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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

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