Issue 35: Breakouts of 2011
It seems like ages ago, but it was actually only 11 or so months when the year began – with a bang.
January and February exploded with concerts and new albums like no other year we can remember. We spent time on the tour bus with Josh Ritter for a pair of shows, we caught concerts by the Decemberists, Lissie, the David Wax Museum, and more in those early months.
New albums rolled in as well – by Iron & Wine, the Submarines and Lori McKenna.
While that early torrid pace did not continue for the whole year (thank goodness, we wouldn’t have been able to keep up), the great music kept coming, including some surprises.
Gillian Welch released “The Harrow & the Harvest,” her first album in eight years and it was every bit worth the wait. The Decemberists morphed into a top-notch Americana act with “The King Is Dead,” which mixed ’70s Neil Young and R.E.M. influences. Iron & Wine churned out its most accessible album to date with “Kiss Each Other Clean,” Eilen Jewell followed up her critically acclaimed “Sea of Tears” with the stellar “Queen of the Minor Key” and Jeffrey Foucault offered up a dusty-trail pleasure in “Horse Latitudes.”
Concert halls, clubs and festivals were the place to be, and while we couldn’t make it to every show we wanted to, we did catch our share: Anais Mitchell’s fabulous Hadestown show at the Me & Thee Coffeehouse, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals (twice!), Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers, Lake Street Dive at the Lizard Lounge, and both the Green River and Newport Folk festivals. And then there was a band called Barnstar! – five ace local musicians playing bluegrass that blew the, well, barn doors off their gig at Passim.
In our cover feature, we highlight three acts we feel had breakout years: Dawes, an LA band that looks as if it’s on its way to national stardom; the exuberantly fun David Wax Museum, from Boston but making its mark nationally; and Amy Black, a Boston singer-songwriter who appears to be ready to take Nashville by storm.
These three deserve all the attention they’ve received this year and I’m sure next year will be just as fruitful for them.
Let’s hope it’s just as fruitful for us music fans. Happy New Year.
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SONGS THAT HELPED US SURVIVE THIS ISSUE
1. “The Darkest Day,” “The River Grace,” Jenee Halstead. A “Nebraska”-esque story song sung in a beautiful voice.
2. “Comes a Time,” “Reflections,” Jerry Garcia. A standout among a whole album of stellar songs.
3. “Carey,” “Blue,” Joni Mitchell. Such a great, great song. What a voice. There will never ever be another Joni.
4. “Time Spent in Los Angeles,” “Nothing Is Wrong,” Dawes. A contemporary band that really cares about songwriting.
5. “Graceland,” “Graceland,” Another album of outstanding songs. But this tunes shines like a National guitar.