If you’re a fan of 80s and 90s music, chances are you have some favorite Blues Traveler songs.
Frontman John Popper seemingly revitalized the use of the harmonica in rock music. Other bands included it in their mix, but the mouth harp hadn’t been much in play by the end of the 70s.
Blues Traveler’s tunes cut across multiple musical genres. Influenced by rock, folk, psychedelic, and blues bands before them, their songs reach the hearts of music fans of all varieties.
But anyway, let’s look around at what we think are the seven greatest Blues Traveler songs out there!
About Blues Traveler
Blues Traveler began its journey in 1987 as a high school garage band in Princeton, New Jersey. Initially, they were calling themselves The Establishment. After a few musician changes and recording some cassette tape demos, they changed their name to Blues Traveler.
The original members were vocalist and harmonicist John Popper, guitarist Chan Kinchla, bassist Bobby Sheehan, and drummer Brendan Hill.
After high school, the band hit the ground running in the late 1980s. The four-piece moved to New York City and played gigs at clubs around town. They landed a weekly Wednesday show at The Wetlands, a place known for fostering some of the greatest bands of the 1990s.
Blues Traveler released their debut self-titled studio album in 1990. The lead track on the album, But Anyway, topped music charts and introduced music fans to their unique sound.
The following year, David Letterman had them as guests on The Late Show, telling viewers they were his favorite band. This appearance on the popular TV show was a massive boost for their career.
It wasn’t until Blues Traveler’s fourth album, Four, released in 1994 that they became mainstream. The album reached #8 on the Billboard 200 album chart. For many Blues Traveler fans, this stands out as their favorite album.
Through the last half of the 1990s, Blues Traveler experienced continued success and released two more albums.
Sadly, in August 1999, Bobby Sheehan passed away from an accidental drug overdose. Rather than disbanding, Blues Traveler decided to move forward. They hired Tad Kinchla, Chan’s brother, as their new bassist and brought in Ben Wilson on keyboards.
Since then, they have released nine more albums, for a total of 14, and continue to perform shows. They did have a full tour planned for the last part of 2021 but had to cancel all dates due to injuries from a bus accident. While in Minnesota in August 2021, their tour bus veered off the road, and John Popper’s knee was severely injured.
Hopefully, 2022 will see the band healthy and hitting the road for more concerts.
Now, let’s get into Blues Traveler’s seven greatest songs.
#7 Carolina Blues
About the Song: This Blues Traveler song may not be as well known to the general public as some others on this list. But it did well on music charts when they released it as a single in 1997.
The lyrics are about fighting with a lover and needing to catch a train in the morning.
Train man kept his promise gonna try and go on back to bed Can't sleep anyway thinking 'bout what my Carolina said And oh my Carolina running like a freight train through my head
First Appearance: This song is the opening track on Blues Traveler’s fifth album, Straight on Till Morning, released in 1997.
#6 The Mountains Win Again
About the Song: Bobby Sheehan, the band’s guitarist, wrote The Mountains Win Again. The studio version features Warren Haynes on slide guitar. Haynes is best known as a founding member of the band Gov’t Mule.
The line in the song “men are not to cry” is a strong statement. Men feel pain from heartbreak just as much as women do. The song goes through the process of heartbreak and trying to look forward to find love in the future.
I pick up my smile put it in my pocket Hold it for a while try not to have to drop it Men are not to cry so how am I to stop it Keep it all inside don't show how much she rocked ya
First Appearance: The band released the song in 1994 on its fourth album, Four.
#5 Brother John
About the Song: Bobby Sheehan and Chan Kinchla wrote the song about Bobby’s brother, John. He’d been going through a difficult time in his life. So the men created Brother John as a “wake up” call for him.
Popper’s harmonica playing truly shines on this Blues Traveler song. You can feel the intense emotions coming through the lyrics and pumping out from the entire band in this track.
The things that hurt just won't go away But neither will we Doesn't really matter either way cause you're all you need To set yourself free
First Appearance: Brother John is another offering from the 1994 album Four.
#4 Look Around
About the Song: Look Around is a compelling number sung with deep passion. The lyrics seem to be directed to a lover as the relationship ends. But it could just as easily be someone giving themselves a serious talking-to.
And sometimes In the midst of all my crimes I feel lost Or have I lost enough
First Appearance: This is the third track on the band’s 1994 Four album.
About the Song: John Popper wrote the lyrics as a satirical message about what makes people like certain songs. The “hook” refers to the catchy part of a number that listeners latch on to and what might be most memorable. Often, it’s the chorus.
In the case of Hook, Popper explains the lyrics don’t have to be deep and meaningful for people to like the song.
It doesn't matter what I say So long as I sing with inflection That makes you feel I'll convey Some inner truth or vast reflection
First Appearance: The song appears as a track on Four, but Blues Traveler also released it in 1995 as a single. It became a hit and certainly hooked listeners.
#2 But Anyway
About the Song: Popper and guitarist Chan Kinchla wrote the lyrics for But Anyway. When the band released the song as a single in 1990, it reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 music chart. Their first hit single managed to gain new fans for the band pretty quickly.
I'm quitting cigarette smoking, it's bad for me But anyway, I don't think the TV was joking When it told me this, but anyway The newsman said not to sit on strange toilet seats It's my life he's trying to save, but anyway I found out that I got eye cancer Too many television waves, but anyway
First Appearance: One of their earliest songs, it’s the lead track on the 1990 self-titled debut album, Blues Traveler.
About the Song: John Popper wrote this upbeat song. It tells a story about his relationship with the band’s original bassist, Felicia, who was with them only briefly.
The song earned them their first and only Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Group.
Shake me and my confidence About a great many things But I've been there I can see it cower Like a nervous magician waiting in the wings
First Appearance: This Blues Traveler song appears on Four, but they performed it live twice before the album’s release in 1994. The first was at a John Popper solo show in June 1993. The second performance took place with the full band in February 1994 at the famous CBGB club in New York City.
Which Blues Traveler Song is Your Favorite?
There are a lot of songs from the Blues Traveler catalog to choose as your favorite. Maybe it’s one from this list, or perhaps it’s one of their more obscure songs like Mountain Cry.
Either way, you’re likely to find some new favorites if you take some time to listen to a few of their albums.
Let us know which Blues Traveler Song is your favorite in the comments!