Other recommended listening from 2011
The Damnwells – No One Listens to the Band Anymore.
I picked up this band from the guys at the Popdose podcast. They share my tastes and generally steer me in the direction of good music. I don’t really know how to describe this band and can’t pinpoint exactly what I like about them, but I listened to this album a lot this year. It is great music for work; upbeat and very catchy so that you don’t have to pay attention all the time to enjoy it, but well written so it is worth really listening when you do. Lots of good rock and roll on this record, but the slower ‘Werewolves’ is a standout and really showcases frontman Alex Dezen’s voice and songwriting ability. --SCB
Alison Kraus and Union Station - Paper Airplane
Union Station is everything that’s right about bluegrass. This is a group of very talented musicians and Alison Krauss sings like an angel. The album opens with her soaring soprano on the title track and closes with my favorite, a beautiful rendition of Jackson Browne’s “My Opening Farewell”. In between are nine songs delivered with typical Union Station precision and feeling. This album is well worth your time regardless of your taste in music. -KJB
Drive By Truckers – Go-Go Boots.
Another really solid effort from this prolific act. Bookended by my two favorite songs on the album ‘I do believe’ and ‘Mercy Buckets’ DBT continues to prove that know what they do, and they do it very well. While I would not call their musical path progressive, my inclination that they lack breadth has waned as I have spent more time listening to them. I find songs and themes I really like throughout their records, and Go-Go Boots is no exception. –SCB
Two of our favorite acts also released new material in 2011. Ryan Adams (Ashes and Fire) and The Jayhawks (Mockingbird Time). For both I would say the collective jury is still out. Ashes and Fire is certainly the softer side of Ryan Adams, “background music” as Dad calls it. We both like the sound of the album as a whole but nothing special has really jumped out yet.
Mockingbird Time is significant because it features the Jayhawks lineup from their second release, the all-time classic ‘Tomorrow the Green Grass’ (1995). I have given it some time, but find it an often uneven attempt to mesh the very divergent styles of Gary Louris and Mark Olson that emerged after they split. The album certainly has some great hooks and beautiful moments when they recapture the harmonies that soak their first two records. Olson's voice, however, is clearly not what it once was. There are things I like about it, but don’t see it becoming a ‘go-to’ Jayhawks record.
Here's to a great 2012 full of great music and new discoveries.