Music reviews

Top Discs of 2011

For KDHX Radio, St. Louis

Music isn’t a sport though the idea of a top 10 list can make it seem competitive. It isn’t like that, of course, but there are some recordings that are, well, better than others.

The Wailin’ Jennys, “Bright Morning Stars”
Good lord I love this recording, I could go on and on. Varied, beautiful, and pristine.

Sarah Jaroz, “Follow Me Down”
Oh man, this is a great one too. Jaroz’s cover of Dylan’s “Ring Them Bells” has haunted me, but in a good way. Everything else here is equally brilliant.

Chris Thile and Michael Daves,  “Sleep With One Eye Open”
Weird, perhaps, as is the love they profess to the Louvin Brothers. Still, this album is even better than we thought it would be, had we had a chance to think about it.

Sierra Hull, “Daybreak”
This is just a beautiful album with impeccable presentation. The material is a bit heavy on young love, but, she’s young, so she’s entitled, and the sterling musicianship makes up for it.

Gillian Welch, “The Harrow and the Harvest”
Another gorgeous, long awaited album from a truly inspired and inspiring writer and performer.

Caroline Herring, “The Little House Songs”
This is the first album from Herring intended for a child audience, though it’s also a great collection of new work from one of my favourite writers and performers. The CD retells the story of the house in the children’s book The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. It’s what any great kids album should be—a collection that both kids and adults enjoy listening to.

Blue Highway, “Sounds of Home”
This band is always  so solid and tasteful, and their writing just takes me away. Nothing too thick or heavy, just great song writing presented by a set of stellar musicians.

The Kruger Brothers, “Appalachian Concerto”
If banjo is America’s only indigenous instrument, at least in popular music, then this long overdue: the banjo in classical setting, telling the story of a part of the world where banjo music comes from. But, even if we place all of that aside, this concerto still stands on its own.

Noam Pikelny, “Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail”
This a seminal work from a fantastic musician with, it turns out, lots of high flying friends. Challenging, listenable, funny—all of that and more on a superbly produced album from the banjo player from the Punch Brothers.

The Laws, “Try Love”
This album doesn’t make the same kind of splash that some of the others on this list do, but it’s a disc that stayed in the CD player in the car for quite a long time this year.

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Categories: Music reviews

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