Twang Nation Top Picks of 2011

Tis’ the season for “Best of…” “Top picks…”Depending on your point of view it’s either as welcome as a gift under the tree on Christmas morning or fruit cake. This subjective separation of musical wheat from chafe, truth be told, it’s my least favorite part of doing this blog. I prefer visit each work on an individual basis. And though I do bring a wider view of music, only in rare instances would weigh a work in contrast to something I heard just the week before. This 12-month capsule is constraining, bit with constraints come opportunity to focus the mind.

First- ground rules. No albums of cover songs. So, no Gurf Morlix or Carrie Rodriguez. But ya’ll should still buy the excellent Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream and We Still Love Our Country respectively. No albums where an artist revisits earlier work, or live albums of already recorded work. Sorry Levon Helm, Ramble At The Ryman might get you that Grammy for Americana Album of the Year but you won’t make the TN 2011 list.

My pick for number one spot came to me in April and I pegged it early as the one to beat. Nobody even came close. Austin Lucas’ New Home In The Old World is a fine mix of country, folk and rock delivered in such a seamless and extraordinary way that ibelieveit advances th genre in it’s existence. Same with To the Wind and On To Heaven by Sunday Valley. The Kentucky band captured my attention early in the year with their brand of high-octane honky-tonk/gospel boogie and seeing them live sealed their spot at #2.

Jason Isbell may not care for end-of-year lists but he made mine by creating his most inspired and solid solo record with Here We Rest. A chance encounter at the Grimey’s Americanarama showcase at the Americana Music Association led me to the #9 quirky duo of Hymn for Her.

Canadian Laura Repo’s debut Get Yourself Home landed in my in-box the week I was putting this list together. Repo’s plaintive voice of simple, timeless themes and and the sparse arrangements reach back to country music’s roots and secured her a slot at number 10.

Last year was a great year for Americana/roots music and I reflected this bumper crop by overindulging and creating a top 25 list. On retrospect, this was excessive. this year I’ve focused on the abloute top 10 that I love to listen to from start to finish.  Here’s no an even better 2012!
  1. Austin Lucas – New Home In The Old World
  2. Sunday Valley – To the Wind and On To Heaven
  3. Jason Isbell – Here We Rest
  4. Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers – Starlight Hotel
  5. Gillian Welch – The Harrow & The Harvest
  6. Hayes Carll – KMAG YO YO
  7. Lindi Ortega – Little Red Boots
  8. Hellbound Glory – Damaged Goods
  9. Hymn for Her – Lucy & Wayne and The Amairican Stream
  10. Laura Repo – Get Yourself Home