Best of 2011 Checkpoint: Looking Back (and Ahead)

Since we’re just past the halfway point of 2011, this seems like a pretty good time to reflect on some of the best stuff we’ve heard so far this year and take a look at how the rest of the year is shaping up musically.

First, favorite albums so far. What new releases have you been enjoying the most? If you had to recommend one recent release to a friend, what would it be?

While these things are always wildly in flux with me, I’ve managed to throw together an unranked Top 10 that looks pretty good at the moment. Ask again tomorrow and I might make a couple minor swaps, but the bulk of the list would probably stay intact.

  • Alison Krauss & Union Station – Paper Airplane
  • Charlie Sizemore – Heartache Looking for a Home
  • Chris Thile and Michael Daves – Sleep With One Eye Open
  • Gene Watson & Rhonda Vincent – Your Money and My Good Looks
  • Hayes Carll – KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories)
  • Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – Here We Rest
  • Justin Haigh – People Like Me
  • Matraca Berg – The Dreaming Fields
  • Randy Travis – Anniversary Celebration
  • Various Artists – I’ll Take Love (From the Pen of Louisa Branscomb)

There, that wasn’t too bad. Let me know what I’m missing.

Now, for the rest of the year. Here’s a reasonably thorough roundup of the coming weeks and months:

July 19
Suzy Bogguss – American Folk Songbook (Cracker Barrel exclusive)
Ricky Skaggs – Country Hits Bluegrass Style
Dirt Drifters – This Is My Blood
Angela Easterling – Beguiler

July 26
Jason Michael Carroll – Numbers (Cracker Barrel exclusive)
Eric Church – Chief
Terri Clark – Roots and Wings
Randy Montana – Randy Montana
Ronnie Milsap – Country Again

August 2
Trace Adkins – Proud to Be Here
Deep Dark Woods – The Place I Left Behind

August 9
Luke Bryan – Tailgates & Tanlines
David Serby – Poor Man’s Poem
Riders in the Sky – Land Beyond the Sun
Kevin Fowler – Chippin’ Away

August 16
Jeff Bridges – Jeff Bridges
Wagons – Rumble, Shake & Tumble
Various Artists – O Brother, Where Art Thou? Deluxe Edition
Guy Clark – Songs and Stories
Eli Young Band – Life at Best

August 23
Connie Smith – Long Line of Heartaches
Pistol Annies – Hell on Heels
Sunny Sweeney – Concrete

August 30
Robert Earl Keen – Ready for Confetti
Jake Owen – Barefoot Blue Jean Night
Girls, Guns and Glory – Sweet Nothings
Glen Campbell – Ghost on the Canvas
Various Artists – Reggae’s Gone Country

September 6
Slaid Cleaves – Sorrow and Smoke: Live at the Horseshoe Lounge
George Strait – Here for a Good Time
Hank Williams III – Ghost to a Ghost/Guttertown

September 13
Lady Antebellum – Own the Night

September 27
Sarah Siskind – Novel
Various Artists – Note of Hope: A Celebration of Woody Guthrie

November 1
Various Artists – This One’s for Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark
Miranda Lambert – Four the Record

Glen Campbell, George Strait, Sunny Sweeney, Connie Smith, Guy Clark, Jeff Bridges, Miranda Lambert, Pistol Annies, Ronnie Milsap, Terri Clark… that’s a lot of music. If you twisted my arm, I’d probably have to go with Pistol Annies and the Guy Clark tribute as my two most anticipated releases. Then I’d probably ask you to untwist my arm.

What are you most looking forward to?

New posts, by email, whenever we’ve got ’em.


  1. says

    I’d say I”m most looking forward to Connie Smith, Miranda Lambert, Sunny Sweeney, The Dirt Drifters, and Terri Clark.

    As for favorite new release so far, I haven’t heard all of these albums, but I loved the new Alison Krauss & Union Station record, and the Watson-Vincent collaboration really takes the cake.

  2. says

    Favourites so far this year, in no particular order: Gene and Rhonda; the Travis duets; Larry Cordle; Scott Holstein; the Gibson Brothers; the new Chris Young album (which I’m reviewing soon). The Suzy Bogguss record is already out in Europe and is pretty good.

    I’m hopeful for the new Trace Adkins release.

    BTW, Amazon has Sunny Sweeney’s album out a month or so later than you do. There don’t seem to be dates yet for Vince Gill and Martina McBride’s new ones.

    • says

      Good catch. Looks like Sunny got bumped back at some point.

      I need to check out that Scott Holstein album, but am incredibly lazy. I wish it were available through one of my usual retailers or streaming on MOG/Rhapsody.

  3. Adam says

    So far, I’ve really enjoyed the following CDs this year:

    Ray Scott – Rayality (picked it up at CMA Fest; don’t think it’s been released yet)
    Julie Roberts – Alive
    CJaye LeRose – Date With The Tub
    Jeff Bates – One Day Closer

  4. Annie says

    Dawes has my vote for favorite record this year, (so far). I also really love Robyn Ludwick’s new one. I am looking forward to Pistol Annies, Miranda Lambert, Ronnie Milsap, & Glen Campbell.

  5. Sam G. says

    I’ve really enjoyed the Hayes Carll and AKUS albums as well, along with Foster & Lloyd’s “It’s Already Tomorrow,” Dolorean’s “The Unfazed” and The Decemberists “The King Is Dead” (which I’m counting as an Americana release). The new Buddy Holly tribute with Justin Townes Earle, Nick Lowe and a bunch of indie rock darlings is pretty cool too.

    The upcoming albums I’m looking forward to are Robert Earl Keen, Miranda Lambert, Pistol Annies and Sunny Sweeney.

  6. says

    Alison Krauss & Union Station, Hayes Carll, Civil Wars and Matraca Berg are probably my top picks for album of the year so far. I also like Lori McKenna’s and Lucinda Williams’ releases though I haven’t gone back to those so much. I’m still terribly behind on working my way through new music so I’m sure there are some great ones I still need to get to.

    As for the rest of the year, definitely eager to hear Lambert, Pistol Annies, Sunny Sweeney and a long awaited return from Vince Gill.

  7. Annie says

    @Sam G. – I loved the Buddy Holly tribute album as well! Loved the Justin Townes Earl Song. Lou Reed’s cover of Peggy Sue was pretty cool, too.

  8. says

    With a note that I haven’t heard a lot of records that came out this year, my faves so far would be:

    Alison Krauss and Union Station – Paper Airplane
    Jim Lauderdale – Reason and Rhyme
    Buddy Miller, Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz – The Majestic Silver Strings
    Various Artists – I Love: Tom T Hall’s Songs of Fox Hollow
    Various Artists – Rave On Buddy Holly
    Ronnie Dunn – Ronnie Dunn

  9. Clyde says

    Matraca Berg’s CD is great. Favorite of the year is American Folk Songbook by Suzy Bogguss! Release at Cracker Barrel July 18th, but wider release set for August 2.

    • says

      Looks like same album minus “Cat’s in the Cradle” plus “He Was On To Something (So He Made You),” “I Don’t Care,” and “Don’t Get Above Your Raising.”

  10. Karen says

    Favorite 2011 releases so far: Emmylou, Matraca Berg, Jason Isbell, Mark Jungers, Rod Picott, Jimmie Dale Gilmore & the Wronglers, Hayes Carll, Bonnie Whitmore’s “Embers to Ashes”, Robert Ellis’ “Photographs”

    Looking forward to Guy Clark, Slaid Cleaves, Girls Guns & Glory, Hank III, Deep Dark Woods, the Guthrie and Clark tributes. Definite interest in David Serby, Angela Easterling, Suzy Boggus

  11. Karen says

    Oh, and not on your list, but definitely waiting on John Hiatt’s Dirty Jeans & Mudslide Hymns in August, and the Jayhawks’ Mockingbird Time in September . . .

  12. TK says has the track listing from George Strait’s upcoming album and one of the tracks is “A Showman’s Life” which has been recorded by several artists, but most notably/recently Gary Allan and Willie Nelson. Also, Eli Young Band, Micky and the Motorcars, and Stoney Larue have new material in August and September.

    • says

      ‘A Showman’s Life’ is a brilliant Jesse Winchester song, that many people (including myself) first became familiar with when Buddy Miller cut it on his amazing ‘Midnight and Lonesome’ record.

  13. Rick says

    CM, you should add a bit of your “Top Tracks” feature where you list your favorite song from each album. That way I could listen to the Amazon snippet of that song and see if its anything I personally find worth pursuing. Well, its just a suggestion…


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