of West Virginia University and the state’s bad history with mining unions as talking points.
11. Morning Morgantown – Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell released Morning Morgantown in 1970 on her album Ladies Of The Canyon. The song talks about the close-knit community of Morgantown, West Virginia, and the sense of connection that comes with living a simple life in a small town. Despite feeling dragged down and stuck in the place, she makes it seem as though she never wants to leave anyway. A folk classic from her, the track has become a standard in the state.
12. West Virginia Wildflower – Stacey Grubb
West Virginia Wildflower is another great song about the natural beauty of the state. Inspired by both the enchanting nature of the rural areas and the spirit of the people who live there, the track tells the story of a wildflower that’s able to continue growing through any sort of trouble. It’s a testament to both the serene nature of West Virginia and the attitudes of the people there when hardship comes their way.
13. Coal Camp Memories – Hominy Falls
Many of West Virginia’s communities were built on the coal mining business, with entire towns popping up in support of mines. It’s woven into the fabric of the state in an inseparable way and plays perhaps the most important role in the history of West Virginia. Coal Camp Memories is a song that tells stories of the men and women who worked and lived in mining camps, focusing on the struggles they faced and the experiences that made them happy.
14. Charleston Girl – Tyler Childers
Tyler Childers might hail from Kentucky, but Kentucky and West Virginia are two inseparable entities so he knows a thing or two about life there. His song Charleston Girl is a tribute to a girl from the city who has apparently captured his heart. It mostly focuses on the titular girl in the lyrics, though it does spend time talking about the roads and scenic beauty of the West Virginia landscape as well.
15. Blue Ridge Mountain Song – Alan Jackson
Blue Mountain Ridge Song is a celebration of Appalachia as a whole, but it goes a bit deeper than that. The track discusses the importance of keeping traditions alive and how regional customs are an integral part of people’s identity. For West Virginia, it serves as the backdrop of the song, and the local mountain communities that have a rich cultural history are lauded as being worthy of being remembered.
16. West Virginia Gals – Al Hopkins
People from West Virginia are almost always proud to be from there. The closeness of the community, the sense of belonging, and the pride associated with it are extremely strong. Al Hopkins tells a story of what it’s like to live there in West Virginia Gals, a song that talks about how great the people who live there are and serves as a testament to the connection between residents and their hometowns.
17. Wild West Virginia – Daniel Johnston
West Virginia is largely considered a unique state because of the closeness of its communities and the rich culture that has developed in its mountains. Living in rural areas brings with it a simple joy, as the complex webs of social expectations are lesser than in urban areas. Wild West Virginia is a tribute to the forests and mountains of the state and the culture of the people who live there, the perfect example of how charming West Virginia can truly be.
18. West Virginia Chose Me – Colleen Anderson
Being from West Virginia and the connection it creates with the state isn’t just something you choose to happen. Colleen Anderson captures this extremely well in her song West Virginia Chose Me. It eloquently describes the enduring bond forged between the state and its residents by reciting many of her memories and experiences in West Virginia. No matter where else you go or how much you may not like it, the state becomes a part of your identity if you’ve spent time there.
19. REMember – Mac Miller
REMember isn’t actually about the state of West Virginia, it’s instead a tribute to one of Mac Miller’s deceased friends. The two met at a camp in the state and he spent a lot of time in the state during his childhood. The song reflects on those times and how much he enjoyed spending time in the outdoors of West Virginia with his friend as a kid. It was also one of the most poignant and deep tracks to come out on his album Watching Movies With The Sound Off.
20. West Virginia – The Front Bottoms
West Virginia seems like a pretty wild and rural place, the exact setting you would want to go on an adventure in. The Front Bottoms used the state as the setting for a journey of self-discovery and the search for your identity. As a place with a strong identity, it would be the right place to go for many to see what they’re made of. The rock outfit also blends themes of relationships and their complexities into the track as well.
21. Small Town – Nappy Roots
Being a West Virginian comes with a sense of belonging, largely because of the closeness of the communities and the relatively small size of the state in comparison to the size of its personality. Nappy Roots’ song Small Town is a loving tribute to the feeling of belonging that comes with being from West Virginia and the comfort of a small-town lifestyle. For them, there’s no place as warm, welcoming, and serene as this state.
22. Girl From West Virginia – Doyle Lawson
Girl From West Virginia focuses a lot on applauding the beauty of a woman who happens to be from The Mountain State, but it also spends plenty of time discussing the picturesque landscapes of her home. While it may just be a ballad, the track depicts both the girl and the state as the most beautiful thing the singer has ever seen, making it a nice song about West Virginia as a whole.
23. You Remind Me Of West Virginia – Wyatt Turner
You Remind Me Of West Virginia is another great song that likens the beauty of a girl to the incredible natural landscape of the state. The singer talks about being in a mountain state of mind when he looks into her eyes, largely because her free-spirited nature and simplicity are things he loves about his home state as well. It’s a perfect description of both West Virginia and the ideal woman for the singer, making it one of the better songs out there directly about the state.
24. Wagon Wheel – Old Crow Medicine Show
You can go with either the version from Old Crow Medicine Show or the one from Darius Rucker for this entry. Wagon Wheel has become an anthemic song of the South and Appalachia since its release. It’s an especially poignant track in West Virginia despite not mentioning the state in any of the lines in the song.
25. Muswell Hillbilly – The Kinks
Muswell Hillbilly was the title track of The Kinks’ 1971 album. It mainly focuses on how the speaker is being forced from their home in one area of London into a suburban community against their wishes. Likening his plight to the folks in West Virginia and other rural areas in the US, the singer resolves to stay set in their ways and not allow people to tell him how to live.
This resolution places the singer squarely in line with many in Appalachia who feel exactly the same way as he does, with contempt for government officials being the cherry on top of the sentiment.
26. West Virginia Hills – Jeff Ellis
West Virginia Hills echoes the sentiment of many young people in the state who can’t wait to be able to leave. They hear all the time how much better life is in other places, so they leave in search of greener pastures or more opportunities. The fact is that many end up missing their home and lifestyle there, owing to the connection many West Virginians feel with their hometowns and how quickly they find out that the grass isn’t always greener.
27. Dear West Virginia – Huey Mack
Dear West Virginia is another love letter to the state from someone who traveled around and realized that he wished he had stayed in the area. He expresses his regrets at having ever left and talks about how good the state has always been to him, hoping he can go back with no repercussions because it’s all he dreams of now.
28. Thank You, West Virginia – Anna Toothman
Anna Toothman released Thank You, West Virginia as an ode to the state on the day she left it for college. It talks about how great it was to grow up in West Virginia and how it shaped her childhood, wishing nothing but the best for The Mountain State as she bitterly says goodbye to it for a while.
29. The Green Rolling Hills of West Virginia – Alice Gerrard
The Green Rolling Hills Of West Virginia is a beautiful song that describes the state as a paradise and a place of peace. Alice Gerrard appears to love West Virginia and finds her center there, as no matter what else is going on in her life, the state grounds her and brings her comfort.
30. Wheeling, West Virginia – Neil Sedaka
Neil Sedaka tells the story of a guy who left West Virginia and changed quite a lot after heading off to the bright lights of Hollywood. Life used to be simple, but now he’s faced with agents, producers, lawyers, fees, and all sorts of things he never had to deal with at home. The singer just wishes for simpler times in this one, leaning on the state as the place where he can find it.
31. Mountain Sound – Of Monsters and Men
Mountain Sound was released on Of Monsters And Men’s 2011 album My Head Is An Animal. The song doesn’t mention West Virginia in the lyrics, but you can use it to paint a picture of how peaceful and carefree the state can be.
32. Sunshine On My Shoulders – John Denver
Sunshine On My Shoulders is another great John Denver song that embodies the state of West Virginia. It’s mainly about the natural landscape being beautiful and how important it is to have a really good support system when things get bad.
33. West Virginia Polka – Wilma Lee And Stoney Cooper
West Virginia Polka was a great dancing song from Wilma Lee And Stoney Cooper. The track captures Appalachian culture perfectly and will bring you back to an older and simpler time.
34. Forty Hour Week (For a Livin’) – Alabama
If there’s one thing you can’t question about people in West Virginia, it’s their work ethic. And what better song to describe the people of the state than one that honors the miners, steel drivers, farmers, and laborers out there than Alabama’s Forty Hour Week (For A Livin’)? The track may not be exclusively about West Virginia, but it embodies the spirit of the people who live there and serves as an anthem of the working-class residents of the state, regardless of its universality.
35. A Country Boy Can Survive – Hank Williams Jr.
Hank Williams Jr. captured the essence of both the South and Appalachia in a lot of his music. One of his most famous songs, A Country Boy Can Survive, was more of a universal track about the resilience of people in the country than it was about any area in particular. But the lyrics of the track extolled the virtues of people living off of the land and the simplicity of living in rural areas. Both of these are essential West Virginian values that speak to people across the region.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.