Day 29: The Coronavirus Countdown – 100 Days of Great Music

The staff of the College Football America Yearbook is on the road every weekend of the college football season, shooting games and gathering information for the following year’s book. That means a lot of driving and listening to a lot of music.

Earlier this year our College Football America Yearbook publisher Kendall Webb and our director of editorial content Chuck Cox put together ‘The Coronavirus Countdown – 100 Days of Great Music.’ Each of them sat down and compiled a list of 100 great albums. Their goal was not to select the ‘100 greatest albums of all time.’ It was simply to select 100 great albums to write about as they passed the time during quarantine and shelter-at-home orders.

This 2020 college football season will be unprecedented in so many ways. It’s very likely none of us will be on the road for games because, like most people, we’re trying to stay healthy. And we hope you are too.

So, for the next 100 days, we’re going to publish their countdown here at CollegeFootballAmericaPR.com (the list was originally published on Webb’s personal site, kendallwebb.net). Consider it the ultimate playlist for the ultimate college road trip — music for every taste, from every genre and from every decade of the modern era of music. When the staff of the College Football America Yearbook is back on the road, you can bet these will be some of the tunes we’re listening to.

And, if you missed the previous installments of our series, just click here to head to the Coronavirus Countdown — 100 Days of Great Music home page.

Here’s Day 29.

We featured Steve Earle’s “Guitar Town” as a bonus pick a few days ago, but today his 1990 album “The Hard Way” is Kendall’s pick of the day. And as Chuck hints, you might see him again before this Coronavirus Countdown is over.

With Earle being such a big part of our countdown, we thought we’d introduce you to one of his big influences — a Texas songwriter named Townes Van Zandt.

If you’re a country music fan, then you know some of his songs — Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard had a hit with “Pancho & Lefty” and Don Williams and Emmylou Harris scored with “If I Needed You.” But we’ll take you back even farther today with Van Zandt’s debut album from 1968. “For The Sake Of The Song” is one of Van Zandt’s best vocal efforts, and pay particular attention to “Tecumseh Valley” and “Sixteen Summers, Fifteen Falls” for the talent that would prove particularly influential on a young Steve Earle.

— Chuck Cox and Kendall Webb

CHUCK’S ALBUM OF THE DAY

Nirvana

MTV Unplugged In New York (1994)

Why I Love It

I have always been more of a Pearl Jam fan than a Nirvana aficionado. Having said that, this live album is a thing of beauty from the Pacific Northwest grunge era. Who would have believed that a band like Nirvana going acoustic would yield such amazing results? Along with some of the band’s hits, it included three magnificent Meat Puppets covers. Kurt Cobain’s voice aches throughout the album, providing plenty of chill-bump moments. It’s also the first Nirvana album released after Cobain committed suicide earlier in 1994. I will never stop listening to it.

Album Highlights

“All Apologies,” “Lake of Fire” and “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”

Kendall on Chuck’s Album of the Day

Nirvana’s 1991 masterpiece “Nevermind” made it to my final cuts, but you forget how good this performance was, too. As the name suggests, it’s an album made from Nirvana’s appearance live on MTV Unplugged which was recorded in November, 1993, before airing in December that year. Roughly four months later, Cobain was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. This album is a little hard to listen to because I think it hinted at a band that was headed in a new direction, but who knew Cobain’s demons would get the best of him such a short time later? It hit me and my generation hard in the midst of our collegiate years, and it’s hard to process even 26 years later.

KENDALL’S ALBUM OF THE DAY

Steve Earle & The Dukes

The Hard Way (1990)

Why I Love It

This album was Steve Earle’s last studio release before his self-described “vacation in the ghetto” when he basically disappeared from the music scene during an extended period in the early ’90s when his addiction troubles got the best of him.

By the time he re-emerged with the acoustic “Train A’ Comin'” in 1995, Kurt Cobain was dead, and Earle was lucky to be alive. A bust for heroin while in possession of a gun was the turning point, and while he was locked up, Earle made the life-changing decision to get clean. Amazingly, he’s made it to this day, and continues to create compelling music in a modern folk style that has covered ground from folk and bluegrass to country and hard rock. This album stands firmly in the latter camp, but is also heavily produced as Earle was still on a major label at the time. But it offers a preview of that upcoming “vacation” with gritty songs about motorcycle-riding rebels, murderers on death row, prostitutes, drug dealers, and all kinds of other characters with one foot in the grave. It was only later during Earle’s comeback in 1995 that we found out that he was one of those characters.

Album Highlights

“The Other Kind,” “Billy Austin” and “Have Mercy”

Chuck on Kendall’s Album of the Day

Steve Earle is another artist that Kendall and I bonded over when we first met while attending Kilgore College. This album came out a few months before that happened. I was familiar with “Guitar Town” and “Copperhead Road,” but this was the first full album of Steve’s I had listened to. It’s still incredible. By the way, this might not be Steve’s only appearance on our list.

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