“Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.”― Walt Whitman
“All the shopping malls and restaurants and airports are riddled with low-fidelity loudspeakers, which apparently have developed the ability to reproduce by themselves; these are all connected to a special programming service called Music That Nobody Really Likes, and you cannot get away from it.” That’s from author/humorist Dave Barry, and we’ve all felt that way at one time or another. Fortunately, there’s a special programming service called TybeeDawg’s Pick of the Litter that can take care of that little problem for you.
With that, here are the records that satisfied my soul in 2011:
Record of the year:
I Love: Tom T Hall’s Songs of Fox Hollow – Eric Brace and Peter Cooper & Various Artists. On this remake of Hall’s classic country album, Cooper and Brace have rediscovered the imagination of youth and reintroduced it to a new generation. Pick: Sneaky Snake by Buddy Miller and Duane Eddy.
Debut record of the year:
Alabama Shakes – EP – A refreshingly unassuming mix of retro-soul, blues and R&B. Buy their record. See them live. Now. Pick: any of the four songs on the EP.
Live record of the year:
Songs and Stories – Guy Clark –America’s finest living songwriter plays a set in your living room and brings his friends. Pick: L.A. Freeway.
Cover song of the year:
Go-Go Boots - Drive-by Truckers – The Muscle Shoals sound figures prominently on DBT’s new one as the band continues to make exciting, visceral music. Pick: Eddie Hinton’s Everybody Needs Love.
Car song of the year:
Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns – John Hiatt – Hiatt continues to produce amazing roots music time after time. Best track: Detroit Made.
Best of the Rest:
Harlem River Blues - Justin Townes Earle - Wherein Justin finds his own voice. And it’s a good one. This record cuts across genres and generations, much like his dad and his namesake. Pick: Christchurch Woman.
The Lost Cause Minstrels - Grayson Capps - On Grayson’s best record yet, he spins tales gleaned from barrooms, bordellos and backwaters of Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Pick: John the Dagger, Coconut Moonshine.
The Harrow and the Harvest - Gillian Welch – Her first record in eight years is also her finest, full of songs equally new and threadbare, comfortable and timeless, and each and every one a dusky, shadowy jewel. Pick: The Way It Goes.
A Pre-existing Condition – David Dondero – David’s deceptively simple mix of covers and his own quirky songs made this quiet, acoustic record one of my favorites. Pick: Not Everybody Loves Your Doggie Like You Do.
2011’s crop of music was some of the tastiest yet. I’m encouraged with the growth of the Americana genre and its inclusion in both the Grammys and the dictionary. Technology continues to evolve and expand the availability of artists to the public. I’ve had a great time building and sharing playlists with Spotify, for example. There’s still a long way to go, though. What passes for popular music in all the major formats is as exciting and innovative as dirt. Too often form and façade is substituted for heart and soul and we’re way too willing to sit back and take it. If you make resolutions, then resolve to find some new music and share it with friends. Get out and hear live music and support the artists. Forget Occupy Wall Street, let’s Occupy Abbey Road, Beale Street and Music Row!