Natalie Merchant sitting on a stool and singing into a microphone

2020 Album Draft- Round 1- Pick 3- Run-Sew-Read selects 10,000 Maniacs – MTV Unplugged.

Run-Sew-Read’s blog can be found at https://run-sew-read.com/

The 10,000 Maniacs were an easy choice for my first draft pick. Their music is pleasant and unique, with a variety of sounds. While I love all of the 10KM’s albums, the live, inspired performances on this album win out over their prior studio albums–the dramatic sounds of Blind Man’s Zoo, the whimsical beats on The Wishing Chair, the rawness of Hope Chest, and the pleasantness of In My Tribe. This is an ‘acoustic’ performance, but not stripped-down. There are quite a few instruments and musicians on stage, which makes it an energetic and complex sound. This is one of the few ‘Unplugged’ sessions on MTV that I remember watching and savoring. I recorded this concert with my VCR, and practically wore out the tape. Then I bought the official VHS tape, and the CD. That was the 90s, and still today the album and songs often travel with me on road trips.

If allowed by the ‘Draft Commissioner’, I specifically choose the VHS version of this album. It has three additional tracks that were tragically left off of the CD. They are duets with lead singer Natalie Merchant and David Byrne of Talking Heads. The songs are Dallas, Let the Mystery Be, and Jolene.

Favorite tracks on this album are Gold Rush Brides, Stockton Gala Days, and Don’t Talk.

‘Gold Rush Brides’ opens with Natalie reading a passage from the diary of a woman heading to California in a wagon train. The song has poignant lyrics and captivating harmonies.

‘Stockton Gala Days’ is purely uplifting. If you aren’t watching the dancing and twirling along with the video version, you are feeling it coming through the CD.

‘Don’t Talk’ became a favorite because of this performance. It’s the one I wore a groove in; taking full advantage of my 1990s giant Pioneer stereo speakers.

Of the David Byrne duets, I have to go with ‘Dallas’ as my absolute fave. More dancing.

I believe the entire Unplugged album and most of the VHS is on YouTube. For maximum enjoyment, choose the videos over the audio-only recordings where available.


  1. I’m so happy I got to see them in the late eighties. I can see why you picked them live. Natalie drew the audience in and her voice was electric…the songs sound tailored around it.

  2. Fine band and a great MTV performance. Natalie had a great voice and like Max hinted at, was very sexy but in a very unconventional, low-key manner back then. Sort of the anti-Madonna image wise.

  3. I guess I better add this to the spin cycle. Have a few recordings by the band plus Natalie’s other work. I had no idea on the ‘Dallas’ cover. Fantastic job on the Jimmie Dale tune (I love that song and JDG). The violin and vibe on ‘Stocton’ works for me but I’m a sucker for the fiddle anyway. Good stuff. I can hear why this is in your record stack.

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