I’m not doing a “regular” top-list. I already made a top50 for my norwegian blog, and the selections just make me want to go hide in the forest until the new year is official and no-one cares about these lists anymore.

SO – what I’m doing for Ninebullets is picking some of my favorite albums among the more unknown artists out there…
Obviously I loved Isbells “Here We Rest”, Adams “Ashes & Fire”, Gillians “The Harrow and The Harvest” and even Paul Simons beautiful “So Beautiful Or So What”.

But I also loved these albums, and I hope you will give them a chance – as they all deserve attention.

Here’s 13 musical reasons 2011 was a good year:

Howard Iceberg & The Titanics – “Welcome Aboard”

When Pat Tomek introduced me to Howard Icebergs songs, I did not expect to be blown away by his exceptional lyrics. But that was what happened. Howards box “Welcome Aboard” – which I reviewed here on Ninebullets a while back is by far my most played album of 2012. It being seven cds, that’s impressive by it self. Since discovering the world of Howard Iceberg, I’ve bought his not too extensive back-catalog, and even a couple of cassettes on eBay – as I just can’t get enough.

Howard Iceberg & The Titanics – Tattoo

The Porter Draw – “California Widow”.

Among all the sub-par stuff my norwegian blog gets sent either by email or Reviewshine, there are gems that shine stronger than most of what gets noticed.
The Porter Draw and their fabulous album California Widow is one of those gems. Their in-your-face mix of americana, punk and bluegrass makes this album a pleasure to listen to, and with their songwriting and great musicianship as their strongest assets this band will just keep delivering.

The Porter Draw – Athens

The Damn Quails – “Down The Hatch”

This might just be my one and a half year old sons favourite album. He broke out in spontaneous dancing when he first heard “Fools Gold”, and still jumps around every time he hears it. And that’s quite often, as I love this album just as much as him – and subsequently plays it a LOT.

The Damn Quails – Fool’s Gold

The Far West – “The Far West”

Brilliant pedal-steel by Erik Kristiansen, and the most heartfelt vocals you’ll ever hear makes this one of my favourites this year. I love their sound and the fact that they sound like a long lost Whiskeytown album.

The Far West – The Best Company

The Rainmakers – “25 On”

If Ryan Adams comeback was great, then The Rainmakers comeback is nothing less than magic. There’s always the great risk of sounding dated and just going through the motions for the money when great bands from the late 80s and early 90s get back together.

The Rainmakers have turned out stronger than ever, with a great album of songs with Bob Walkenhorst’s lyrics where he draws an all his experience and shows how both he and the band has matured and really deserve attention once again.

The Rainmakers – Given Time

John Moreland – “Everything The Hard Way”

This is a matter of “I heard it through the grapevine”, or rather quickly understood that this had to be listened too after reading the other 9B-writers reactions to this album. And their impeccable taste did NOT let me down. Strong lyrics, and an album that focuses on growing up.

John Moreland -Christian Rock

Israel Nash Gripka – “Barn Doors and Concrete Floors”

Speaking of great lyrics, this album really has got them! Along with the melodies that stick on your brain, this album has made me play it again and again and again since I became aware of it this fall. You get rock, you get country – and you get songs that both Neil Young and Ryan Adams would have been proud of writing and adding to their albums.

Israel Nash Gripka – Drown

ORBO & The Longshots – “Prairie Sun”

My norwegian favourite from 2011, the brilliant “Praire Sun”. The album is getting it’s american release in late january, before the band hit the road in the US yet again. They are just too good for little Norway, so I guess we need to share them. Great songs, great rockin’ americana.

ORBO & The Longshots – High Grass Dog

Stephen Simmons – “The Big Show”

I’ve been heavily focused on lyrics this year, and Stephen Simmons brings some of the best into the mix. He writes about life in a way that really tells you he’s lived it himself, and this is really something that deserves an audience.

Stephen Simmons – Parchcorn Falls

The Reneaus – “Room For Roses”

Another one of those little gems that turned up on Reviewshine, I can only describe The Reneaus as different. They create a mood that is unique, and the voice of their singer Ashley Cooper Winn will stick to your mind as soon as you let it into your head.

Some bluegrass, some country and bits and pieces of darker rock’n’roll make up this album that sometimes haunt me when I sleep.

The Reneaus – Banks Of The River

Drew Kennedy – “Fresh Water In The Salton Sea”

This was really a treat. Drew Kennedy released an album AND a book. Both called “Fresh Water In The Salton Sea”. The book, which is really a great read, focuses on the fictional singer/songwriter Dan Murphy and his experiences while on the road to finish up another tour – while dealing with a bad breakup and his mind killing off his ex-girlfriend in brutal ways.

The album consists of the songs Dan writes during his travels, and the lyrics to them are printed in the book at the aproximate point where Dan writes them. Brilliant concept, and it really works!

Drew Kennedy – Vapor Trails

Back Porch Mary – “Time Is Now”

Since “Time Of The Broken Heart” from 2008, Back Porch Mary have toured extensively, gone from being a quartet to a trio – and matured as band and songwriters. They promised that “Time Is Now” would be their strongest effort yet, and followed through all the way by giving us a real kicker of an album.

Back Porch Mary – Fast Car

Vintage Trouble – “The Bomb Shelter Sessions”

If you haven’t checked these guys out on YouTube yet, please do so.
If you have the opportunity to see these guys live, PLEASE do so!
This is the perfect mix of blues, soul, rock’n’roll and Rhythm & Blues, like it was mean to be played.
Their album is good, but their live shows and videos are bloody (that’s across the pond for “fucking”) awesome. Check “Blues Hand Me Down” and “Nobody Told Me” and tell me I’m wrong…

Vintage Trouble – Nobody Told Me