If you work in the oilfield, you love you some oilfield. Naturally, every now and again you think, “I need me some oilfield music!”
But when you Google any variation on “oilfield music” you come up with a handful of short articles filled with broken links and only a few songs. What gives?!
We saw this gaping hole in the market and decided it was time to fill it once and for all. Thus, we are thrilled to bring you the Definitive Oilfield Music Directory!
Bookmark this page. We’ll be adding to the directory each week. If you don’t have a Spotify account yet, you’re going to want to fix that problem. Click here to fix that problem now.
Just get the premium account. It’s $9.99 after a 30-day free trial. That’s 10 bucks a month to basically own all the music ever created, especially those CDs someone stole in college and the record collection your kids destroyed. I’m not even getting paid to say that. I’m just an audiophile who’s addicted to music.
I have taken the liberty to divide the songs below into categories that felt most fitting for their sound.
Traditional Country isn’t only old songs. Some are newer, but sound older. Commercial Country doesn’t have any Florida Georgia Line (Thank God!), but the songs in that category sound like the country you hear on the radio today. Likewise, indie country and bluegrass aren’t necessarily indie or bluegrass, but they have that sound.
Lastly, we added numbers to each category for easy reference. They are not rankings. It took long enough to produce the directory, we don’t even want to think how much longer it would take if we had to rank all these songs.
Niceties aside, let’s get into it!
Traditional Oilfield Country
This seems like an obvious place to start. The following songs sound like the country music you grew up with. As long as you grow up before the 1980s. We kick it off with Merle and Johnny Cash, and take it from there.
1. Oil Tanker Train by Merle Haggard
You gotta start with Merle. Originally from Bakersfield, California, he is a true son of the oilfield. Here he gives us that vintage Merle melancholy we all love accompanied by a story about growing up in the patch.
2. Roughneck – Mono Version by Johnny Cash
This is somewhat of an American Standard. You can find several versions, but no one can give it that down-and-dirty-no-good-for-nothin’ grit like Johnny Cash.
3. One More Oil Boom by Tim Hus
The first of many Canadians on the list, Tim Hus is the Canadian Cowboy. Here he offers us an ode to the most popular prayer in the oilfield.
4. Oilfield Trash by Michael Dean
Dodge Darts. Pickup trucks. Dangerous work. Sounds like an oilfield music gem to me.
5. Oilfield Trash To Oilfield Class by Allen Lee Turner
You might notice a theme developing. For the uninitiated, the guys who work on rigs proudly call themselves “oilfield trash”. If you’ve ever seen one of them cash a paycheck you know the name is all in good fun. Much like this song from Allen Lee Turner.
6. Oil Patch Blues by Joe Clement
While the song is about the blues, it firmly fits in the Traditional Country category. Then again, country music is the white man’s blues 😉
7. Three Miles Down by Alex Zanetis
Three Miles Down is either a song about drilling wildcat wells or the theme song to Ponderosa. Either way, it’s a good time.
8. Oil Well Road by Evan Phillips
No lyrics here. Just that ol’ slidin’ gee-tar twang and a mellow shuffle beat that makes you want to kick up your boots, grab a beer, and trade war stories about the oilfield.
9. Oilfield Blues by Jimmy J.D. Simpson
Jimmy J.D. Simpson (hell of a name!) pays tribute to Hank’s Cold Cold Heart and sticks the landing. Yodeling and all!
10. Desperados Waiting For The Train by Jerry Jeff Walker
Classic we missed the first time around. Shout-out to Kyle Krebs for recommending in the comments!
Indie Oilfield Country
Just good tunes here. Sorry, Commercial Oilfield Music!
1. Mama was a Roughneck by Jalan Crossland
Jalan Crossland’s mama was a roughneck. If that ain’t country, I’ll kiss your ass.
2. Roughnecking in North Dakota by Jay Haverluk
I don’t know if Jay Haverluk works in the patch, but I don’t know any other way you could write the lyric, “Got a swab going out on pump #2, lights burned out on driller’s side, and the mud tank’s leakin’ too.”
3. Roughneck by The Tyler McCumber Band
Tyler McCumber with a gritty story about the rougher side of a roughneck’s life.
4. Crude Oil Blues by Eric Strickland & the B Sides
Strickland’s yodeling gets mad respect, but I can’t help but laugh hearing, “Them boys keep drilling, but the prices ain’t comin’ down.” Would that were true!
5. Underground by Hydraulic Jack
I don’t know much about Hydraulic Jack. He’s apparently from Melbourne, Australia and writes a hell of a tune.
6. Oil! by Scott Swain
The Hi-Ho Silver rhythm seems fitting for this song is the journey an oilman defending himself for all he has to do to keep his sanity working in the patch.
7. Oilfield Dad by Bryan Martin
Crying? Me? Must be a speck of dust in my eye!
8. Oil Man by Chad Cooke Band
Between Cooke’s gritty lyrics and his band’s percussion, this track’s a winner.
9. Oil Song by Barclay Martin
You’ll notice a consistent blood, sweat, and tears theme in oilfield music. Martin employs the blood narrative here and brings it home singing, “There’s freedom coming out of the ground.” Indeed.
10. Oil Money by Bill Morrissey
A day in the life of a homesick roustabout with one eye on the bottle and one eye on the payphone.
12. The Oil Rigs at Night by The Delines
The Delines feature Austin-based singer Amy Boone on vocals. The way she tells the story of an oilfield wife longing for her offshore husband you get the feeling she knows the struggle.
Commercial Oilfield Country
Let’s be honest, most of these songs are Modern Country, a.k.a. Pop Country. Which is a fancy work for “Bad Pop Music”. As much as I despise it, plenty of people love this stuff. We included these songs in case you’re one of them.
Thankfully, a couple of them ain’t bad.
1. Roughneck (Studio Cut) by Nick Lawrence
Nick Lawrence is an artist from right here in Houston, Texas so I hope I don’t piss him off too much by saying this sounds exactly like Bo Burnham’s “Country Song (Pandering)” skit.
2. Oilfield Outlaw by 281 South
Oilfield Outlaw sounds less like bad country music parody, but still has the commercial vibe I’m not into. However, if that’s your jam it’s a decent oilfield music love song.
3. Oilfield Trash by Shane Prather
Prather’s Oilfield Trash sounds like it belongs on the radio with a twist; it ain’t bad. Good on ya, Shane!
4. Sunrise On the Water, The Oilfield Song by Jw Cooper
After it gets going, Sunrise On the Water is a decent George Straight knock-off. But damn if that intro doesn’t sounds like a bad Randy Travis song from his Mullet Era.
5. Boomtown, Toby Keith
Another goodn’ recommended by a reader. Toby Keith might be commercial, but I ain’t even mad at him on this one. Shout-out to Holly Powell on Facebook!
Oilfield Country Rock
1. There May Or May Not Be Blood by Oil Boom
I had never heard of Oil Boom before compiling the directory. They rock, I’m glad I found them. They typically have a decidedly indie rock flavor, but their Dallas, Texas roots shine with a solid country vibe here.
2. oil patch town by Chris Knight
Back in 2001, Knight turned on the radio and heard “Jack & Diane” by John Cougar Mellencamp. In a flurry of creative genius, he wrote oil patch town. True story.
3. Roughneck Blues by Glen Thibodeaux
A modern throwback to the jumping rock guitar licks of the early ’60s laced with the story of a young man who dreams of leaving the oilfield for the big stage.
4. Oil Town by Cheering for the Bad Guy
Their name is Cheering for the Bad Guy. They win.
5. Oil Man by João Erbetta
It’s unclear if Erbetta’s body count is as high as a Quinten Tarantino movie, but his music belongs in one.
Oilfield Music Blues
Because what would oilfield music be without the blues?
1. Oil Man by Big Jack Johnson
Big Jack Johnson is a contemporary Mississippi bluesman. People call him B.J. the Oil Man on account of his day job driving trucks for Shell. Something tells me he ain’t really talking about oiling motor valves here.
2. Texas Oil by Freddie King
For all you millennials out there, Freddy King is a legend from the early ’60s. He goes hard in the pocket here with a toe-tapping instrumental that makes me feel like I just got me a royalty check.
3. The Crude Oil Blues by Jerry Reed
Play that guitar, Guitar Man!
Oil & Gas Bluegrass
Believe it or not, I got me some bluegrass roots thanks to Grandma O’Neil out there in Ronceverte, West Virginia. I’m always down for some mighty fine pickin’ and a’ grinnin’!!
1. Hydraulic Oil by Redgrass
According to Spotify, Redgrass is from Ostwald, France. Given their spot-on nasal bluegrass twang, good luck explaining that to your kids.
2. Oil Well by The Rubber Knife Gang
Listening to Oil Well you can’t help but reminisce about the good ol’ times with a big smile on your face.
3. Oil Rigs by Rae Spoon
Rae Spoon is a raging liberal from Calgary, Alberta. That don’t mean she can’t belt out a tune that makes you feel the pain of that ol’ righand though.
4. Oil by Beans On Toast
Beans On Toast cracks me up. He’s got great energy and all the best intentions. He might have been lead astray by the peak oil documentary he references up front, but the rest of the song goes a LONG WAY in showing just how important the oil industry is.
Swingin’ Jams, Cat Daddy!
Bust out the Pomade and roll a pack of smokes up in your sleeve, it’s time for the sock-hop!
1. Oil Well, Texas by 44 Shakedown
You would expect to see five white guys in the Netherlands in 2017. You wouldn’t expect them to jam 1950s rhythm & blues as good as 44 Shakedown.
2. Oil Gusher by The Beau Hunks Sextette
We all know 44 Shakedown just wants to be The Hunks Sextette when they grow up. The latter released this swingin’ tune back in 1995.
3. Oil Man Blues by Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson and His Orchestra
Cleanhead was a bald man. He can do no wrong.
4. Oil Well by Harry Strutters Hot Rhythm Orchestra featuring Paul Lacey, Alistair Allen, Bill Boston, Chris Macdonald, Martin Litton, Maurice Dennis, Jim Heath, John Muxlow
Nice work getting 9 writing credits past the lawyers, boys!
5. Nigerian Oil by InSpirit Quartet
Pour a glass of scotch and drink in the smooth flavors of Nigerian Oil.
Old Timey Oilfield Music
Edwin Drake drilled the first commercial oil well in Pennsylvania in 1859. 18 years later, Edison invented the first recording device. Coincidence??
Actually, no. Phonograph records are made of oil. You’re welcome oil industry haters!
1. Oil Field Blues by Walter Davis
Born on March, 1 1912 in Grenada, Mississipi, Walter Davis never knew fame. Listening to this recording from 1933, I’m not sure why.
2. Coal Oil Johnny by Red Foley
Gee-wiz, Mr. Davis! Can you tell me the story about Coal Oil Johnny?
3. Oil Well Blues by Blind Lemon Jefferson
This blind man was one of the first commercially successful bluesmen. In this recording from 1929 you are truly listening to history, and it’s fantastic.
4. Tool-Pusher by Alex Zanetis
Zanetis takes a crack at another oilfield music American standard. The man can tell a story and isn’t shy about the humor in the song.
Oilfield Music Film Scores
Didn’t see this category coming!
1. Oil! by Wildcat Ensemble
This upbeat musical about oil and gas was produced a long time ago in an America far, far away.
2. Oil Rig by Trevor Rabin
Never saw the movie. Guessing this music plays during a scene near an oil rig?
3. Oil Rig by Hans Zimmer
4. Fossil Fuels (Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Oil Ocean Zone)) by GameChops, Joshua Morse
I was a Sega kid back in the 1990s. Of course, Sonic goes on the list.
5. Open Spaces Be Blood by Jonny Greenwood
This is oil and gas. I am contractually obligated to include There Will Be Blood.
Spoken Word Oilfield Music
Another category I didn’t anticipate. You don’t get a large selection, but what’s there is pretty great.
1. Oil by Gary Snyder
If you can’t tell by now, I love a good story. Gary Snyder’s poem takes you on a journey, and I like it.
2. A Job In The Oilfield by Jeb & Cousin Easy
3. Ploesti Oilfield Raid – 1944 Recording by Walter Stewart
This only relates to the oilfield in as much as “oilfield” is in the title. Regardless, it’s fascinating the things you find on Spotify!
These tracks made me laugh pretty darn hard!
1. Up Came Oil – The Spirit of Achievement, 1976 by Exxon Corp.
Ahhh, the good ol’ days. When Exxon spit hot fire and dropped nasty bars on the American public.
2. I Drill Oil For My Country (Wo Wei Zu Guo Xian Shi You) by Liu Bingyi
Chinese government propaganda on Spotify? The reds are everywhere! Here is a rough translation a friend helped me find:
Splendid mountains and rivers and picturesque architecture of the motherland across the horse.
I am a glorious oil worker.
Wearing aluminum helmet to go Tianting head Tianshan goose snow.
In the face of the Gobi big wind sand Jialing River facing the sunrise.
Kunshan Hill sunset days afraid not afraid.
I offer oil for my motherland. Where is the oil where is my home.
Red flag fluttering Ying Xia haixing whip reminder horses.
I am a glorious oil worker.
Wearing aluminum helmet to take the horizon of the vast grassland vertical derrick.
Deep in the clouds to see the underground oil to see the blue sky.
Motherland booming oil is not afraid of fear.
Looking at the world ambitious I offer oil for the motherland.
The oil rolls in my heart.
3. Barrel Of Oil by Taxi John
Hands-down the worst song I heard in the countless hours it took to produce the directory. I’m not even mad. That’s impressive!
There are literally thousands of anti-oil industry screeds on Spotify (I know, surprise right?). I would be remiss if I didn’t include at least two.
1. Oil-Powered Machine by Fold
The narrator attempts to shock terror into the hearts of his listeners, but I’m filled with pride. You can’t feed the global population without this incredible industry. Amazing!
2. Big Oil by Sassafrass
If you thought Chinese government propaganda was heavy-handed, try not to laugh. You can almost hear their “I Feel Personally Victimized by Donald Trump” signs in the background.
Bookmark This Page
As we said above, we ain’t done yet. We will be updating the directory weekly. For now, kick back and kick out the jams. It’s oilfield music to your ears!
Call to Action
I left one stupid-obvious song off the list. Can you name it? Hit me in the comments!