The No Depression Community's 50 Favorite Albums of 2011

Below you'll find the final tally of our 2011 community poll, where we asked you - the No Depression community - to vote for your ten favorite albums of 2011. More than 500 albums received votes this year, across about 200 submitted lists. There were plenty of surprises, with up-and-comers like Amanda Shires and Star Anna & the Laughing Dogs and lesser known acts like Jimbo Mathus receiving more than a couple of votes. You're likely to see a few who made the Top 50 that you never would have guessed. 
Lady Gaga got one vote for Born This Way (hey, we never specified genre in our call for lists). Adele received quite a few (she came in at Number 81, just behind PJ Harvey). Hugh Laurie's big musical debut got a vote. Grammy nominee Linda Chorney didn't receive a single vote, which reflects a lot of the confusion in the Americana community about her inclusion in that category for this year's Grammy Awards. 
Lists were split up for an initial tally by a wonderful group of devoted volunteers and some of our most frequently featured bloggers - Gillian Turnbull, Dustin Ogdin, Easy Ed, Hyperbolium, Mando Lines, Michael Bialas, Skot Nelson, Kyla Fairchild, and Kim Ruehl. Each vote was weighted based on where it fell in the person's list. For example, albums voted in the number one position received ten points; albums voted in the number 10 position received only one point. Albums listed "in no particular order" each received 5.5 points.
Kim then combined the initial tally into a masterlist, the top fifty of which you see below. The first sixteen albums on this list all received more than 100 points.

  1. Gillian Welch - The Harrow & the Harvest
  2. The Decemberists - The King Is dead
  3. Wilco - The Whole Love
  4. Lucinda Williams - Blessed
  5. Steve Cropper - Dedicated
  6. Tom Waits - Bad as Me
  7. Dave Alvin - Eleven Eleven
  8. Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers - Starlight Hotel
  9. Jason Isbell - Here We Rest
  10. Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire
  11. Hayes Carll - KMAG YOYO
  12. Eilen Jewell - Queen of the Minor Key
  13. Drive By Truckers - Go-Go Boots
  14. The Deep Dark Woods - The Place I Left Behind
  15. Jayhawks - Mockingbird Time
  16. Tedeschi Trucks Band - Revelator
  17. Civil Wars - Barton Hollow
  18. Gregg Allman - Low Country Blues
  19. Buddy Miller - Majestic Silver Strings
  20. Paul Simon - So Beautiful or So What
  21. Sarah Jarosz - Follow Me Down
  22. Nick Lowe - The Old Magic
  23. Ry Cooder - Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down
  24. Blackie & The Rodeo Kings - Kings & Queens
  25. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
  26. Amos Lee - Mission Bell
  27. Abigail Washburn - City of Refuge
  28. Middle Brother - Self-Titled
  29. My Morning Jacket - Circuital
  30. Dawes - Nothing is Wrong
  31. Tom Russell - Mesabi
  32. John Hiatt - Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns
  33. Emmylou Harris - Hard Bargain
  34. Fountain of Wayne - Sky Full of Holes
  35. Chris Thile & Michael Daves - Sleep With One Eye Open
  36. Glen Campbell - Ghost on a Canvas
  37. Jonathan Wilson - Gentle Spirit
  38. Lydia Loveless - Indestructable Machine
  39. Tommy Keene - Behind the Parade
  40. Merle Haggard - Working in Tennessee
  41. Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know
  42. Greg Brown - Freak Flag
  43. John Doe - Keeper
  44. Kasey Chambers - Little Bird
  45. Alison Krauss & Union Station - Paper Airplane
  46. Slaid Cleaves - Sorrow & Smoke
  47. Tinariwen - Tassili
  48. Jeffrey Focault - The Horse Latitudes
  49. The Black Keys - El Camino
  50. The Head and the Heart - Self-titled

Meanwhile, there was very little consensus among our featured bloggers. Gillian Welch still took the top spot, shocking nobody. But most of the other nominees found their way onto less than three lists. Clearly, our featured bloggers have very individual tastes, proving you can't come to ND and expect cookie-cutter opinions. 

Now that our content is mostly crowd-sourced, it's not fair for us to call the below a "Critics Poll," but these are the choices put forth by some of our most frequent featured bloggers. These folks all contribute frequently to No Depression - many of them several times a week - and their blogs are consistently thoughtful, well-considered, and well-written. So, in the interest of extending the fun just a little more, we called on them to submit lists for a list of our Featured Bloggers Favorites. Gillian Turnbull, Easy Ed, Kyla Fairchild, Kim Ruehl, Chris Mateer, Dustin Ogdin, Skot Nelson, Michael Bialas, Hearth Music, Mando Lines, Hal Bogerd, and Paul Cantin participated in this poll, and the albums on which more than two of them agreed can be found below. 

These albums were tallied in the same manner of the above community poll, weighted the same, etc. So, without further ado, we also present you with:


  1. Gillian Welch - The Harrow and the Harvest
  2. The Decemberists - The King Is Dead
  3. Jason Isbell - Here We Rest
  4. Hayes Carll - KMAG YOYO 
  5. Chris Thile & Michael Daves – Sleep With One Eye Open
  6. Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers - Starlight Hotel
  7. Alela Diane - Alela Diane & Wild Divine
  8. Steve Earle - I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive
  9. Todd Snider - The Storyteller 
  10. Abigail Washburn - City of Refuge

Views: 14075

Comment by Jack on December 23, 2011 at 8:47am

The list of featured bloggers and volunteers is itself very impressive. Keep 'em coming!  Many thanks.

Comment by TenLayers on December 23, 2011 at 8:54am

Thanks to all for this.

Comment by JC Shepard on December 23, 2011 at 9:13am

My New Years' resolution is to consistently spread the positive word of excellent new music featured on No Depression....  nah, that will never work.  I expect I'll continue to mercilessly mock the tripe the Grammy's and mainstream media try to shove down our collective ear canals, and try to put in a good word for my amigos now and then.

iViva la No Depression Revolution!

Comment by Spook Mitchell on December 23, 2011 at 9:21am

Good Gawd A'Mighty! Where is the LOVE  for my GOURDS!?!  "Old Mad Joy?"  Great album! Thank-You for the LIST'S!  

Comment by RP N10 on December 23, 2011 at 9:57am

Surprised Amanda Shires record didn't make the top 50 as I thought she picked up quite a few mentions.  May have been in the lower reaches of numbered top 10s.  Would the results have been any different if every top place had been given a 5.5?

Comment by Gilded Palace on December 23, 2011 at 10:28am

I thought No Dep as a community (and formerly as a magazine) championed ALTERNATIVE country - very few  surprises on this list. Looks like another roll-call representing (mostly) artists with the biggest budgets or most active press agents. Not gonna gripe about what's missing, but peoples' lives are poorer for not recognising the Good Luck Mountain album.  If you all REALLY believe that Decemberists made the #2 album of the year (and I'm a fan) then I should probably get my coat. Welcome to your own mainstream. Please, please look harder for music next year. Start with Nine Bullets (best blog on the net, I reckon):

Comment by Jack Williams on December 23, 2011 at 10:38am

So Steve Earle's album didn't make the community top 50.   It didn't make my top ten or my honorable mentions, but I definitely liked it.  I'm somewhat surprised he didn't get enough votes,  given his higher profile and I think he put out a pretty good album.  Just a curious observation.

Comment by Jay Minkin on December 23, 2011 at 10:58am

Thanks for sorting through all the responses ... looks like I'll be heading to the record store to pick-up a few more CD's.

Comment by SalishSound on December 23, 2011 at 12:35pm

I wholehearted agree with the first three from the community, as they were also my picks, and I don't consider myself mainstream.  I just liked them alot.  That's all.  Especially after seeing two out of three live following the releases, with Wilco soon to follow.  Thanks for the list.  There are some things on it that I haven't heard that I need to check out.

Comment by Easy Ed on December 23, 2011 at 12:49pm

Before too much whining and complaining about this or that artist missing in action, or that the list is too mainstream or not alternative enough, I'm reminded of a man I used to work for who would often look my way in the middle of a serious and heated discussion and say "Stop confusing the issue with facts". 

As someone who dreds the year end "best of" lists and various award shows, I changed my tune this year and decided to help out because this is a "favorite" list. Not a definitive, "be everything to everybody" list. But a master list that comes from a hundred or so people who took the time to share out of the thousands and thousands of community members. And dare I say it, but my top 10 favorite list was sent to Kim last week; and this week it would probably not look exactly the same. Which is a great thing in my taste and what I choose to listen to is dynamic and always I suspect many of yours are too. So to me, that seems more subversive or alternative than to be stuck and rooted in a belief system that somehow deems that this or that particular artist should or shouldn't be on, off, at the top or on the bottom of said list. For nothing else, this exercise feels like a great way to find some new music you might have overlooked or missed. I know it has for me.

And since I participated as a tally-ho'er and also contributed my own blogger favorite top 10 list, I'll share it with you here:

1. Meg Baird/Seasons On Earth
2. Gillian Welch/Harrow and Harvest
3. The Civil Wars/Barton Hollow
4. Ryan Adams/Ashes and Fire
5. Deep Dark Woods/The Places I Left Behind
6. Matraca Berg/The Dreaming Fields
7. Zoe Muth and The Lost High Rollers/Startlight Hotel
8. Peter Bradley Adams/Between Us
9. Heirlooms of August/Forever The Moon
10. Kasey Chambers/Storybook (Import)


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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.