So here are the Ironbath’s Top 5 albums of 2011. To engender a modicum of suspense they have been ranked, but in all honesty there is nothing that can separate them …. or for that matter the 10 albums that went before. Drum roll please…..
5 Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire
When Ryan Adams claimed to retire from music in 2009 no one ever believed he would turn his back on music forever, however it did nothing to subdue the anticipation for ‘Ashes & Fire’. The album is classic Ryan Adams. The songs have a beautiful simplicity and sung by someone else they may not deliver the same emotional tug, but whatever Ryan Adams touches turns to poetry. The Ironbath is a little torn over this album. On one hand it sounds fantastic and it can be played from start to finish as one fantastic aural swirl but then there is a nagging feeling that the lyrics owe more to Clinton Cards than they do Shelley or Keats. Afterall Ryan could sing the telephone directory and make it sound outstanding. None-the-less it is an album that will remain on the Ironbath’s iPod for years to come.
4 Rough Island Band – Where To?
It is unfortunate that – unless you’ve been reading this Blog before – you’ve never heard of the Rough Island Band but the Ironbath is a big fan. The Rough Island Band was formed on St Agnes (the rough island) in the Scilly Isles by wonderfully talented musicians that each have a tie to the islands. The music that they perform can best be described as contemporary sea shanties. They did get some significant exposure this year when a video where they performed a great cover of Paul Simon’s ‘You Can Call Me Al’ went viral on YouTube attracting 86,000 views. ‘Where To?’ is their second album and they have big plans for 2012 with a tour on the mainland.
3 Robbie Robertson – How To Be A Clairvoyant
If there is one album that has been over-looked by all the ‘best of 2011’ lists it is surely ‘How To Be A Clairvoyant’. Quite how an album that features Robbie Robertson with Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood goes over looked is a mystery to me. Stylistically it continues from 1987’s ‘Robbie Robertson’ & 1991’s ‘Storyville’. Each track oozes class. It is the type of album that no self respecting liberal dinner party should be without.
2 Glen Campbell – Ghost On The Canvas
The Ironbath would never have thought that Glen Campbell would have featured on his best of 2011 list. ‘Ghost On The Canvas’ appeared as a leftfield choice when the album was released alongside the announcement that Glen is suffering with Alzheimer’s Disease. The tracks make regular – sometimes subtle – references to the life changes that he is facing at the end of what has been a hugely successful career. The album is a fantastic tribute to Glen’s career and one that stands out in its own right.
And so this is the Ironbath’s favourite album of 2011…
1 Gillian Welch – The Harrow and the Harvest
Gillian Welch has always been a real musician’s musician writing and performing songs that have an ageless sobriety. All of her albums have a quality even though some of them have been a difficult listen. Fortunately ‘The Harrow And The Harvest’ has a different quality, and even if Gillian jokes that the tracks are 10 different shades of sadness the album has a mellow sound. It seems to perfectly reflect the troubled times that we live in. It contains the disillusionment and the sentiment that we are struggling to hold on to the things that mean the most to us. There is no anger just bitter-sweet memories of long-gone better times.
David Rawlings guitar playing meshes perfectly with Gillian’s vocal. In a year that has given us many great albums, and some superb albums, it is Gillian Welch’s ‘The Harrow And The Harvest’ that is clearly a classic.