The Feel Bad For You Mixtape's theme this month is "Best of 2011." Check it out to hear some great tunes from Kelsey Waldon, Robyn Ludwick, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Zoe Muth and more! Yours truly provided the hideous cover art. You can read track information and comment on the mixtape here.
Jan 5, 2012
Jan 1, 2012
by Kelcy Salisbury
Well, it's that time of year. Time to look back at what happened, what we wish had happened, what didn't happen and most importantly, who released the best music. So here, just in time for your Christmas shopping, are the best albums that I heard amongst the many that were released this year. Keep in mind, that these will lean toward my favorite types of music (although my taste is fairly eclectic) and as a "real" person with a full time job and a life that doesn't involve occupying things, I didn't get to listen to every new album that came out, let alone all the ones I wanted to hear. So if your favorite new album isn't on here it doesn't mean I hate it (although I probably do, especially if you're a Deer Tick fan), I may just have been busy trying to keep my lights on.
Without further ado: The list, first the honorable mentions, followed by my personal top ten.
This album will top many lists, and while I liked it and found it compelling in places it just didn't grab my attention and hold it throughout the way some of his earlier work (Sirens Of The Ditch) did. Still a worthy effort. Don't miss these tracks: Codeine, Passing Through, Alabama Pines and Go It Alone.
Could have easily made the top ten, but something had to get cut, and unfortunately for Mike, this album was one of the cuts. It's a solid country album with some incredibly clever songwriting. Don't miss Oldsmobile, Fools of Us All, Walking Into Walls and Nothing Left To Lose.
Much like Isbell's offering, I loved parts of this album but it didn't grab me as a body of work the way some of his earlier albums did. Can't miss songs are I Gotta Go, The Road Goes On and On, and Play A Train Song.
If I'd found this album a little earlier in the year it probably would have made the top ten. I find something more to like on every listen. The thing that makes this album stand out from the rest of the "honorable mentions" is that I felt like it needed and deserved to be heard as a whole. Perfectly laid out and beautifully arranged.
And now the top ten. The order of these (especially the top 5) could change depending on the day and my mood but each and every one of these albums can stand on it's own merits and would be a worthy addition to any collection.
This one may come as a surprise to some, but as I said before, my taste is fairly eclectic. I never expected to like this album and didn't even give it a thought until it was suggested to me by a friend whose taste I trust (you know who you are, I hope you're not upset it didn't get a higher position). James brings a ton of vocal ability to the table, pair that with solid songwriting and great instrumental work and you have one fine album.
I already reviewed this album in an earlier piece and I won't rehash that. I'll simply say that this album does a great job of combining working class concerns and social consciousness with hip hop beats with blues and country elements.
8. Adele: 21
Anyone that has the kind of pipes this girl possesses stands a decent chance of making a good song or two. This young lady has made an entire album of great songs. Her vocals are clearly the highlight, but the instrumentation is solid throughout. The only reason this offering didn't land higher on my list is that the songs are (thematically anyway) somewhat interchangable. As someone (I don't recall who) stated on Twitter, Adele's ex-boyfriend deserves a Grammy for inspiring this album.
The album that Cody had always wanted to make finally got made, and what an all star cast of musicians made it! Every song is a cover of a song by an Oklahoma born or based songwriter but The Departed make these songs their own. If I hadn't known better I'd have been easily convinced that these songs were originals. From the opening snippet of a voicemail from the legendary Randy Crouch to the rollicking take on Stand Up, this album is a pure slice of heavenly heartland rock n roll.
The lesser known half of the Braun Brothers have been steadily working towards this album and it's been well worth the work and the wait. The whole thing hangs together thematically from the heartbreaking story of the title track to the rocking Saint Lucy's Eyes. There is a story here and it takes all 11 tracks to tell.
Adams finally returns with an album worthy of his prodigous talent and reputation. Sobriety and a stable personal life have been good to the former Whiskeytown frontman and it shows. His songwriting is better than ever. His vocals are a perfect fit for the music and the music is pretty excellent. I had pretty well written off Adams as a waste of talent over the past few years but he proved me wrong in a big way and I'm glad for it.
The "Red Dirt Chinese Democracy" is here and it was worth the long wait. Stoney's sound has evolved over the years. Layers of lush instrumentation wash over his pitch-perfect vocals. Much credit is due to the influence of Mando Saenz who co-wrote the majority of the album but at the end of the day it is Stoney's name on the finished product and what a finished product it is.
Perhaps best known as Jason Isbell's girlfriend, Ms Shires deserves to be known as one of the finest musicians and songwriters on the planet. Elements of folk and bluegrass permeate this outstanding album. One listen to When You Need A Train It Never Comes and you'll be hooked.
The only criticism I heard of this album was that it was traditional country that didn't break new ground. In today's world, truly traditional country music is ground breaking in itself, so I don't see the problem. What I heard was the best country songwriter on the planet today providing socially conscious, thought provoking lyrics over the best traditional country sounding band you're ever likely to hear. Roger Ray's steel guitar work has only improved over the years, Brad Rice adds a new dimension to his drumming with heavy use of brushes instead of sticks, while Noah Jefferies and Jeremy Watkins provide outstanding fiddle work and Grant Tracy keeps the whole thing moving along with his bass work. This is simply the best offering yet from a band that never fails to deliver great country music for people who like country music.
It comes as no surprise to anyone who's read my prior writings that this album tops the list. There isn't much I can say about it I haven't already, so I'll just say that even after taking the time to seriously think about it and listen to tons of new music there was nothing I heard all year that grabbed and held my attention any more than this album. If you already own it, congratulations, and if you don't, do yourself a favor and buy it for yourself for a Christmas present.
Well, that's all for this year folks. I hope you enjoy the article and most of all I hope you enjoy the music.
Dec 30, 2011
FTM pal and Mixtape participant (you can still get it through Monday! and get his album Carlene as a free bonus!) Robert Earl Reed gives us his top 10 albums of the year.
Reverend Robert Earl Reed's Top 10 Albums of 2011
“Inner Planetary Honky Tonk” of the first degree.
REAL! Southern Rawk from the Ozarks
North Mississippi Hill Country Influenced Badassness
Awesome story telling about an awesome story teller
Pure Powerful XXX Music
We are watching the making of a true American Songwriting Legend with every note
A Classic Beauty of Voice
Just plain Ole Bad Ass Music
An under heard, under appreciated, Mississippi Story Teller of Monumental Proportion (think Mark Twain)
Real Songs, Real Artists
Here's a video from Powder Mill, the #2 finisher on the Rev's list:
Larry Lee would not be happy.
Dec 29, 2011
1. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - Codeine
2. Kasey Anderson and the Honkies - Exit Ghost
5. The Damn Quails - Fools Gold
The Rest of the Best:
Hayes Carll - Another Like You
Hayes Carll - Another Like You
Bad Meets Evil - Fast Lane
Stoney Larue - Dresses
Robert Earl Reed - Road to Hattiesburg
Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears - She's So Scandalous
Mike Ethan Messick - Walking Into Walls
Robyn Ludwick - Out of These Blues
Larry Hooper - Time to Go
Dawes - Fire Away
Hellbound Glory - Better Hope You Die Young
Willie Tea Taylor - Life is Beautiful
Hellbound Glory - Better Hope You Die Young
Willie Tea Taylor - Life is Beautiful
Eric Church - Springsteen
Blitzen Trapper - Love the Way You Walk Away
The Black Keys - Gold on the Ceiling
Drew Kennedy - Home to Me
Frank Turner - If I Ever Stray
Brad Paisley - A Man Don't Have to Die
Brad Paisley - A Man Don't Have to Die
Kelsey Waldon - God-Fearing People
JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound - I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
Glossary - Some Eternal Spark
Chris Young - Neon
The Damn Quails - Mary
John Moreland and the Dust Bowl Souls - Good Enough
Foo Fighters - Arlandria
Jimbo Mathus - Cling to the Roots
Amanda Shires - Ghost Bird
Pistol Annies - Trailer for Rent
John Popper and the Duskray Troubadors - Champipple
Ronnie Dunn - Cost of Livin'
Miranda Lambert - Mama's Broken Heart
Nick 13 - Carry My Body Down
Raphael Saadiq - Stone Rollin'
Big KRIT - Another Naive Individual Glorifying Greed & Encouraging Racism
George Strait - Poison
Centro-matic - Estimate X 3
Amos Lee - Flower
My tastes were more oriented towards roots-music this year than any in recent memory and The Damn Quails put out a stunning debut that satisfied my yearnings like no other. The unique voices of Bryon and Gabriel combine for divine harmonies and their writing is the class of contemporary bands that fall into the "red dirt" scene, or nearly any scene for that matter. There isn't a weak song on the offering and what's more, nearly every tune spent time lodged in my brain on replay at one point or another. Brilliant work, epic even. Best songs: All of them, but if you must have 1 or 2 …"Fool's Gold" and "Mary" always slay me.
Wrapped around the undeniable song of the year, "Codeine," is an album that more than pulls its own weight. Isbell fans may have hoped for something louder, but what they got was an artist-defining gem of a southern rock and soul record. Strong lyrics, excellent musicianship and plenty of easy-to-love melodies make this an album most anyone can appreciate, and true music lovers will adore. Best tracks: Codeine, Alabama Pines.
The boys went and growed up on us. While Hellbound Glory is still infatuated with the darker subjects - addiction, dysfunctional families and death, in particular - their songwriting has improved a great deal since their last album. Not that it was ever bad. It's just that this time around the songs are better developed. The hooks are hookier and the subject matter comes across more naturally - it no longer feels like they're trying to shoehorn in every deviant behavior and curse word they can, just because they can. This is a band on the rise and with material this good, they may eventually break down the wall between alt and country. Best tracks: Better Hope You Die Young, Knocked Off the Horse.
What else is there to say about Hayes? Rapier wit. Songwriting that recalls the greats of country and folk music. Memorable, affable voice. Actually has something to say. Just enough weirdness to keep him a little mysterious. Check, to all of those. This guy's the real deal; one of the few artists I'll buy an album from without hearing a single note. He never disappoints, never rests on his accolades. Thanks for another winner, Hayes! Best tracks: Another Like You, Chances Are.
Jimbo calls this "catfish music," and I see no better way to describe it. Confederate Buddha is a melting pot for southern music - R&B, rock, folk, country and swamp soul, all mixed, matched and sifted out at different times on the record. Mathus' writing is in turns poetic, straight-forward or abstract, all expertly crafted and emotionally performed. Best tracks: Cling to the Roots, Aces and Eights.
Bonnie Raitt, Janis Joplin and Neko Case in a blender vocals. Transgendered Hayes Carll songwriting chops. That was weird. …this album is great.
Best tracks: Are You Ready to Die, Hell's Bells
The in-demand producer of #6/former hair band member/former 90's alt-rock band, the jack - nay master - of all trades turns in this hook-driven smorgasbord of power pop, hard rock and jangly country-flavored rave-up goodness. This album alongside #8 would make a killer party soundtrack. Best tracks: Synthesizers, Suckerpunch
If this is a sellout, I wish every artist who's been accused of such had such a well-done betrayal of ideals. The Black Keys expand their blues rock sound to (bluesy) glam rock and power pop without missing a step or making it sound contrived. Sometimes you just need to turn off your inner-critic and enjoy. Fun, fun, fun! Best tracks: Gold on the Ceiling, Nova Baby
Adele somehow straddles the huge divide between modern pop and "old people" soul music with great success. Even the songs that lack lyrically are made great by Adele's huge (but never diva-esque) voice. There hasn't been an artist in some time that brought together so many people in mutual admiration. This is a chick album that dudes can be unashamed to love. It's an old-school album that kids can groove to. Excellence. Best tracks - Rolling in the Deep, Someone Like You.
Sounding like the Black Crowes by way of Muscle Shoals, Ponderosa is a super-talented band of southern rockers who mostly steer clear of the clichés of the genre. Kalen Bush's lead vocals are stirring and the harmonies take their sound over the top. Ponderosa isn't reinventing the wheel here, but what they do, they do very well. Best tracks: Old Gin Road, Devil on My Shoulder.
13. Stoney Larue - Velvet
15. Ryan Adams - Ashes and Fire
16. Pistol Annies - Hell on Heels
17. Wilco - The Whole Love
18. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears - Scandalous
19. Mastodon - The Hunter
20. Will Hoge - Number Seven
22. Miranda Lambert - Four the Record
23. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
24. Justin Haigh - People Like Me
25. Frank Ocean - Nostalgia, Ultra
26. Frank Turner - England Keep My Bones
28. Bon Iver - s/t
29. Sunny Sweeney - Concrete
31. Bad Meets Evil - Hell (The Sequel)
32. Left Lane Cruiser - Junkyard Speed Ball
34. Big KRIT - Return of 4Eva
35. The Decemberists - The King is Dead
36. F*cked Up - David Comes to Life
37. Merle Haggard - Working in Tennessee
38. Eli Young Band - Life at Best
39. Adam Hood - The Shape of Things
41. Glossary - Long Live All of Us
43. Blitzen Trapper - American Goldwing
44. Dawes - Nothing is Wrong
45. Cody Canada and The Departed - This is Indian Land
46. The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow
47. George Strait - Here for a Good Time
48. Robyn Ludwick - Out of These Blues
50. Jason Boland and the Stragglers - Rancho Alto
Dec 27, 2011
51. Ha Ha Tonka - Death of a Decade
52. Micky and the Motorcars - Raise My Glass
53. Glen Campbell - Ghost on the Canvas
54. Sam Sliva and the Good - And the People Say
55. 13ghosts - Liar's Melody
56. The Redlands Palomino Company - Don't Fade
57. The Horrible Crowes - Elsie
58. Social Distortion - Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes
59. Jay Z & Kanye West - Watch the Throne
60. Steve Earle - I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive
61. Have Gun Will Travel - Mergers & Acquisitions
62. Eric Church - Chief
63. Drive-by Truckers - Go-Go Boots
64. Robert Earl Reed - Carlene
65. Johnny Corndawg - Down on the Bikini Line
66. Amos Lee - Mission Bell
67. Gillian Welch - The Harrow and the Harvest
68. Jeremy Steding - I Keep on Livin', But I Don't Learn
69. Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring for My Halo
70. The Low Anthem - Smart Flesh
71. Jason Fratesi and the Dirt Road Jam Band - Cryin' Out Loud
72. Thieving Birds - S/T
73. Brad Paisley - This is Country Music
74. Nick 13 - S/T
75. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
Dec 22, 2011
Maybe 101 albums is too many for a "Best of" list. Some may think it's indulgent or that I'm showing off how much music I listened to ....but that's not the case. I just love music so much and it needs to be seen that good music is still being put out in this day and age of disposable songs. I listened to many, many, many new albums in 2011 and passed on dozens more after previewing them. The FTM 101 includes all the albums I heard and think are most worthy of mention. Here's the first installment (higher up the chart will include write-ups).
77. Mt. Moriah - s/t
78. Chris Young - Neon
79. The Jayhawks - Mockingbird Time
80. Mike McClure - Fifty Billion
82. Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers - Unida Cantina
83. Trombone Shorty - For True
84. Too Slim and the Taildraggers - Shiver
85. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings - Soul Time!
86. Middle Brother - S/T
87. Blind Boys of Alabama - Take the High Road
88. Black Spiders - Sons of the North
90. Rachel Brooke - Down in the Barnyard
92. Switchfoot - Vice Verses
93. Childish Gambino - Camp
94. Deer Dick - Divine Providence
96. Zoe Muth & the Lost High Rollers - Starlight Hotel
98. R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now
99. The Gourds - Old Mad Joy
100. My Morning Jacket - Circuital
101. Black Stone Cherry - Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea