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Best of Alberta Music 2011

It's been another great year for Alberta musicians, so forget doing a Top 10 list - we've got an even dozen original releases by Alberta musicians. Our Key of A Best of 2011 playlist includes a wide range of music: from future pop to retro jazz; country to pop, soul and blues to rock to the newly minted genre, "terror." Enjoy!

100 mile house/hollow ponds

This Edmonton-based folk trio, formed when Englishman Peter Stone met and fell in love with Edmonton's Denise Mackay, released their 2nd album, Hollow Ponds in 2011. Together with violin/mandolin player Scott Zubot,100 mile house offers up heartfelt songs, elegant, spare arrangements, and some of the most polished and touching live performances we saw this year. www.100milehouse.co.uk

 Samantha Savage-Smith/Tough Cookie

Retro-jazz crooner meets edgy production values for a winning and distinctive musical experience. Samantha teamed up with Calgary songwriter/producer Lorrie Matheson to create a much-talked-about (and listened to) full length release called Tough Cookie. http://samanthasavagesmith.bandcamp.com/

Kris Ellestad/No Man is Land

This is a young man with a beautiful voice, who's pushing the folk song envelope in exciting directions on his full-length debut, No Man Is Land. He's definitely an artist to watch. http://www.krisellestad.com/

Matt Masters/All-Western Winners

After years of trying, Matt Masters finally found himself a spot on the Calgary Folk Music Festival lineup in 2011, with other doors opening across the country. That's got to be at least partly due to the polished collection of alt-country songs on this 2011 release, All-Western Winners. www.mattmasters.com

Colleen Brown/Colleen Brown's DIRT

This Edmonton singer/songwriter is tired of being a good girl and playing it safe. That's part of what inspired the title of her 3rd solo album, Colleen Brown's DIRT. She has a big, brassy band backing her up on this release, but Colleen's distinctive and agile vocals really set her apart. Watch for her on stages across the country, and listen for her on CBC's national music network, CBC Radio 2. www.colleenbrownmusic.com

Kirby Sewell Band/Bought Myself A Hammer

A big man with a big voice, Kirby Sewell (pronounced soul) says the blues found him at a low point in his life, and he considers singing them now, to be a form of celebration. Bought Myself a Hammer was produced by guitarist Neil Gunhold, who wrote most of the songs on the album. www.pronouncedsoul.com

Cam Penner/Gypsy Summer

After years of working in homeless shelters and soup kitchens, Cam Penner joined the ranks of the homeless himself - by turning to the life of a touring musician. On this new album, Gypsy Summer, Cam's dark, clear-eyed world view finds a warmer, brighter focus thanks to a rich backing band of guitars, mandolins and strings. www.campenner.com


She may be a world-famous touring musician based in Toronto, but Leslie Feist grew up in Calgary, and we still call her ours. Following up 2007's The Reminder, which shot her to international stardom, Metals takes a more introspective, complex approach that rewards careful listening. www.listentofeist.com

Mark Davis/Eliminate the Toxins

The 3rd solo album from former Old Reliable co-front man Mark Davis teams up with Calgary producer Lorrie Matheson for an album that unfolds seamlessly from folk/roots/country to noise rock. Mark's 2007 release put him at the top of several charts and playlists, watch for 2011's Eliminate the Toxins to take him higher still.  www.markdavismusic.ca

Braids/Native Speaker

This Calgary-bred Montreal-based collective made our Best of 2010 release for their single, Lemonade. Now they're back with their full-length debut Native Speaker, released in January of 2011 to rave reviews, a coveted spot on the Polaris Music Prize shortlist, and a full dance card of international appearances. www.braidsmusic.com

Born Gold/Bodysongs

The band formerly known as GOBBLE GOBBLE, changed names mid-year, just in time to release a full-length album of absurdly catchy, feel-good dance-pop. Born Gold's live show is an ecstatic love-in dance party, but listen carefully for the dark undercurrents in the lyrics Cecil Frena writes and sings. And DO go and see the live show if you possibly can. https://www.facebook.com/borngoldofficial

Purity Ring/7"

This brand-new 2-piece from Edmonton blends percussion and electronics from former GOBBLE GOBBLE member Corin Roddick, with ethereal vocals from Megan James, for a sound that catapulted Purity Ring to the international stage on the strength of a single song - before they'd even played a live show! Hypnotic, appealing and very new, it'll be fascinating to see how Purity Ring evolves in 2011. https://www.facebook.com/purityringmusic


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