Here we are in the last week of 2011, which means it's time for all of us who have been reviewing stuff since last January to start publishing our lists. While completely subjective, the only reason for publishing them is to take one last stab at convincing you to give the items listed a listen. So for what it's worth here are the discs released in 2011 that I like the most. This year there were more than ten, so in no particular order, here are my favourite 11 releases from the past 12 months.
Hank Williams III - Ghost to A Ghost & Guttertown Greatness must skip a generation, because unlike his father Hank Williams III manages to genuinely capture the spirit of the original Hank's music. While they may have very little in common musically, both the grandfather and the grandson have that raw, rebellious nature to their music that makes it vital and alive. Hank Williams' music was among the first steps towards rock and roll, so who knows what Hank III's will lead to. Difficult to listen to at times, but never boring, Hank Williams III is a refreshing change of pace from the rhinestone shclock that passes itself off a country music these days.
Azim Ali - From Night to the Edge Of Day This collection of Middle Eastern lullabies is a chance to hear one of popular music's truly beautiful voices. Unlike those who mistake a screechy falsetto for emotional intensity, Ali effortlessly soars from one end of her extensive vocal range to the other. Whether singing in her native Farsi, Turkish, or Arabic, she manages to convey the emotional depth of each song through intonation and tone. Not only is her performance wonderful, the collection is an opportunity to sample the diversity of music and poetry of the Middle East.
Bobban & Marko Markovic Orchestra & Fanfare Ciocarlia - Balkan Brass Battle Every year the great German label Asphalt Tango, which specializes in music from Eastern Europe and especially music of the Roma, puts out at least one recording that will knock your socks off. This year involved putting the two forces of nature passing as brass bands, The Bobban & Marko Markovic Orchestra and Fanfare Ciocarlia, into a recording studio together and telling them to try and outperform each other. The result is beyond belief as they trade boasts, insults, and music. This is brass band music for people who don't like brass bands, as it takes the instruments and the sounds they make to another dimension. The only thing better than this CD would be seeing the two bands live, so if you happen to be in Europe in the near future and hear about a Balkan Brass Battle playing anywhere near you, check it out. You won't be disappointed.