Sunday, January 1, 2012

Durable & Road Traveled: The Best Music of 2011

You could say that 2011 marked a solid year for the veteran musician. Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Joan Baez, Chick Corea, David Crosby, George Clinton, Paul Anka, Ricardo Muti, Guy Clark and Roy Harper all turned 70-years-of-age last year. They are not only still active, but have remained creative and performing regularly, which says a lot for their artistic tenacity. Richard Thompson, Paul Kelly and Loudon Wainwright III each released a box set representing some of their best work. Then we had two albums from Kate Bush all in one year: remarkable.

I had the privilege of listening to a lot of great music this year. The new generation of musicians showed great promise as Feist, The Civil Wars, Adele and Amos Lee all released solid records. But it's these particular albums I've listed below that stood out for interpretation, sound quality, focus and the element of surprise. All of them have been previously reviewed in Critics At Large:

Bad As Me by Tom Waits

Rough, caustic, romantic, nostalgic and deeply rooted in the blues, Waits once again proves to us that it’s still possible to bend a listener’s ear in another direction.

Sign of Life by Bill Frisell

Frisell is a tireless guitarist and bandleader who's getting bolder with age. One of two outstanding recordings for the man, John Scofield calls, “the Wizard.”

Kings and Queens by Blackie & the Rodeo Kings

A perfectly set menu of beautiful songs composed, arranged and performed as honestly and intimately as possible.

Knowing Lee by Lee Konitz

Jazz music ages perhaps better than any other form and this album tells us why.

So Beautiful or So What by Paul Simon

Justifiably making a lot of top10 lists in the media this year, Paul Simon’s record candidly wrestles with spirituality with a point-of-view unique to the “only living boy in New York.”

Buddy Miller’s Majestic Silver Strings by Buddy Miller

Buddy Miller is the guitarist’s guitarist. His infatuation and love of the instrument proves why he’s one of the best musicians in contemporary music today. Want to know who invented Americana? Look no further.

Small Source of Comfort by Bruce Cockburn

And speaking of guitar-players, Cockburn once again proves why his songs and arrangements continue to be relevant in the 21stCentury.

Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars

My favourite discovery of 2011, this record proves how good one instrument and two rich voices can be in cutting through the noise of over-produced pop, and still leave one breathless.

Symphony No. 10 by Shostakovich by the Liverpool Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vasily Petrenko.

The end of 2012 will find us with a full complement of Shostakovich symphonies by this orchestra, thankfully. Petrenko has breathed new life into these great works. And if you like No. 10…

Metals by Feist

The years following the smash hit, The Reminder, proved to be overwhelming for Feist. So she took some time to herself, wrote some new songs and recorded them in a home studio in Southern California. The result is a sublime record that offers some new and informed perspectives.

- John Corcelli is a musician and broadcaster. He’s currently working on another radio documentary, with Kevin Courrier, for CBC Radio's Inside the Music called The Other Me: The Avant-Garde Music of Paul McCartney.

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