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The US100: 100 songs from the heart of America

It was just supposed to be a playlist. It had two purposes:
1) to provide a bit of a backing track for the long train journeys or rental car treks ahead;
2) to amuse me for a bit as I established how many enjoyable New York related songs I could thread together, before doing likewise for other cities and states on the agenda.

Somewhere along the way it spiralled out of control...

Maybe it was the point I started using a notebook to list down all my various option and realised I’d jotted down over 50 possibilities for New York City alone. Perhaps it was later down the line, when trips to Chicago, Nashville, and Memphis hit me like a cultural slap to the face, sparking an obsession with US musical history that would not be easily shaken. It could have been the point when I decided to quantify the whole thing: 100 songs seemed like a perfect way to curb my selection excesses, and that in turn led me to think that I had the makings of a decent blog.

Once back in the UK things only got more involved. It seemed that rather than having a blog on my hands, I was, for some reason, increasingly committing myself to something between delivering a thesis, curating a museum, weaving a tapestry and completing an odyssey. The US100 had begun, and I wasn’t quite sure when the end would be in sight – as I write this in January 2019, it’s been exactly three years since that process began and I have completed my write up for a mere 12 tracks. There was quite a significant hiatus in there so I retain hope that my current run rate will increase, and it will not take approximately 25 years to complete.

The premise, unlike the process, is fairly simple. I’m going to explore each spot that me, my sister and some of my closest friends visited during a four week coast to coast US holiday in the winter of 2015/16 through obsessively immersing myself in a number of songs I have selected to represent that particular place. Aside from geographical connection and me having to like the track, there aren’t many rules behind each selection – the stories are whatever takes my fancy, whether that be those of the songs and artists, a wider genre, scene or movement, or even just my own personal anecdotes (including several from those four weeks in the States).

And so it’s worth clarifying: this ain’t no comprehensive academic exercise. Sure, by the time I get to Track 100 – if I live that long – I’ll have done a reasonable job of conveying the purely indulgent volume of musical tales that the USA has to offer. But considering it’s restricted a) to our holiday route and b) to my own tastes and interests, you’ll have to accept some notable omissions – Florida, for example, or Bruce Springsteen say. The tracks themselves were selected and enshrined in stone three years ago, a decision made to pick songs first and then work backwards – so, quite unlike a Nashville house band, the US100 operates a No Requests policy.

I’ll be drip feeding track-by-track blog updates here on theus100.com, delivered through four 25 x song ‘volumes’ and complemented by a wide range of interview content gathered as I go. All things being well a podcast series will follow in due course.

I hope you find something to enjoy in my epic exploration of the American musical landscape. If not, then I hope you’ll at least enjoy the playlist.

Jarek Zaba
Curator, The US100

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The US100: Volumes I – IV

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Vol III coming soon...
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