Song Talk: Driving Away

There are a lot of great country songs chronicling the breakup of a relationship, but it’s the female characters who have often shown a particular propensity for leaving their lovers by car. Sometimes she changes her mind and turns the car around; most of the time she doesn’t. Either way, it’s been the making of many a great country song.

There are obviously numerous songs that fit this mold, but here’s my whittled-down list of six personal favorites. I look forward to reading about your favorites in the comments section below.

Patty Loveless Only What I Feel

“Nothin’ But the Wheel”
Patty Loveless
Written by John Scott Sherrill

Whenever I attempt to rank my many favorite Patty Loveless songs, “Nothin’ But the Wheel” is always one of the top three. Loveless’ mournful drawl is gorgeously framed by the weeping fiddle and steel guitar as she gives voice to a woman striking out on the road in the wee hours of the morning. The real gut punch comes with the line “And the only thing I know for sure is if you don’t want me anymore…” as the narrator reveals that she’s leaving not only because she’s unhappy, but because she knows she will not be missed.

Sara Evans Three Chords and the Truth

“Three Chords and the Truth”
Sara Evans
Written by Sara Evans, Ron Harbin, and Aimee Mayo

Evans is in full neotraditionalist mode on this early release, still one of her finest moments on record, which just missed the Top 40. A spiritual kinsman of sorts to Trisha Yearwood’s “The Song Remembers When,” “Three Chords and the Truth” is likewise a tribute to the power of a great song. Whether it’s a certain lyric, the right melody, or just “a voice…sweet and low,” Evans’ narrator finds that even a song heard for the first time on the radio has the ability to evoke an emotional response. The emotions lead to actions, and she is moved to the point of turning her car around and returning to reconcile with her significant other.

1989 Oslin

“Hold Me”
K.T. Oslin
Written by K.T. Oslin

In an insightful cut by one of country music’s most distinctive songwriting voices, a marriage is put under strain by everyday anxieties of life until not only the wife but the husband as well decide to hit the road and call it quits. Eventually, both reconsider and return home as they come to realize that they need to run, not away from each other, but towards each other.

Jo Dee Messina I'm Alright

“Bye Bye”
Jo Dee Messina
Written by Rory Michael Bourke and Phil Vassar

The only uptempo track on this list, “Bye Bye” may seem little more than catchy radio bait on the surface. But there’s a subtle undercurrent of frustration and resignation in this breezy hit as Messina sings “I’ve lost the game, I guess. I did my best to win the part, but now I’m leaving here with what’s left of my heart.” Ultimately, however, “Bye Bye” is a celebration of newfound freedom – fitting coming from one of country music’s most optimistic women – as Messina leaves a dead-end relationship in the dust and speeds off toward a bright new future.

Lee Ann Womack Some Things I Know

“A Little Past Little Rock”
Lee Ann Womack
Written by Jess Brown, Brett Jones, and Tony Lane

Few contemporary country hitmakers know there way around a great breakup ballad like Lee Ann Womack, as evidenced by this Grammy-nominated hit. Enhanced by gently moaning strings and harmonica, “A Little Past Little Past Little Rock” is a stark portrayal of a woman at a crossroads in her life, having left her lover behind in Dallas and been driving nonstop ever since. Womack’s performance vividly channels a mix of uncertainty and confusion with mounting determination. It may be “too soon to know what’s up ahead,” but it’s “too late to change my mind.” She’s made her choice, and there’s no turning back.

George Strait Beyond the Blue Neon

“Baby’s Gotten Good at Goodbye”
George Strait
Written by Tony Martin and Troy Martin

While songs of this theme are perhaps most often sung from the perspective of the departing woman, it can be every bit as interesting and compelling to hear from the man who is being left behind. In Strait’s classic 1989 chart-topper, a man watches his woman load up the car and drive off as she has done many times before, but he notices that “this time she didn’t cry.” The wistful whine of a fiddle accompanies his gradual, painful realization that he just might have watched that car drive away for the last time.


  1. This is a fun theme to explore. I’m glad you included George Strait’s “Baby’s Gotten Good at Goodbye.” Your description was perfect and what I’ve always like most about the song is that it finds a simple way to paint a vivid picture of a bleak situation. As they say, the opposite of love is indifference.

  2. oK, its probably not strictly what y’all had in mind, but what about the third verse to “There Goes My Life” where the girl is “Headed off to the West Cost”; leaving her old life behind.

  3. Oh, oh, I got one more: “Cry on the Shoulder of the Road” by Martina McBride. I love the vocals on that one. Or any other one by Martina.

  4. Good topic. My favorites of your six are Jo Dee’s and Patty’s.

    Another song with a drive away break-up is Lee Roy Parnell’s “On the Road” written by Bob McDill. The first verse:

    There’s a sad, young wife
    Never had a life
    Her mother said she’d married young.
    And her husband’s a fool
    Never listened to
    All the things she’s never done.
    So she packs up that ol’ Ford Fairlane.
    She’s had about all she can bear.
    A suitcase, a hope, and a hard rain.
    She’s gonna find it all somewhere.

  5. I love “Shut Up and Drive.” I think the line “You’ll only miss the man that you wanted him to be” is just brilliant. It was on earlier drafts of this list, but I didn’t want to go over six, to leave room for discussion, so I reluctantly trimmed it. I’m glad bulbul mentioned it.

  6. Don’t forget “I’d Settle for a Slowdown” by Dierks Bentley (one of my favorites) and “Wasted” by Carrie Underwood which speaks from a male and a female perspective.

  7. How about “Tail lights Blue” bu Alan Jackson?
    One of my faves.

    I also second “Settle for a slow down” :-)

  8. I’m partial to Rachel Proctor’s Me And Emily, although the presence of a daughter and its hinting at the subject of domestic abuse make it an altogether different creature than many of the above.

    One of my favorite examples of the reciprocal — a man watching a woman drive off — has got to be Collin Raye’s Little Red Rodeo.

  9. Wow, these are some truly beautiful songs. Patty Loveless’s “Nothin’ but the Wheel”, in particular, is so exquisitely written and delicately sung that it gives me shivers. I simply cannot understand how such great songs can even remotely share a genre with bro-country.

  10. Quote by Leeann Ward re. “I’m Movin’ On”:

    Erik, That’s a great song, but it doesn’t quite fit this theme, since it’s not a woman driving away in a car.

    I suppose I was thinking of the covers that song has gotten from womenfolk–to wit, Emmylou Harris; Terri Clark; and Rosanne Cash.

    But then how about Heather Myles’ version of the oft-covered Jimmy Webb classic “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”?

  11. How about Hal Ketchum with Leann Rimes on “In Front of the Alamo”, written by Gary Burr.
    from the first verse:
    “through the windshield of a Chevrolet
    With the front tyres pointed out of town
    she sighs, and rolls her window down
    counts to three and throws that wedding band”

    Burr recorded his own version of “In Front of the Alamo” earlier this year on his new solo album, “Juggler’s Logic”.

  12. I second “Me And Emily” and “In Front of the Alamo”. And I just thought of Carolyn Dawn Johnson’s “Georgia”.

  13. Tom,
    You read my mind!!! When I saw this topic, immediately I thought of “She Went Out for Cigarettes.” Chely Wright’s timbre and gorgeous tenor lend a joyous melancholy to this classic “driving away” song! Great call.

    I’d like to add Trisha Yearwood’s “Walk Away Joe” and Sara Evans’ uplifting, spirited and fun “driving away” songs: “Suds in the Bucket” and “The Great Unknown.”

  14. SHeDAISY’s “Passenger Seat”!!!! So fun and the video is so cool…the Osborn sisters are WAY underrated. Love them.

  15. Another great song that didn’t quite make the final list: Kim Richey’s “Those Words We Said,” which Trisha Yearwood also recorded for the Thinkin’ About You album. Always loved the line “Every sad song on my radio feels like it’s custom made.”

  16. Another good call on the Kim Richey song. Between Ben’s original posting and all the comments, this has the makings of a great playlist for a cd. The cd’s I’ve made to play in the car averaged 20 songs.

  17. It’s a little more lighthearted than most examples, but another good one from the perspective of the man left behind: Clint Black’s “Nothin’ But the Taillights.” And he gets booted during the drive, for good measure.

  18. Heard one on the radio last night that I cant believe none of us has thought of before…”A little Past Little Rock” by Lee Ann Womack

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