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 ‘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 ‘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.