2011 was another pretty damn good year for music.
#1 was the easiest pick on the whole list. Frank Turner blew my mind this year. I re-discovered his back catalog just prior to the release of England Keep My Bones and now have a new favorite songwriter.
Other notables on the list include several “new” artists who inspired me this year, including Zoe Muth, Jen Buxton, and the incredible Alabama Shakes.
BEST OF 2011
1. FRANK TURNER, England Keep My Bones
Easily my favorite record released this year. Not a bad track on this record. Most are life-affirming.
2. GILLIAN WELCH, The Harrow and the Harvest
The return of one of Americana’s most beloved artists. Welch and Rawlings exceed impossibly high expectations with this spare but lively collection of songs. The best LP of their storied career in my book.
3. AMERICAN GUN, Therapy
Twangville contributor Todd Mathis fronts these (former alt. country) rockers. This record comes in right behind England Keep My Bones for most played record of 2011. It ain’t country, but it’s damn sure some of finest independently released rock and roll I heard this year.
4. JASON ISBELL & THE 400 UNIT, Here We Rest
This is easily my favorite of Isbell’s post-Trucker releases. It feels calm and unhurried, serving up his strongest set of tunes since The Dirty South.
5. GLOSSARY, Long Live All of Us
This one was a grower for me, but eventually nudged its way higher and higher up on this list. Glossary is a classic American Rock Band and Long Live All of Us is a classic American(a) album.
6. JEN BUXTON, Don’t Change Your Plans
This record may be my biggest revelation this year. I have yet to write a review of it, even though I have been obsessing over it for the last three months. Jen Buxton is an Australian songwriter, who palled around with the otherwise boy-only Revival Tour when it swung through the land down under. With admirers such as Frank Turner, Ben Nichols, and Chuck Ragan, Buxton is exactly as good as you would think.
7. STEVE EARLE, I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive
This record may not rate as highly for other long-time Earle fans, but I continue to rate it highly. It has a number of good to great songs and is an excellent listening experience back to front. “Gulf of Mexico,” “God Is God,” “Heaven and Hell,” and “This City” are favorites.
8. ZOE MUTH & THE LOST HIGH ROLLERS, Starlite Hotel
One of the biggest surprises for me this year, Zoe Muth it making some excellent country music up there in Seattle. The Lost High Rollers features both a pedal steel player and a mandolin player and the interplay between the two is excellent.
9. BEN SOLLEE, Inclusions
Sollee created a masterful, genre hopping record that traces a line from Miles Davis to My Morning Jacket back to the Carter Family.
10. THE DECEMBERISTS, The King Is Dead
Easily the most straight-forward Decemberists record and easily my favorite Decemberists record. Peter Buck and Gillian Welch drop in for some guest spots. Both seem to influence the record quite a bit. I wish I could write that about every record.
11. JOHN HIATT, Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns
John Hiatt is the man. If you disagree, you are wrong.
12. BUTCH WALKER & THE BLACK WIDOWS, The Spade
Another excellent slab of infectious tunes from Mr. Walker. Not as memorable as I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart, but just as catchy.
13. MY MORNING JACKET, Circuital
Jim James and Co. refuse ot make a bad or boring record.
14. RYAN ADAMS, Ashes & Fire
Adams best effort since Heartbreaker. Let his one grow, it has beautiful tunes.
15. THE JAYHAWKS, Mockingbird Time
Louris and Olson make a record that lives up to The Jayhawks name and still expands upon their trademark sound.
16. DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS, Go-Go Boots
Better than The Big To Do. Not as good as Brighter Than Creation’s Dark. “Mercy Buckets” is my favorite song from 2011.
17. ADELE, 21
You don’t have to like Adele. But if you don’t you probably don’t have a soul, or at least not an appreciation for classic soul music.
18. CARY ANN HEARST, Lions and Lambs
Local Charleston, SC girl makes a big splash this year. The record isn’t as good as seeing her live with Shovels and Rope, but its still pretty damn good.
19. HAYES CARLL, KMAG & YOYO
Fails to live up to the brilliant Trouble In Mind, but still a pretty good record. The duet with Cary Ann Hearst, “Another Like You,” is killer.
20. LUCINDA WILLIAMS, Blessed
Blessed, we are….to have Ms. Williams recording excellent records into another decade.
21. RICHARD BUCKNER, Our Blood
Perhaps my favorite Buckner record since Bloomed.
22. SOCIAL DISTORTION, Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes
A couple great songs mixed with a fair bit of filler. The good songs are great and rock unabashedly.
23. OLD 97′s, The Grand Theatre Vol. 2
Nothing as immediately infectious as “Every Night Is Friday Night,” but on the whole I liked this one better than Vol. 1.
24. ABIGAIL WASHBURN, City of Refuge
Ms. Washburn veers yet again this time to……indie rock. And it works. I would listen to far more indie-rock if they played more banjo.
25. CAITLIN ROSE, Own Side Now
A gentle, breezy record that becomes quickly infectious. Favorites include “Learning to Ride” and “Shanghai Cigarettes.”
1. ALABAMA SHAKES, S/T
2. Crooked Still, Friends of Fall
BEST LIVE RECORDS
1. Joe Pug, Live at Lincoln Hall
2. Guy Clark, Songs and Stories
About the author: Specializes in Dead, Drunk, and Nakedness..... Former College Radio DJ and Current Craft Beer Nerd