AJ's Brendan Leonard wrote...
It seems like mountain songs come from two places: the South, the home of original mountain music, and the West, where bands are either singing about Colorado or are from Colorado. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions, but the majority of iconic songs about mountains tend to fall in one of those two categories. But, there just aren't that many songs about mountains - unlike, say, pop songs about love, or songs about drugs, or songs about money.
John Denver, "Rocky Mountain High"
This song needs no introduction: famous for being famous, famous for its use in a Coors commercial, and famous for being voted Colorado's second official state song in 2007. Of course, not everyone loves it, and that's okay, but there's not much denying that it's probably the first to come to a lot of people's minds when you say "mountain song."
Loretta Lynn, "High On a Mountain Top"
Loretta Lynn was cool before she was friends with Jack White of the White Stripes. Go ahead and attempt to not sing along with her on this track.
The Osborne Brothers, "Rocky Top"
FYI, "Rocky Top" is actually not the University of Tennessee's official fight song, but was adopted by the college's band in 1972 and might as well be the official fight song in most folks' minds.
Fleet Foxes, "Blue Ridge Mountains"
Not traditional mountain music in any sense, this haunting Fleet Foxes track makes a single reference to the Blue Ridge Mountains, and will make images of wood nymphs appear in your head.
Neil Young, "Sugar Mountain"
Actually about lamenting lost youth, and a club Neil Young used to visit as a teenager.
Dolly Parton, "Tennessee Mountain Home"
One of the most recognized Dolly Parton songs of all time, this one was actually not much of a hit for Parton. But became quite useful as a theme song at Dollywood.
Townes Van Zandt, "Snowin on Raton"
Townes Van Zandt said he loved playing shows in Colorado, because he didn't have to explain where Raton, New Mexico was (just across the border from Trinidad, on I-25).
Harry McClintock, "Big Rock Candy Mountain"
Although there are a couple Big Rock Candy Mountains in the U.S. (one of which is the biggest chunk of exposed rock in Colorado's South Platte), Harry McClintock's song is about hobo heaven - the big rock candy mountain.
Led Zeppelin, "Misty Mountain Hop"
Okay, it's barely about mountains. Or is it? Ask Robert Plant.
Joe Walsh, "Rocky Mountain Way"
The words to "Rocky Mountain Way" came to Joe Walsh when he was mowing his front yard in Colorado, and he walked away from the running lawnmower to write them down. The lawnmower rolled into his neighbor's garden and destroyed it. The song, and the album it appeared on, The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get, was Walsh's breakthrough as a solo artist.
Toots and the Maytals, "Country Roads" (cover)
Yes, it's a John Denver song, and when Toots sings it, he changes "West Virginia" to "West Jamaica," which is actually the less mountainous part of Jamaica, well, one writer for Rolling Stone said it was like John Denver wrote this song for Toots to sing.
Flatt & Scruggs, "Blue Ridge Cabin Home"
Classic bluegrass from the legendary Earl Scruggs and the equally legendary Lester Flatt: "When I die won't you bury me on the mountain/Far away near my Blueridge mountain home"
Flatt & Scruggs, "Foggy Mountain Breakdown"
See previous, but no singing, just masterful banjo and guitar work by Mr. Flatt and Mr. Scruggs.
First Aid Kit, "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" (cover)
This cover of a Fleet Foxes song put sisters Johanna and Klara Søderberg on the map - if you'd heard of them before they recorded it in 2008 and put it on YouTube, you probably lived in their native Sweden.
Yonder Mountain String Band, "Half Moon Rising"
"Progressive bluegrass," "jamgrass," or "hippiegrass," or bluegrass + Colorado = these guys. Is this a mountain song? They're from Nederland, and there's a mention of the Great Divide. We say yes.
Phish, "Colonel Forbin's Ascent"
Phish's song about a mountain climb, usually lasts between five and 20 minutes when they play it at a show and is part of a larger Phish mythology/storyline, which I don't know anything about, but Phish fans can tell you.
Alabama, "Mountain Music"
An absolute anthem of the South.