Day 54: The Coronavirus Countdown - 100 Days of Great Music

My introduction to the music of Natalie Merchant didn't come until I heard the Ophelia album - my album of the day.

Prior to her solo career, Merchant enjoyed a long run as the lead singer of 10,000 Maniacs. The Maniacs broke out in 1987 with their album In My Tribe. I didn't really become familiar with the album until after I had heard Merchant's Ophelia album more than a decade later.

But if you're not familiar with Merchant's solo work or in 10,000 Maniacs, I recommend starting here first before moving on to her solo work. In My Tribe is your bonus pick of the day.

- Kendall Webb


Hootie & The Blowfish

Cracked Rear View (1994)

Why I Love It

There's a good reason it didn't take long for Hootie and the Blowfish to become a household name. This debut album came out of nowhere to put the band on the map and all over the radio with catchy hits that were easy to love. This album was released right as I was finishing college, and I bought it right away and haven't stopped listening to it since. Lead singer Darius Rucker, who is now a country music star as a solo artist, has one of the most soothing voices I have ever heard. Even the deep cuts on this album are special. For example, "Goodbye" is a simple, yet gorgeous ballad about a potential breakup that closes the album, which remains one of the most successful pop records of all-time.

Album Highlights

"Hold My Hand," "Let Her Cry" and "Goodbye"

Kendall on Chuck's Album of the Day

This album was one of the final cuts that didn't make my own list, so I'm glad to see it here. I was in Austin, Texas, when it was released, and it was one of those albums that was suddenly everywhere. Powered by some great hooks, the singles here are still instantly familiar, and it's hard to believe it's been 26 years already since it was released. It's a timeless record that still sounds great today.


Natalie Merchant

Ophelia (1998)

Why I Love It

I don't even remember where I got this album, because even to this day, I have only a passing familiarity with Natalie Merchant's work in 10,000 Maniacs.

But somehow I stumbled on to this, and it is a Top 5 album all-time for me. It is a concept album of sorts tracing the title character through the song cycle. Every song on the album is beautifully composed, and it's an album that reveals deeper meaning over time with repeated listening. I've listened to this album probably hundreds of times, and it still rewards me for the time I invest in it. A classic in Merchant's catalog.

Album Highlights

"Kind & Generous," "King Of May" and "Thick As Thieves"

Chuck on Kendall's Album of the Day

It's hard to tell how successful solo careers are going to be, but the former 10,000 Maniacs lead singer made it look easy. As much as I love her first effort, Tigerlily, this second album is a gorgeous journey that is ideal for listening to while on a late-night drive. The songs establish a mood that makes it a special record that I had forgotten how much I loved. In retrospect, I might have included this one on my list. It's amazing on every level.

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