2011 really was a great year for music. This time last year the choice was far more sparse. There were some great albums in 2010: Caitlin Rose ‘Own Side Now’ (A 2010 release in the UK), Mary Gaultier’s ‘The Foundling’, Laura Marling’s ‘I Speak Because I Can’, The Tallest Man On Earth ‘The Wild Hunt’ & Elizabeth Cook’s ‘Welder’. But that was the limit of a lean year.
Back to 2011 and the second 5 nominations for Album of the Year.
Adele – 21
It is hard to critically review an album that has become such a massive commercial success, but if you strip away the 12 million sales, the 6 Grammy nominations, and the wall to wall radio play, ’21’ is simply an excellent album. It demonstrates a clear progression since her debut ’19’ but manages to sustain the raw emotion of singing powerful heart-on-your-sleave songs of love, loss and regret. It is difficult to imagine that Adele is still only in her early 20’s and has a voice that will – hopefully – only getter better as it matures.
The Unthanks – Last
The Unthanks, who featured earlier this year in the Ironbath’s virtual English Folk festival, carry a purity in their folkness that echo’s the traditions. Often it is an uncompromising sound but with ‘Last’ the sisters have truly developed their own style. And it is a style that in time will be regarded as traditional by the future generations of folk singers.
Megan Henwood – Maving Waves
Another English Folk singer but one with an entirely different sound. ‘Making Waves’ is a delightfully easy listen. The folk-pop tunes are lyrically strong and are sung beautifully. The title track is a great modern protest song and has slowly been gaining some radio play. As a debut album it is a place-setter and the Ironbath is anticipating how she develops as a songwriter and musician. There is a touch of the KT Tunstall about Megan Henwood, and it looks like she is headed towards great things.
Bella Hardy – Songs Lost & Stolen
There have been a number of great folk albums released this year by singers similar to Bella Hardy. But this one stands out and it sounds as if Bella has found a beautiful place in the folk scene.
‘The Herring Girl’ has been nominated as the BBC Folk Awards best original song.
Over The Rhine – The Long Surrender
Over The Rhine have a phenomenal discography but have remained a niche band with a small but loyal following. ‘The Long Surrender’ their 11th studio album would have recruited a few more fans for Karin Bergqvist’s soaring vocals. It is one of the music world’s great injustices that Over The Rhine have not found a wider recognition.