The Back Country’s top 10 albums of 2011
Here’s my roundup of favorite country sounds of 2011. Enjoy!
The Carper Family – “Back When” (Self-released)
Three gals from Austin create a sophomore release mixing great covers and original tunes with wonderful three-part harmonies. Brennen Leigh adds mandolin and guitar, and the steel guitar and dobro of the great Cindy Cashdollar round out this fine release.
Cow Bop – “Too Hick for the Room” (B-4MAN)
Bruce Forman, Pinto Pammy and friends serve up another helping of jazz and swing tunes with great arrangements. Bruce’s guitar work is stellar.
Amber Digby & Midnight Flyer – “Live at Swiss Alp Hall” (Heart of Texas)
There’s nothing quite like a live honky tonk album, and Amber Digby delivers the goods, recorded at a historic Texas dance hall. Midnight Flyer features her uncle, steel guitar Hall of Famer Dicky Overbey, while HOT label mate and duet partner Justin Trevino lends his voice to the evening.
The Five and Dimers – “Quarter of a Tank” (Five and Dimers)
A relatively new band from the East Side, the Five and Dimers feature lead singer and chief songwriter Matt Taul, along with fiddle, banjo, guitar, bass and drums, with occasional pedal steel worked in. A strong debut release.
Merle Haggard – “Working in Tennessee” (Vanguard)
He’s mellowed somewhat — like an aged Tennessee whiskey — but his output still amazes me. His marvelous songwriting continues to impress and his voice sounds as vibrant as 30 years ago. There’s even a reworked version of his hit, “Working Man Blues” with fellow country icon Willie Nelson. Long live the Hag!
Melba Montgomery – “Things That Keep You Going” (RPM Music)
I have always loved Melba’s voice and she continues to hit all the right notes. She co-wrote every song on this album with longtime Guy Clark sidekick, Verlon Thompson, and some fine writing it is.
Zoe Muth & the Lost High Rollers – “Starlight Hotel” (Signature Sounds)
More strong songwriting is on display on Zoe Muth’s sophomore release with her fine band, the Lost High Rollers out of the Pacific northwest. She’s not gonna waste her time on anyone who doesn’t know who John Prine is!
Gary Nicholson – “Texas Songbook” (Bismeaux)
Gary Nicholson has been writing songs for many years with people like Delbert McClinton and Guy Clark and some big names have recorded them as well. Gary got the chance to work with some of the folks from Asleep at the Wheel, and Ray Benson put it on his label. Very nice stuff.
Connie Smith – “Long Line of Heartaches” (Sugar Hill)
If you didn’t know about Connie Smith and sat down and listened to this release you’d be knocked out when told that she began her recording career over 45 years ago. The song selection is good and supporting musicians include Gary Carter on pedal steel guitar and husband, Marty Stuart. This is what the great Connie Smith has always sounded like.
Chris Thile & Michael Daves – “Sleep With One Eye Open” (Nonesuch)
Who are these guys? OK, I knew Chris Thile from Nickel Creek and other bluegrass and acoustic work, but who’s this Daves guy? Only someone who can duet on guitar with the prodigy that is Chris, and, my, those high tenor vocals send chills up and down my spine. Looking forward to more collaborations with these two.
Gillian Welch & David Rawlings – “The Harrow & the Harvest” (Acony)
A return to form for one of the best songwriting and performing duets around today. Welch’s vocal stylings and Rawlings’ amazing guitar work continue to shine with a set of all new songs. Enough melancholy and pathos to make everyone feel good.
Jeff Corbin hosts the Back Country every Saturday, 3-5 p.m. Central, on 88.1 KDHX.