The best albums of 2021 came from Rhiannon Giddens, Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, Olivia Rodrigo, Buffalo Nichols

Opera song


There can never be too much good music, but too much music can be another matter.

At the turn of this century, before streaming took over and before YouTube and TikTok existed, about 30,000 albums were released each year. That totaled about 2,000 albums per month – each with an average of 10 to 12 songs – far more than a person would ever hear, let alone absorb.

In 2020, according to the Recording Academy – under whose auspices the Grammy Awards are presented – an average of 60,000 songs were uploaded, per day, and more over 20,000 albums and songs have been submitted for Grammy nomination.

As a result, I could easily put together a different list each week of my favorite albums from the past year and only scratch the surface, like I did in 2020.

For 2021, these are my choices – at least for this week.

Rhiannon Giddens, with Francesco Turrisi, “They’re Calling Me Home” (Nonesuch)

In 2022, former Carolina Chocolate Drops singer, violinist and banjo player Rhiannon Giddens will become the first artist in history to perform the world premiere of an opera they composed, presented at the Country Music Festival. Stagecoach in Indio. and take a tour featuring the music they wrote for a Nashville Ballet production.

This year, the golden-voiced Giddens and his partner, Italian-born multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi, released a captivating duet album, “They’re Calling Me Home”. It was recorded at their home studio in Dublin during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

An astonishing blend of country, gospel, blues, Celtic and Italian folk traditions and classical music that sounds fresh and vital, the dozen song album moves from genre to genre while breathing new life into each of them. It is hard to imagine other artists capable of delivering such striking interpretations of Monteverdi’s 1632 madrigal “Si Dolce è’l Tormento”, the spiritual “I will not be moved” from the 19th century and the country lament. Early 20th century Appalachian blues “O Death, let alone make them sound so perfectly matched.”

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, “Raise the Roof” (Rounder)

The 14-year gap between former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant and bluegrass queen Alison Krauss’s debut duo album 2007 and the new ‘Raise the Roof’ underscores the unhurried and often languid rhythm of their music. . The vintage New Orleans country, blues, folk, and R&B songs they perform here – by artists as diverse as the Everly Brothers, Allen Toussaint, and Merle Haggard – are as enchanting as Plant and Krauss.

Sons of Kemet, “Black To The Future” (Impulse!)

Led by English saxophone sensation Shabaka Hutchings, the tuba-anchored Sons of Kemet and an array of guest singers merge calypso, jazz, funk, hip-hop, dub-reggae and trap. Their songs address oppression and liberation, individual struggle and collective triumph, with a winning combination of courage and grace, breathtaking agility and earthly conviction.

Sierra Ferrell, “Long Time Coming” (Fat Possum)

West Virginia singer-songwriter Sierra Ferrell may not be the missing link between Patsy Cline, Linda Ronstadt, Maria Muldaur and Iris DeMent, but she connects the years and the stylistic connections between them with a balance admirable and an earthy charm.

Ferrell is completely in his element, singing a sweet swing (“The Sea”), a perky mambo (“Why’d Ya Do It”), a ragtime-flavored ode (“At the End of the Rainbow” ), a playful bluegrass song (“Silver Dollar”), a lively calypso (“Far Away Across the Sea”), or a new country song that sounds wonderfully altered (“West Virginia Waltz”).

The weather station, “ignorance” (Fat Possum)

Canadian Tamara Lindeman’s fifth album, who records as The Weather Station, addresses the dangers of climate change in softly captivating songs that would likely win approving smiles and nods from close musical minds like Joni Mitchell, Feist and Stevie Nicks and Christine from Fleetwood Mac. McVie.

It is also worth applauding

Buffalo Nichols, “Buffalo Nichols” (Fat Possum)

Olivia Rodrigo, “Sour” (Geffen)

Arooj Aftab, “Prince vulture” (New Amsterdam)

Young thug, “Punk” (Atlantic)

Sault, “New” (