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
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.
"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 reemerged 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.
"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..