Folk Alley’s Best of 2011 – Jim Blum

By Jim Blum, host on FolkAlley.com M-F, 2 to 7pm; Sat & Sun, 5 to 9am and 7pm to midnight (ET)

First impressions are important, but lasting impressions deserve airplay. The 10 albums that jumped out at me upon first hearing them in 2011, that also made my Top 10 list for the year, were also the albums that I wanted you to hear often. The philosophy from Sarah Jarosz, the profound sadness from Gillian Welch or the Romeros, the chord choices of Joe Crookston, the wit and originality from Steve Martin —- these are the reasons these albums have depth as well as spark.

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10) Putnam Smith
We Could Be Beekeepers

Putnam Smith somehow skipped a generation – his. The settings in his songs take you back to an earlier time and the characters are wistful more than they are demanding. Even his instruments are old: fiddle, banjo, cello, and sometimes a piano. From an old fashioned proposal to a mental communication with birds, Putnam raises your eyebrow which opens a door to your heart.

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9) Gillian Welch
The Harrow & the Harvest

Recently Gillian Welch and her singing partner David Rawlings had reversed roles – she backed him in the David Rawlings Machine. This album is a return to their original style which broke down barriers between traditional and popular music. Her songs are often dark and mysterious and like many good writers, she begins in the middle of the story and then she MIGHT let you in on what had happened or what might. She sings of misfortune, poor choices, even death; most songs feature their signature two part harmony.

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8) Joe Crookston
Darkling and the Bluebird Jubilee

It’s been a joy listening to Joe rise from obscurity and hone his craft over the years. He simply sparkles on this album with a basket of songs which are not only thoughtful and poetic, but very melodic. Topics include a Thomas Hardy Poem, Alzheimer’s disease, and a man coming to grips with the loss of his wife.

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