|| Best of 2011
The Best Albums of 2011
National and Indie
by Michael Buffalo Smith
2011 has been a good year for music. There are at least a handful of releases that will remain in my favorites list for years to come. Below is my personal Top 20 of the year. Feel free to let me know if you agree or disagree. We always welcome feedback. I am also listing the Top Ten Indie releases, every one of which is outstanding.
1. Man in Motion Warren Haynes
The new “hardest working man in show business” gets down to his very soul, with absolute r&b perfection. The CD has not left my changer since the day it was released.
2. Roots Johnny Winter
I am calling this the return of the master. After many years of drugs and lackluster performances, Johnny Winter is back on top where he belongs. Some special guests like Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes only add to Johnny’s tribute to the blues greats who influenced his music.
3. Revelator Tedeschi Trucks Band
Individually, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi have each done remarkable work, but when the married couple combined forces and bands, the results were stellar.
4. 50 Words for Snow Kate Bush
One of my favorite artists is back with her best work in years, a moody, artsy piece with plenty of piano and an absolute genius song about time traveling lovers, sung with Elton John.
5. Welcome 2 My Nightmare Alice Cooper
Another all time hero of mine, Cooper teamed with Bob Ezrin once again to create one of his very best albums. A fitting follow up to the 1975 original.
6. Winterland The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Jimi Hendrix was light years ahead of his time, and nowhere is it more evident than on this 4-disc set that chronicles his appearances at Bill Graham’s Winterland. Powerful, rocking.
7. Low Country Blues Gregg Allman
Gregg goes solo for the first time in many a year with a very nice blues album that showcases his amazing (and stronger than ever) vocals.
8. Reunion 2010 Cowboy - Boyer & Talton
Scott and Tommy turned in one magical live show down in Macon, Georgia at the end of 2010. The band sounds as fresh as they did in the 70’s, and Bonnie Bramlett adds a dash of magic to “It’s Time.”
9. Rare Bird Alert Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers
I always enjoyed it when the comedian Steve Martin would break out his banjo onstage. Now he has gotten downright serious about it and the music speaks for itself. Sure, there are still some laughs, but the picking is nothing to laugh at.
10. Working in Tennessee Merle Haggard
A true country legend, Haggard rocks Cash’s “Cocaine Blues” and his own “Working Man’s Blues” with Willie Nelson. And those are just two of the highlights.
11. Duets II Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett is indeed timeless. Here he sings duets with everyone from Lady Gaga, to Willie Nelson, Aretha Franklin to the late Amy Winehouse. Not a loser in the bunch.
12. Paper Airplane Allison Krauss & Union Station
If angels truly sing, I would imagine they sound like Allison Krauss. I never get tired of her music, and Union Station is as tight a bluegrass band as you will find anywhere.
13. Small Source of Comfort Bruce Cockburn
The singer/songwriter/guitarist turns out yet another piece of genius, with great instrumentals and brilliant lyrics like “Call Me Rose.”
14. Go Go Boots Drive By Truckers
Another good one from the Athens, Georgia rockers. Again, brilliant lyrics prevail. A nice tip of the hat to Eddie Hinton as well. Sad to heat Shonna Tucker is leaving the band, as her solos here are amazing.
15. Achtung Baby (Deluxe Edition) U2
They called it U2’s “daring descent into darkness.” Twenty years later, the album rocks just as hard, and the anniversary edition contains some amazing unreleased tracks and alternate takes. Or you can get the “Super Deluxe” edition that includes Bono’s kitchen sink.
16. Feels Like The First Time Foreigner
A nifty three disc set that finds the current lineup (with the amazing vocals of Kelly Hansen) doing a re-recording of the band’s greatest hits, an awesome acoustic set, and a rocking live concert DVD.
17. Dixie Lullabies Kentucky Headhunters
I love the Headhunters. More great songs about drinking Boone’s Farm and playing Les Paul’s.
18. Tornado On The Tracks Blue Coupe
The new trio of the year, Dennis Dunaway from the Alice Cooper band teams with Joe and Albert Bouchard who founded Blue Öyster Cult for a set of melodic, highly original tunes and even a Byrds cover.
19. Greatest Hits Volume 2 Molly Hatchet
Round two of great southern rockers, the set also includes a live disc with the old classics.
20. Ramble at The Ryman Levon Helm
An outstanding live set from the former drummer of The Band, with guests including Billy Bob Thornton, John Hiatt, Sam Bush, Buddy Miller, Sheryl Crowe, and more.
The Best of the Indies
1. If I Could Randy Joe Galloway
An amazing singer songwriter from North Carolina.
2. Uncle Buck’s Vittles Preacher Stone
One of the best of the new breed of Southern Rock bands.
3. Nasty Man Rickey Godfrey
From blues to Southern rock, Rickey does it all very well.
4. Earth Funk Muzik Shawna P
Amazing Alabama songstress.
5. Wooden Indian The Handful
A hard working band from up north with some real southern rock roots.
6. Crossroads to Freedom Chris Dair
Based in France, Chris is a simply remarkable guitarist and song writer.
7. You Make Me Jeff Gates Band
Jeff Gates rocks. The South Carolina man can rip on the guitar.
8. And Then there Were Songs Brian Futch
An amazing songwriter.
9. Sowing Seeds Pure Grain
Outstanding country rock band.
10. Tom Coerver Wood, Wire, Vibes and Slide
Super talented one man band from Louisiana. Outstanding slide and B-3 player.
THE BEST OF 2011!