Stuff That Happened 

Year in Music 2011

Year in Music 2011

Romancing the Stone

In an April issue of Rolling Stone — a publication Mayor Karl Dean recently referred to as "The Bible" — RS deemed Nashville's music scene the best in the country. While they'll certainly get no argument from us on the matter, many Nashvillians took issue with the fact that it was A-listers like Jack White, Kings of Leon, The Black Keys, Ke$ha and Taylor Swift who were interviewed in regard to their favorite haunts. But hey, most of us agree that the Stone hasn't been cutting-edge on this side of the Berlin Wall's fall, and at least places like Springwater, Grimey's and The Station Inn got some serious love in a national publication. —D. PATRICK RODGERS


Baptized at the Mother Church

Late-night TV bookings, the old-fashioned U.K. press tongue-bath, a No. 1 Billboard single: all nice brags. But for a Nashville musician, few honors top an invite to the Mother Church of Country Music's stage. A crew of rising young rock-scene players — roots lovely Caitlin Rose, bashers JEFF the Brotherhood, country songstress Angel Snow and pop team Hot Chelle Rae — got The Ryman call-up this year, and its accompanying mix of happiness and weight. "Are we excited?" Rose asked via Facebook pre-Ryman. " 'Cause I'm terrified." —NICOLE KEIPER


Comebacks and Farewells

Country singer Connie Smith made a comeback record as austere and hard-charging as her '60s work. Recorded at RCA's Studio B, Long Line of Heartaches was Smith's first collection in 13 years. Foster & Lloyd released a set of power-pop-influenced country, It's Already Tomorrow — their first since 1990. Diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, Glen Campbell released a wistful musical farewell, Ghost on the Canvas, which modernized the sound of Campbell's late-'60s Capitol singles. —EDD HURT


Steady, as She Goes

Jack White's life rarely seems boring, but 2011 brought a particularly intense mix of endings, beginnings and rebirth. He bummed out many a fan by announcing The White Stripes' end in February, and flummoxed some in June as he and Karen Elson marked their divorce with a party. Come autumn, he soothed the Stripes sting some, reviving the two-year-slumbering Raconteurs just as his latest discovery — spooky garage rockers The Black Belles — began to fully rev. —NICOLE KEIPER


Wheelin' and Dealin'

It was the Narrator-is-Tyler Durden twist in the continuing narrative of Nashville rock: JEFF the Brotherhood signed a major label deal. In May, the Scene reported that the brothers Orrall — in conjunction with their local label and family business, Infinity Cat — inked an agreement assimilating them into the Warner Music Group. Thus remarkably rendering the brothers in the 1 percent (if that) of young bands to infiltrate the major label industry without signing a 360 deal. Three months later, news hit that Infinity Cat discovery Daniel Pujol (of PUJOL) signed to famed indie entity Saddle Creek Records. It's good to see all the young punks getting jobs, ain't it? —ADAM GOLD


Classical Killed the Radio Star

What do you call over 50 years of fearlessly independent, often brilliant, occasionally bumbled and always eclectic over-the-air radio programming? A memory. The station Ken Berryhill started in his Vanderbilt dorm room, and which at one time or another hosted everything from Persian music to LGBT talk radio — including, once, an impromptu chat between country legend Charlie Louvin and punk legend Jello Biafra — had the switch flipped to NPR classical in June. The WRVU name lives on in an online- and HD-only shell of its former self, and the sale to WPLN hasn't technically been consummated yet, but for all intents and purposes, what was once a pillar of the local music scene is dead and gone. —STEVE HARUCH


Songs in the Key of Black

While Akron, Ohio, natives Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney technically relocated to Music City in 2010, it can most definitely be said that 2011 was the year of The Black Keys. From Grammy wins to network television appearances to the release of their seventh full-length record, El Camino — recorded at Auerbach's Easy Eye Sound here in Nashville — these Rust Belt brothers have planted their flag in the Bible Belt and granted no signs of slowing down. —D. PATRICK RODGERS


The Wars at Home

Raise your hand if you'd ever even heard of The Civil Wars a year ago. The Nashville-based folk duo — featuring unmarried (to each other) musical soul mates Joy Williams and John Paul White — went from zero to 60 in what felt like as many seconds. Racking up a quick cache of conquests such as having their debut LP Barton Hollow enter the Billboard Albums chart at No. 12, nabbing AMA, CMA and Grammy nominations, and selling out a forthcoming gig at The Ryman in a matter of minutes. And doing all that under the major label radar, the band has built a rabid cult following — among which Taylor Swift and Adele are card-carrying members — and inspired a mix of hope and eye-watering envy within the independent music industry. —ADAM GOLD


Collaborations: How Do Those Work?

Over the past 12 months, Third Man Records launched a Rolling Record Store, recorded Stephen Colbert's goth-rock follow-up to "Charlene (I'm Right Behind You)" called "Charlene II (I'm Over You)" with The Black Belles, and released somewhere in the area of 25 singles — "31 altogether with regular singles, reissues and The Vault," say the TMR folks — from artists as varied as Black Milk, Seasick Steve and JEFF the Brotherhood. Yet all we can talk about are the two mooks in clown makeup rapping the line "Mozart, dope for the most part." If nothing else, the release of an Insane Clown Posse single (backed by the aforementioned Bogus Bros, JEFF) shows that White is a hilarious prankster. Good one, sir. —LANCE CONZETT

Rootin' for 'Roo 10

We always love heading down to Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn., for four days of kick-ass music and ass-kicking booze consumption, but this year — the 'Roo's 10th installment — was the jam to end all jams. We had a religious experience watching legendary Motown sideman Dennis Coffey, and there were so many local acts on the bill you would have thought it was an East Side house party. And it didn't rain! But mostly we saw Dennis Coffey, so we can die happy. —SEAN L. MALONEY


The Americana Dream

Such Americana icons as Buddy Miller and Lucinda Williams made this year's Americana Music Festival and Conference feel like old home week. Robert Plant and Gregg Allman put in appearances at the awards show, while the showcases yielded up a mix of old hands and new faces. The re-formed Jayhawks performed, and grizzled story-song master Malcolm Holcombe tore it up. Up-and-comers Nikki Lane and Amanda Shires did their things with flair and style. —EDD HURT


Nashville Gets Folked

I didn't make it to the National Folk Festival till the final day — and in a steady rain to boot. But it was such a fabulous and unexpected surprise: While the event's name may bring to mind visions of acoustic guitars and Birkenstocks, we found a virtual United Nations of music. We saw gospel legends The Fairfield Four, breakdance troupe Massive Monkees, traditional Kurdish music by Özden Öztoprak, and in the most mesmerizing performance of the afternoon, Japanese shamisen masters Oyama x Nitta. And that was just a tiny portion of the day's lineup, spread out across seven stages. I'll be back for all three days next year. —JACK SILVERMAN


The Sound Has Landed

While Next Big Nashville rechristening itself as SoundLand was only a slight improvement for Music City's favorite annual indie music festival, its narrowed focus was a huge one. While the leaner, meaner SoundLand wasn't as local-band-friendly — jettisoning the open submission process and centering around midlevel national acts — it was markedly more audience-appropriate, treating patrons to a weekend of mostly packed shows that all ruled. M. Ward crooned quietly for attentive attendees at War Memorial, Ghostland Observatory overwhelmed the Cannery Ballroom with glowstick-wielding ravers, Yelawolf and Foster the People each respectively drew thousands out to a midtown block party stage, and Neil Hamburger took the piss out of the entire endeavor over at Third Man. Meanwhile, on-the-international-rise locals like JEFF the Brotherhood, Caitlin Rose, Tristen and Justin Townes Earle ruled the roost like homecoming kings and queens. —ADAM GOLD


Marathon Men

From its proprietors' announcement that it would be named via a fan-voting contest to its subsequent christening as Marathon Music Works — and boy were we ever glad to see finalist "The Pink Elephant" out of the running — this brand-new midsize venue in Marathon Village's old Marathon Motor Works building captured the imaginations of showgoers citywide. Well, the jury's in: The sound's good, the sightlines are good, and the vibe's good. And with bands like folk-punk legends Dropkick Murphys and French ambient popsters M83 on the books, 2012's looking good, too. —D. PATRICK RODGERS


Who Will Stop the Reign?

Heavy is the head that wears the crown. And things got pretty heavy for Kings of Leon this year. While the Followills took to the world's arenas and stadiums to promote their fifth LP, Come Around Sundown, Twitter prevailed as the band's bloodiest public battleground. First there was the battle of Glee, in which Glee creator Ryan Murphy called the Followills "self-centered assholes" for refusing his show's offer to use sawm mu-say-ic. In response, vexed Kings drummer (and prolific tweeter) Nathan Followill fired off a tweet at the openly gay Murphy, urging him to "let it go ... get a manicure, buy a new bra." Accusations of homophobia and misogyny followed, and Followill apologized. The pair eventually buried the hatchet. Then, this summer, fans and foes alike began wondering if the Kings' empire was crumbling from within when in Dallas — just over a year to the date of their infamous retreat from an army of incontinent St. Louis pigeons — an out-of-sorts-looking and -sounding singer Caleb Followill halted the third show of a U.S. tour. Days later, citing exhaustion, the band cancelled the outing's 28 remaining dates. Skeptics suspected Followill's boozin' was actually to blame, and gossipers responded with rumors of rehab and infighting. (And bassist Jared Followill's tweet reading, "... There are problems in our band bigger than not drinking enough Gatorade" didn't help matters much.) Differences — whether real or perceived — aside, the band returned rested from their self-imposed sabbatical and finished up the year with tours of the Great White North and the Land Down Under, where women glow and Kings tweet about it. —ADAM GOLD


Stood up ... Twice

It was a rough year to be Adele's vocal cords, and thus it was a rough year to be a Nashville Adele fan. The U.K. belter had to postpone a June Ryman date as a benign polyp wreaked havoc on her pipes; as its October makeup rolled close, ticketholders got news of a double dose of cancellation bummage. The singer underwent surgery in November; her docs shared a bright post-procedure outlook. Third time's the charm? —NICOLE KEIPER

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