We put the wraps on 2011 with a collection of releases that hit the Barndance sweet spot during the year. Few are from artists that are anything close to household names, but each is an out-of-the-familiar beat of brilliance that’ll light up your iPod, CD player, or turntable.
Lydia Loveless – Indestructible Machine (Bloodshot)
An irresistible debut album of old school insurgent country and attitudinal punk from a 21-year-old tough tart whose songs read like someone who has lived a lot of life through her early years.
Charles Bradley – No Time for Dreaming (Dunham)
As sanctifying a set of old school soul in the contemporary to come down the pike in a long time.
Caitlin Rose – Own Side Now (ATO)
Rose combines a fetching and versatile voice with lived-in songs running the emotional gamut to deliver a take-notice performance primed to perk ears.
Jessica Lea Mayfield – Tell Me (Nonesuch)
Esoteric roots music of a different stripe from a songwriter described as a romantic miserablist and all hauntingly beautiful.
Reverend John Wilkins – You Can’t Hurry God (Big Legal Mess)
Son of famous gospel singer who he himself played guitar on O.V. Wright’s famous â€˜65 hit “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry,” Wilkins waited until his 60s to make his first album, a gospel affair that gloriously marries Memphis soul to Mississippi grit.
Patrick Sweany – That Old Southern Drag (Nine Mile)
Think early Black Keys with dollops of soul.
Nick Lowe – The Old Magic (Yep Roc)
The masterful Lowe emits tastefulness with the occasional wink and a smile on this album with nods to cocktail pop, country and the like.
Cave Singers – No Witch (Jagjaguwar Records)
The sonic landscape of No Witch is a wide one and continues to make the Cave Singers one of the most spellbinding bands making music these days.
Zoe Muth & Lost High Rollers – Starlight Hotel (Signature Sounds)
Country comfort devoid of any frilly trappings with the centerpiece the honeyed voice of Ms. Muth.
Amanda Shires – Carrying Lightning (self-released)
The monstrously talented Shires combines a wistful soprano with songs that oft-times defy convention, but never fail to suck you in.
Sonny & the Sunsets – Hit After Hit (Fat Possum)
Another set of quirky, off-beat pop nuggets from Smith demonstrating his gift for crafting tantalizing melodies with high listener appeal.
Deer Tick – Divine Providence (Partisan)
The album fans of the live show have been salivating for and on which the Providence band wears its rock & roll stripes proudly.
Honorable Mention: Exene Cervenka – The Excitement of Maybe (Bloodshot); Bobby Long – A Winter Tale (ATO); The Black Swans – Don’t Blame the Stars (Misra); David Mayfield Parade – self-titled (Grade 9); Middle Brother – self-titled (Partisan); Amy LaVere – Stranger Me (Archer); John Paul Keith – The Man That Time Forgot (Big Legal Mess); Connie Smith – Long Line of Heartaches (Sugar Hill); Rod Picott – Welding Burns.
Favorite Reissues/Historical Collections of 2011
Limes – Tarantula/Blue Blood (Goner)
Two releases of ramshackle roots rock from the first decade of 2000 that shimmers and shakes.
Charles â€˜Packy’ Axton – Late Late Party 1965-67 (Light in the Attic)
His mother co-founded Stax Records and it paid dividends in the music Packy Axton made before his partying ways got the best of him. Party time – Memphis style.
Various Artists – Eccentric Soul: The Nickel & Penny Labels (Numero Group)
Stunning collection of 1960s and 70s soul and R&B from Chicago with the common denominator legendary Windy City DJ Richard Pegue who produced many of the tracks.
Various Artists – This May Be My Last Time Singing: Raw African-American Gospel on 45 RPM (Tompkins Square Records)
Three CDs worth of black gospel music culled entirely from 45 RPMs ranging from low-fi brilliance to hi-fi in-your-face hallelujah salvation.
Various Artists – Boddie Recording Company: Cleveland, Ohio (Numero Group)
For the packaging alone, another amazing collection from The Numero Group that focuses on the Cleveland-based do-it-as-you-want-it Boddie Recording Company. Heavy on the soul and gospel, it’s a 3-CD smorgasbord of sound.