Thursday, December 8, 2011

Six Water Grog's Best Albums of 2011

Dawes - Nothing Is Wrong
Chorus heavy songs with pitch-perfect harmonies and excellent musicianship, more akin to classic bands of the 70's than rock groups of today. Not a single lyric or note is going to do you wrong.

Gillian Welch - The Harrow and the Harvest
Water always seems to find the most efficient route from point A to point B.  The music made by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings is no different.  It is as natural as the song from a bird.

Blue Glaze Mento Band - We Will Wait
Prime example of Mento, an indigenous Jamaican music waiting to be discovered by folk and world music enthusiasts.  I connected to its rhythms and song structures in a way that I have never experienced with any other folk forms.

The Hot Seats - Live
Jamgrass, old-time, Zappa and traditional country fans can all find things to like in the music made by this Virginia quintet with a strong following in the British Isles.  Hot Seats drummer Jake Sellers would likely be a standout performer in any setting, but he's really found a niche here, adding percussive colors to string band music in an unprecedented way.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and The Del McCoury Band - American Legacies
The world's best practitioners of bluegrass and New Orleans Jazz team up for a tribute to those two distinct American art forms in a way that emphasizes their similarities.

Hammer No More the Fingers - Black Shark
Cryptic lyrics and crunchy, quirky pop hooks.  Driven by tightly-knit guitar, bass and drum instrumentation.  A band to watch out for in 2012.

Floating Action - Desert Etiquette
Hippie-friendly hipster psychedelia that is the work of one man - Seth Kaufmann.  Well engineered, multi-layered, organic production.

The Wronglers with Jimmie Dale Gilmore - Heirloom Music
Drawing from standard bluegrass, traditional country and early string band material, the end result is folk music in the truest sense.  Like your local parking lot picker jam session group fronted by a cosmic Lubbock, TX legend.

Bill Frisell - All We Are Saying
Bill Frisell's patient and lyrical guitar playing handling covers of John Lennon's lyrical and familiar songs. All We Are Saying is every bit a Bill Frisell album - but it uses Lennon's melodies as its palate.

Tommy Guerrero - Lifeboats and Follies
Instrumental spy movie, surf rock, dubby, hip-hop, Latin music. Played by skateboarding Bones Brigade alum Tommy Guerrero.  Not overly complex, but extremely enjoyable.

Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers - Starlight Hotel
Zoe Muth = the best female country singing voice I know of.  The Lost High Rollers = an intuitive group of musicians who bring on the twang.  Starlight Hotel = pure country gold.

Amiina - Puzzle
The four lovely Icelandic ladies of Amiina are known for their atmospheric, minimalist melodies that utilize a variety of instruments, both conventional and avant-garde.  On Puzzle, they are joined by a drummer and an electronics guy for a more eclectic, accessible and substantial work of art.  Call it new-sounds or call it post-rock....this is modern Scandinavian music at its finest.

Medeski Martin and Wood - The Stone: Issue Four
Inspired set by this legendary jazz trio, recorded live in front of an attentive Japanese audience.  Limited edition benefit CD.

Frank Turner - England Keep My Bones
Overwhelmingly English sounding, this is perhaps the most unusual inclusion on this list.  When Turner cries out "There is no God!" on the last song Glory Hallelujah I am right there with him...eager to appreciate this true atheist hymn.

AfroCubism - AfroCubism
I'm all about mash ups of different folk forms, especially in the rare case when that collaboration rises above the sum of its parts.  This merger of the music of Cuba and the music of Mali sounds as if it formed over decades on some remote island, rather than in a recording studio.

Andrew James O'Brien - Songs for Searchers
Channeling equal parts Paul Simon and Jim James, this young musician from St. John's, Newfoundland has yet to make an impact in the states, but definitely has the talent to be a major star.  This album is just a taste of the good things to come.

The Decemberists - The King is Dead
One of today's most elite indie rock groups fully embrace their rootsier side on this collection of down to earth songs.

Portugal the Man - In the Mountain In the Cloud
For fans of David Bowie, T. Rex and MGMT.  Features some of the year's standout tracks, such as "Head Is A Flame Cool With It".

Pappy Biondo - Pappy Time
This album contains what have become my favorite all-time versions of the tunes Mole in the Ground and The Cuckoo.  The rest of it is pretty good too!

The Del McCoury Band - Old Memories: The Songs of Bill Monroe
16 Bill Monroe numbers from the well-known to the obscure.  Too many highlights to list here!

Phish - Hampton/Winston-Salem '97
Fall 1997 - the high-water mark in Phish's illustrious career.  The pristine audio of these soundboard recordings catches the band on three consecutive nights from that tour playing at the peak of their abilities.


  1. That's a damn fine list. Nice to see Frank Turner on there.

    Here's my top twenty if you're interested :

  2. Thanks for the comment Active Listener. I like your list too! I completely forgot about The Jayhawks - Mockingbird Time! That's a good one. Also nice to see Megafaun on your list!