Though harmonica is often associated with blues music, this pocket-sized instrument often pops up throughout country music. If you’ve been looking for a soulful country song that features this soulful, bluesy instrument, this ranking can help!
Here are the top country songs with harmonica in them.
“Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up)” by Garth Brooks
Song Year: 1993
Garth Brooks is one of the most successful country artists of the 1990s, and many of his most popular songs continue to play on country music radio stations. One of the most fast-paced of these top hits is “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up).”
This song describes the youthful rebelliousness of teenage couples. It’s a breathless series of stanzas that culminates in a chorus (featuring the song title) that’s still well-known throughout bars and honky tonk dance halls today!
But though the steady drum beat and electric guitar introduction are often the first things that grab listeners’ attention, the harmonica that howls between stanzas is unforgettable. You can enjoy this classic-rock-inspired tune for yourself by checking out this video.
“Bramble Rose” by Don Henley
Song Year: 2015
Most people know Don Henley as the original drummer for the Eagles, one of the most successful American rock bands of the 21st century. But did you know that this drummer is now a solo country artist?
In fact, Henley has pursued a solo career since the 1980s, though his preferred genre has shifted since that time, changing from pop and rock to country. “Bramble Rose” is a fantastic example of just how adept Henley is at crafting heartfelt country songs.
The song starts with weeping guitars and delicate mandolin trills, highlighting Henley’s dour and sentimental sound. But Henley isn’t the only artist who worked on this song!
Mick Jagger and Miranda Lambert’s dulcet tones also appear in this song, resulting in soothing vocal harmonies complimenting the sorrowful harmonica. For a taste of this unique collaboration, you’ll want to watch (and listen to) this music video.
“Choctaw County Affair” by Carrie Underwood
Song Year: 2015
Carrie Underwood is undoubtedly one of the most popular and successful country artists of the 2010s. Still, few of her top hits showcase the soulful sound of harmonica quite like “Choctaw County Affair.”
Unlike other country songs, many of which bury the harmonica parts beneath squealing guitars, this tune utilizes harmonica as a powerful mood-setting device. Though it sits behind the stomp-clap beat and gospel-inspired choral performances, it’s impossible to miss (as you can hear in this video).
Considering the lyrics of this song, which tell the story of a murder trial, the harmonica is beautifully placed.
After all, the harmonica is often portrayed as the prisoner’s chosen instrument, so its constant burring notes throughout “Choctaw Country Affair” are thematically appropriate.
“Don’t Forget Your Hat” by Mark Knopfler
Song Year: 2012
Though Mark Knopfler’s music covers multiple genres, there are strong country, jazz, and blues influences throughout his songs. This becomes evident the first time you listen to “Don’t Forget Your Hat,” a primarily instrumental tune that seems like an ode to blues songs of the past.
With simple lyrics about leaving town and struggling to find your place in the world, this song feels like it was ripped from the Great Depression. But its calculated combination of honky tonk guitar, jazz piano, and harmonica makes it a modern blues masterpiece, as you’ll see in this video.
“Don’t Let the Old Man In” by Willie Nelson
Song Year: 2020
Willie Nelson has incorporated harmonica into more songs than almost any other country music artist, starting in the 1980s and continuing to this day!
“Don’t Let the Old Man In” from the 2020 album First Rose of Spring is one of the latest harmonica-based tracks released by the iconic country music star, and it’s a startlingly honest song about facing mortality.
The “Old Man” referenced throughout the song is a metaphor for death. And though fellow country music star Toby Keith wrote the lyrics, Nelson’s gently pleading vocals are heartfelt.
The roaming harmonica that arises after particularly sentimental lines feel entirely natural and is sure to pluck at your heartstrings. You can check out this video to enjoy this song for yourself, but be warned—this tune could leave you teary-eyed!
“If You Wanna Get To Heaven” by Ozark Mountain Daredevils
Song Year: 1973
Though harmonica might not be as popular as guitar or piano, some songs with harmonica parts are most recognizable due to the pocket-sized instrument.
Examples of this phenomenon include “Love Me Do” by The Beatles, “Piano Man” by Billy Joel, and “If You Wanna Get To Heaven” by Ozark Mountain Daredevils. The latter of this trio is one of the best-known country songs featuring harmonica!
Even if you don’t recognize the song title or band name, there’s an excellent chance you’ve heard this song at some point. To find out, check out this video. You might be surprised to discover that this country-rock tune sounds oddly familiar.
“Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning” by Willie Nelson
Song Year: 1982
Willie Nelson has one of the most instantly recognizable voices of any country music star. That sincere, unaffected vocalization is what kicks off “Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning,” a tune that embodies the adage, “When it rains, it pours.”
Though you might believe this is a standard break-up song, the list of woes present in the lyrics and the vibrant harmonica make it similar to innovative pop songs like Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”
You can give this song t a listen by streaming this YouTube video.
“My Tennessee Mountain Home” by Dolly Parton
Song Year: 1973
Like Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie, Dolly Parton is an iconic country music artist and folk hero. Many of her songs are beloved by music lovers worldwide, regardless of their preferred genres.
But if you’re eager to hear a Dolly Parton song rich with harmonica, you may want to skip “Jolene” and choose “My Tennessee Mountain Home” instead. This song is an homage to Parton’s roots and has a sweet, sentimental feeling that increases with each stanza.
Though “My Tennessee Mountain Home” came out before music videos were common, you can still watch this video to soak in some classic Dolly Parton.
“On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson
Song Year: 1980
“On the Road Again” may be Willie Nelson’s most well-known song, and it has been featured in movies, television shows, and commercials since its release in 1980.
But while this earworm’s catchy chorus might be the primary thing people remember, the harmonica burrs between stanzas add a unique touch that makes the song ideal for road trips and long drives.
This video is a fantastic addition to your “travel” YouTube playlist, so be sure to add it today and soak in the good vibes of jaunty drums and adventurous harmonica. Of course, if you’re a fan of classic country music, you’ll want to branch out and consider adding a little Johnny Cash to the mix.
“Orange Blossom Special” by Johnny Cash
Song Year: 1965
You can’t get more “classic country” or “jailhouse country” than Johnny Cash. Though Cash sadly passed away in 2003, his legacy continues to inspire new artists, and his songs continually feature in blockbuster films.
While “Orange Blossom Special” might not be one of his most popular songs, it’s a treat for anyone who enjoys the buzz and whine of harmonica. The first track on the album of the same name (one of Cash’s most popular albums), this song is bluesy and lonesome.
After only a few seconds of watching the video for the song, you’ll understand why Cash’s music was often associated with down-and-out, unemployed, and transient folks throughout the South. You might also catch the itch to listen to more of Cash’s iconic songs!
“When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” by Willie Watson and Tim Blake Nelson
Song Year: 2018
When The Ballad of Buster Scruggs arrived on Netflix in 2018, many viewers were surprised to discover that the film was chock-full of high-quality country and western music. One of the most recognizable of these tunes is “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings.”
The vibrato-filled vocals and gentle bluegrass harmonies are accompanied by occasional, lonesome harmonica that adds a touch of sweetness to the tune. The music video is also quite entertaining; you don’t even need to have seen the movie it comes from to understand it.
So, if you enjoy classic country, folk, and bluegrass music, you’ll likely want to add this song to your song library.
“Whole Lotta Quit” by Randy Houser
Song Year: 2019
Randy Houser is a slightly controversial figure within the country music industry due to his casual, hip-hop-inspired style. But his music is far less unconventional, often featuring tunes that cater to the average working-class country music fan.
“Whole Lotta Quit” is no exception, describing the experience of working a job you hate and spending your free time coping with the unhappiness that job creates. The harmonica helps accentuate the down-on-your-luck theme.
But while many country music songs discuss alcohol use and abuse, this song takes things to the next level in a distinctly modern and honest way. If you’re curious to find out exactly how this song breaks country music tradition, watch this video and find out.
“You Don’t Know How It Feels” by Tom Petty
Song Year: 1994
Though some country music fans might not consider Tom Petty to be part of the genre, others consider Tom Petty one of the greatest Americana artists of the last century.
Either way, it’s impossible to deny that the strong harmonica present throughout “You Don’t Know How It Feels” gives strong country vibes. Though the lyrics are far more progressive than those found in other country songs of the time (the early 1990s), this song about heartbreak couldn’t be more country in terms of theme.
But with a bouncy beat reminiscent of Beck songs, this is one heartbreak tune you get away with playing at parties. Check out this music video to appreciate “You Don’t Know How It Feels” for yourself!
“You, Me & The River” by Chris Janson
Song Year: 2022
Classic country music might appeal to diehard fans of the genre, but modern country music continues to perform well and push the boundaries of the genre. That said, some hallmarks, like the use of bluesy harmonica, don’t disappear easily.
You, Me & The River” is one of the most modern country songs featuring this unmistakable instrument, but its lyrics and theme are classic country. With buzzing vocals that exude a mixture of fear and aggression, Janson belts out a song about a cheating partner and their demise.
This video (the official music video for the song) showcases the harmonic collaboration between Chris Janson and Eric Church. Be sure to give it a watch or a listen if you’re interested in experiencing the magic of “You, Me & The River” for yourself.
Best Country Songs With Harmonica, Final Thoughts
The harmonica (also called the mouth organ) is primarily associated with blues, jazz, and country music, and it’s not challenging to understand why.
This instrument costs far less than a piano or guitar and fits neatly in a shirt pocket, making it both affordable and portable. Country music artists have utilized harmonicas to make their songs more jazzy and folksy, resulting in undeniably iconic and catchy tunes.
So which is your favorite country song with harmonica in it? Let us know in the comments.