First I want to say that this was one of the hardest top lists I have ever done. Some of these don’t deserve to be ranked any lower than the ones above them. While I didn’t write as prolifically this year as I did others what I wrote about I really and truly loved. And then the other folks ’round these parts wrote about good stuff too. But the end of the year breeds top lists so I have been struggling for the past couple of weeks to actually rank these albums. I honestly will be doing some of these fine folks a disservice by putting a number next to their album but that’s the nature of top lists. It is what it is. This is my top ten for 2011, for this moment, as I write this post. I can assure you that it would turn out different tomorrow. Not the album, those would all stay the same, but the order would change. This year I am going to go against the grain a little bit and start with my current number one at the top of the list and end it all with a nice little compilation of songs from each artist. As much as I hate ranking these, because I love every one of them, here goes…
Number One: Austin Lucas – A New Home In The Old World
This album has rocked my world since the Day I picked it up. I love all of Austin’s work and he is one of the few artists I can honestly say has gotten better with each release. A New Home In The Old World is an amazing effort in which Austin steps outside of the box of his first releases and plugs in. The tracks on this album with an electric guitar are amazing and live they will blow you away. I was lucky enough to see Austin twice this year, once with The Revend Peyton’s Big Damn Band and once with Glossary and he blew me away each time. I got to take two of my kids to the show with Glossary for their first live music experience and I am pretty sure it changed their world. Austin gave us a great album and is one of the most genuine folks I have had the pleasure of meeting. While I hated ranking some these this album earned the top spot on my list without any question.
Number Two: Chuck Ragan – Covering Ground
I said in my review of Covering Ground that this could be one of the defining Americana abums of the decade and time hasn’t changed my mind one little bit. This is one of the best albums I have ever heard. It stays in constant rotation and is as much a sing along as any other album I have. I cannot stress enough that this Chuck’s best work to date and you need it in your collection. This is whikey music for sure and we all know how I feel about whiskey music. In case you don’t here’s the run down: Played loud and alone with the whiskey straight and the lights down low. As far as I am concerned this is the best whiskey drinkin’ music of the year. And I don’t take that kind of statement lightly.
Number Three: Shane Sweeney – The Finding Time/Micah Schnabel – I’m Dead Serious
Original Shane Sweeney Post
Original Micah Schnabel Post
There is no way in hell I could rank one of these above the other. Hell ranking the top two has just about killed me so far. I can’t tell you how many times I have rewritten this post. I couldn’t rank one of these above the other so I gave them both number three. The really strange part is that it’s not because it’s Shane and Micah. These are two completely different albums. Aside from both being dark there is not a lot in common. However they are both fucking amazing in their own rights. I got some flack for mentioning I thought the music could have been stronger on I’m Dead Serious but I didn’t mean that it wasn’t a totally amazing album. In fact I rather hope it’s place on my top ten list shows that while I did offer some criticism I didn’t feel it wasn’t a strong album. Micah’s lyrics tear me apart every time I listen to it. And then we have The Finding Time which is one of the most honest albums I have ever heard in my entire life. The style of production and Shane’s unbridled honesty makes you feel like you are sitting in his goddamn living room listening to him tell you his life story. So yeah it may be easier to write about these two in the same slot because of the TCG link but I promise you these two albums are equally amazing regardless of that link. These kids are making art here and you damn well better pay attention to it or you will get left behind. Whether it’s solo or as TCG there is no mistaking the genius that these two bring to the table. If don’t own the both of these then there is something very seriously wrong with you and you should probably seek professional help.
Number Four: Prison Book Club – Prison Book Club
This self titled effort is by far one of my most played albums. The opening strains of the very first track seem to put me in just that mood, you know the one, the mood where you want to go down to your local hole in the wall, knock back eight or nineteen PBRs and try to lay some whup ass on the biggest SOB in the joint. The only bump in the road was the rework of Heart Of Lead off of their first album and even that’s just a little bump. This is rock and roll in all of its glory. These kids, members of The Fox Hunt and The Demon Beat, put together something that truly shows the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This album, as well as their first, will melt your face right off at 100 paces. It is as good as rock and roll comes these days.
Number Five: Glossary – Long Live All Of Us
Let’s just keep the face melting vibe going with number five and get some Glossary on the list. These kids from Murfreesboro know how to rock and after seeing them live I can guarantee that face melting is their stock and trade. I love me some rock and roll and Long Live All Of Us delivers that in no uncertain terms. But what I love about Glossary is that their rock and roll backs up some of the most amazing songwriting floating around our little genre these days. These guys aren’t afraid to tackle any given subject and give it their all while they do it. When I saw them with Austin Lucas the little kids at the show couldn’t hold still and every last one of them got up in front of the band and rocked out. It put the hipsters at the show to shame. Little kids showing hispters how music should be enjoyed warmed my heart. I just want to thank Glossary for being able to see that and this is the perfect space to do that. Keep rockin’ it kids!
Number Six: Michael Dean Damron – Plea From A Ghost
With my penchant for honest music including Plea From Ghost was a no-brainer. As far as soul baring goes Michael Dean Damron really comes in second to none. The pain and suffering he can convey in his voice is enough to make a tea totaller crave that bourbon burn. This one gets cued up for those late-night-family-bed-looking-back-at-my-life-through-the-bottom-of-a-whiskey-glass nights. But even if you aren’t someone that gets all whiskey-pensive this is still an damn good album and it’s one you should already own. I seriously doubt Mr. Damron will ever cease to amaze me with his writing, his voice and his music. This is likely the most heartbreaking album to come out this year and I love every single note of it.
Number Seven: The Von Ehrics – Two Foot Stomp
This was one of those that came out of nowhere, a band I had never heard of, an album that sat around unlistened and when I finally got it it grabbed me by the throat and made me regret putting it off as long as I did. Two Foot Stomp is a perfect blend of punk mentality, Texas twang and a little bit of soul. I still feel like I didn’t do it justice in my original write up and know I can’t fix that in the space I am allowing myself for this list. Suffice it to day that it is some of the best music to come out of the Texas/Red Dirt/Whatever-the-hipsters-in-ironic-cowboy-hats-are-calling-it-these-days scene. It gives me hope that a scene I loved for years isn’t going to drown in frat-boy-country.
Number Eight: Scott H. Biram – Bad Ingredients
It’s hard to say something that hasn’t already been said here on 9B about the venerable Mr. Scott H. Biram. The original review garnered some opinions that Bad Ingredients wasn’t one of Birma’s stronger works and I can’t disagree more. There wasn’t any phoning it in on this one. In fact this is my second favorite SHB album. It’s got everything I have come to expect from this man. Honestly I can’t not sing along to I Want My Mojo Back (I really wish there was a karaoke version of that one). This record was one of the high points of my year. I am really glad I managed to wrestle this one away from AIV for the review. I still haven’t managed to see SHB live but it’s on my list of things to do in 2012 even if I have to drive to Austin to see the boy.
Number Nine: The Heelers – The Devil On Your Shoulder
I can’t lie and say that having this many Texas kids on my list doesn’t make happy and The Heelers are no exception. So I am not entirely sure whether this one came out in late 2010 or early 2011 but I reviewed in February so it goes on my 2011 list. A Brent Best produced (see: Two Cow Garage as well) band these guys write and play music that is just fun to listen to. Possibly my favorite line of the year comes from this one: …And the barkeep’s prettier than any I’ve see what the hell is she doin’ in here/Givin’ courtesy laughs to piss poor jokes and serving lonely me one beer…. You can tell that Isaac Hoskins has done some time in the same sort of bars I am still serving time in and I love him for that.
Number Ten: Brandon Adams And The Sad Bastards – Self Titled
Having started the year pretty down on the Red Dirt scene this was one the albums that left me having a little bit of faith coming out the other side. It’s dark, it’s raw and it demands to be taken with whiskey. This little group from Texas really carved out its place on my playlist. I love me some soul baring, gritty music and this satisifes that need quite sufficeintly. To be honest this one deserves a higher place on the list but the nature of lists means that albums have to be at the bottom. I couldn’t just rank them all as ties and have a top three so it is what it is. You really should have this one in your collection if you don’t already.
That is probably the hardest top list I have ever had to come up with. To be honest I really wanted to add more to it but due to familial Christmas obligations I am down to the wire on time. I hated making this list and not includng William Elliott Whitmore – Field Songs
, Brothers Through The Hill – Adeliade
, and Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones
(Although Frank is probably on enough top lists that he won’t be missed on mine). I don’t even know that I would rank these albums the same if I started writing this post today (It took me five days to complete this one) and I really feel like most of these could have tied for higher slots on the list. I really think that next year I am just going to give you all an alphabetical list of my favorite albums of the year and not bother ranking them because it honestly doesn’t feel right. So for what it’s worth this is my list. There are many like but this one is mine. If only it were accurate. Make sure to stay tuned because I am putting together a mix tape of songs from all of the 9B crew’s top lists.
Happy New Year everyone. Thanks for making 9B one of my favorite places on the web and giving me the chance to tell you about the music that I love. Remember if you don’t enjoy your NYE drinking in moderation at least have a designated driver or call a cab.