PopMatters Best of Bluegrass

Each year end brings lists of Best Ofs, and the music business is among the most prominent in getting its reporters to assess what they think is the best in the marketplace.

The reputable PopMatters, an on-line magazine of cultural criticism, has a variety of music lists, among them Steve Leftridge’s selection of his Best Bluegrass of 2011.

It is an expansive selection with recent releases by Sarah Jarosz, The Farewell Drifters and Alison Krauss and Union Station at one end of the bluegrass spectrum and Larry Sparks, Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper and Charlie Sizemore at the traditional end.

Help My Brother, the album that pushed The Gibson Brothers into the brightest spotlight in the eyes of the IBMA membership for their 2011 poll, again takes the accolades with the No. 1 placing on this list.

In descending order are Leftridge’s top 10 ….

10 Sounds of Home – Blue Highway

9 Paper Airplane – Alison Krauss and Union Station

8 Echo Boom – The Farewell Drifters

7 Daybreak – Sierra Hull

6 Almost Home – Larry Sparks

5 Follow Me Down – Sarah Jarosz

4 Sleep with One Eye Open – Chris Thile and Michael Daves

3 Looking for a Home – Charlie Sizemore

2 Fired Up – Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper

1 Help My Brother – The Gibson Brothers

Here the Gibson Brothers talk about what went into the Help My Brother CD.

For a brief assessment of each album and a video clip of each of the artists singing a song from their album visit the PopMatters website.

Although they don’t appear on the Best of Bluegrass of 2011 listing PopMatters Staff cite the combination of the two releases American Legacies, a rousing collaboration album with New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Old Memories: The Songs of Bill Monroe as reason for this year being “a banner one for bluegrass’ finest band. Del McCoury and the boys”.

In a list of 20 acts including P J Harvey, hip-hop’s Big K.R.I.T., Lady Gaga, Adele, Radiohead and the Dylan-esque Destroyer, the Del McCoury Band emerges as No. 10 in PopMatters 2011 Artists of the Year. Some achievement!

Here The Del McCoury Band sings In Despair, a song from the band’s Old Memories: The Songs of Bill Monroe collection.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.