Newt’s Top 10 albums of 2011

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, DEC. 14, 2011

By Steve Newton

It wasn’t a great year for humanity, what with Fukushima and all, but at least there was some good music released along with the hot particles.

Foo Fighters Wasting Light The Foos went back to the garage on their seventh studio album, and lucky for us they took some killer hooks with them.

The Falcons Atomic Guitar  Local instro-rock maestro Mike Beddoes leads his crack band in a collection of 12 trebly originals (and a lap-steel-infused cover of “Sleepwalk”) that remind you why you loved the Shadows and the Ventures so much in the first place.

George Thorogood & the Destroyers 2120 South Michigan Ave.  Kick-ass boogie blues is alive and well in the hands of Thorogood, who pays tribute to the home of Chicago’s Chess Records with righteous tunes by Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, and, especially, Willie Dixon.

Fountains of Wayne Sky Full of Holes  Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood continue to be melodic-pop craftsmen of the highest order on their fifth studio album. Too bad the more fitting title, Pure Pop for Now People, was already taken.

Joe Bonamassa Dust Bowl  On his 11th studio album the former child protégé of Danny Gatton shows that singing and songwriting—especially on tunes like the stirring “The Last Matador of Bayonne”—are as much a part of his arsenal as white-hot Les Paul licks.

Tom Morello–The Nightwatchman World Wide Rebel Songs  The fiery guitarist from Rage Against the Machine electrifies his Woody Guthrie–style activist/troubadour persona to create the type of rise-up songs ready-made for the revolution.

Big Head Blues Club One Hundred Years of Robert Johnson  Big Head Todd & the Monsters singer-guitarist Todd Park Mohr steers a tribute to the Mississippi Delta blues legend that boasts the ace harmonica work of Charlie Musselwhite and sweet guitar by B.B. King and the recently departed Hubert Sumlin.

One Hundred Dollars Songs of Man  The hauntingly magnetic vocal stylings of Simone Schmidt mesh beautifully with the twangy fretwork of Ian Russell and Paul Mortimer for an alt-country hoedown that’s both invigorating and poignant.

Ian Siegal and the Youngest Sons The Skinny  British singer, songwriter, and guitarist Siegal crosses the pond to collaborate with the North Mississippi Allstars’ Cody Dickinson and the offspring of R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, and Bobby “Blue” Bland in a topnotch exploration of the North Mississippi hill-country vibe.

The Jeff Healey Band Live at Grossman’s—1994 These nine previously unheard tracks from a Toronto bar gig are proof that—when he went to town on deathless blues gems by Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, and Robert Johnson—Healey was the greatest rock guitarist Canada has ever produced.

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