News, Notes & Spins – Best of 2011

This is the second year I’ve posted the Best Of on this blog.  Thanks to all the djs and programmers around the state who make it such a pleasure to track spins every month … and to the other members of the media at large and the fans who contribute their voices to the cause.

It’s been an especially great year in Colorado music.  259 titles made the final list that went out for voting.  106 got at least one TOP 20 vote or spin count.  There are many many more than that, that we just never heard about.  If you wonder why one of your favorites may not have made the list, it’s usually because those who need to know about it, don’t.  I pitch this all the time – radio cannot play and press cannot write about that which they do not receive.  Some of my best buds in radio and press ask me all time “can you get me a copy of that?”  Send the music …

Here are the results.

TOP STORIES OF 2011 (in random order)

Tickle Me Pink announced their breakup on their Facebook page last February saying they “…found ourselves unable to continue collectively … there are no bitter feelings, just a desire to go different ways.”

Members of the Subdudes who live in Colorado stated somewhat publicly that the band was taking time off, perhaps only to do the occasional reunion show.  In December, it was learned that bassist Tim Cook retired from doing music with the Subdudes and with the spin off band Three Twins Broadband, who are releasing their debut in January 2012.

Seems like lots of local kids made music news this year as well … including Littleton teen Graham Sookey who became a bit of a YouTube sensation after locking over 300,000 views of a video entitled If Justin Bieber can get famous… why can’t I? … that managed to land him on the Ophra show jamming with one of his idols, Lenny Kravitz.

Denver resident Ryan Tedder, who fronts the very popular band OneRepublic and owns one of the region’s premier recording studios has been nominated for a Grammy Award in the Producer of the Year in the Non-Classical Category … Ryan’s been busy writing songs for the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Beyoncé, Carrie Underwood, Leona Lewis, and Adele as well as being credited with production on records by Colbie Caillat, Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce, Gavin McGraw, Adele and others.

The Blues Foundation announced that Dan Treanor will be the 2012 recipient of the Keeping the Blues Alive (KBA) award for education. Dan has been a Blues in the Schools presenter for Colorado Blues Society, Pikes Peak Blues Community, Grand County Blues Society, and Austin Blues Society (among others) for 17 years. The actual award ceremony is held in Memphis on the last day of International Blues Challange week.

Boulder Acoustic Society drummer and co-founder of 5280 Live, Scott Aller released news this fall that he accepted a postion with Live Nation / Ticketmaster as Business Development Manager, leading strategic vertical mergers, acquisitions, and/or partnerships.

John Denver was inducted into the inaugural class in the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.  The celebration included the likes of Nathaniel Rateliff, Michael Martin Murphy, Olivia Newton John, LeeAnn Womack, and the Boulder Philharmonic.

Coloradoan and Rock and roll hall of famer Richie Furay broke some pretty big news while at Bonnaroo with former Colorado resident Stephen Stills and their pal Neil Young — the three of whom make up the band Buffalo Springfield.  … when he announced the band would do over thirty dates this past Sept thru Nov and that a new album would be released as well.

Speaking of bands no doubt we will see in the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in the future, Big Head Todd & the Monsters got the very cool honor of winning that NASA contest where they got to play Big Sky for the astronauts aboard the shuttle Discovery

A couple of other future Hall of Famers – Leftover Salmon and String Cheese Incident each announced plans to reunite for some tours … Leftover Salmon in the studio now working on spring release with Steve Berlin …

I was sure sorry to have to report on the passing of some truly great Colorado musicians this year … when last spring Denver musician Rick Kulwicki passed away recently at the age of 49.  Rick was the guitarist for a band in the late 80s and early 90s called the Fluid that was signed to Sub-Pop for an album before moving to Hollywood Records.  Rick was also known for his guitar chops in bands like the Frantix and more recently the Buckingham Squares.

In June we found out that Josh Tilsley, 31, drummer for the Denver based Blind Exit passed away… And then in October, two Colorado Springs artists passed away – bluesman John-Alex Mason passed away at age 35 from complications resulting from a surgery … and 48 yr old Aleister Wild guitarist Terry Span passed away following a physical altercation with fellow band mate  39 year old bassist Michael Sorden.  Also in October, former Cricket on the Hill co-owner Bryon Woodard passed away from an apparent heart attack

In March a great opportunity for some of our own here in Colorado was lost when AEG Live president Chuck Morris announced that there would be no Mile High Music Festival in 2011 – citing economic reasons and saying that “they are not ruling out the possibility of bringing it back in the future.”

In November, in honor of the passing of John-Alex Mason, the Colorado Blues Society and KRFC announced the INAUGURAL JOHN-ALEX MASON SCHOLARSHIP FUND BENEFIT CONCERT … The Colorado Blues Society, a 501-c-3 nonprofit organization, will use the money raised in John-Alex Mason’s memory to further the blues music education of young Colorado artists.

In radio news, nothing was bigger this year than the launch of OpenAir1340, committed to advancing non-mainstream Colorado music, in a format designed to “…provide a comprehensive music experience focusing on new and recent music of the past 15 years with a Colorado perspective.”

Producer of the Year – 2011
John McVey / Coupe Studios (Boulder)
John McVey is no stranger to accolades and awards.  Billboard Magazine has said that John “…could be a serious AC radio contender!” He’s been lauded by Songwriter Magazine as a  Top 12 DIY, has won the Kerrville New Folk Contest (1996) and the National Academy of Songwriters, Acoustic Artist of the Year (1997).  Some of the excellent records John produced in 2011 include:

*** offiicial disclaimer *** after I made the decision that John was the “Producer of the Year”  I sought him out to produce the first single my wife and I have recorded professionally, “Once Upon A Snowflake.”  Working with John on the single really allowed me to see just what made him such a special producer in 2011.   I am deeply thankful for his caring hand in producing something that is intended to last for generations of children and grandchildren in our family. – Thank you John for the great records.

#1 Albums for 2011

Devotchka – 100 Lovers (March, April, May, Sept)
Finnders & Youngberg – FY5 (July, Aug, Dec)
Elephant Revival – Break In the Clouds (Feb, June)
Great American Taxi – Paradise Lost (Nov)
Spring Creek – Hold On Me (Oct)

Top Albums by Genre

Blues – Big Head Todd and the Monsters – Big Head Blues Club: 100 Years of Robert Johnson
Bluegrass – Finners & Youngberg – FY5
Country/alt-country – The Patti Fiasco – The Patti Fiasco
Folk – Elephant Revival – Break in the Clouds
Funk/R&B/Soul/Hip-hop/Dance – Whiskey Blanket – No Object
Jazz – Carmen Sandim Sextet – Brand New
o Alternative adult contemporary – Devotchka – 100 Lovers
o Hard/loud/metal/punk – Rose Hill Drive – Americana
o Indie/alternative – Tennis – Cape Dory
o Roots-rock/alt-country/jamband – Great American Taxi – Paradise Lost

TOP 20 2011

1. ALBUM of the YEAR  – Devotchka100 Lovers (Epitaph) Genre/style: Adult alternative
Added: December 2010
Sampled tracks: 100 Other Loves, The Common Good, Contrabanda
Notes:  no one should be surprised at the tremendous of this record in 2011, here in Colorado or nationally.  Devotchka has emerged since 2000 as one of the most inspired bands to ever come out of the Rocky Mountain west, and while the critics may not have liked their sixth album as much as the previous one, it garnered nearly 2x the airplay of any other album on this list. 

2. Elephant Revival – Break in the Clouds (Ruff Shod Records)Genre/Style: Folk
Added: November 2010
Sampled tracks: Feathers Rise, Barefoot Friend, Rhythm of the Road
Notes: this title clocked in at #14 in the Best of 2010 based solely on taste, because it came out too late in the year to garner much in the way of spins. … making it the #1 recurrent title, as well as the #2 all around title in spins and taste for the year.

3. Finnders & Youngberg – FY5 (self)Genre/Style: Bluegrass, country-folk
Added: April 2011
Sampled tracks: Driftwood, Nebraska, Sold On You
Notes:  “Finnders” is more appropriately spelled Finders, but Mike Finders got understandably tired of folks calling the band F-eye-nders and Youngberg, so they adjusted the spelling so us djs could get it right LOL.  With the addition of 2 new members and the loss of 1, the band now rightly identifies with the five member FY5 moniker and an impressive set of bluegrass and country.  High on the taste factor and in spins.

4. John Common and Blinding Flashes of Light – Beautiful Empty (Free School) Genre/Style: Alternative adult contemporary rock/pop
Added: *re-entered charts April 2011
Sampled tracks: Same Scar, In My Neighborhood, Love Is A Shark
Notes: originally a December 2009 release locally, the album was rereleased nationally in April 2011. Clocking #16 for 2010, Beautiful Empty comes in #2 in recurrent titles, as well as climbing to #4 for the whole year in spins and taste.

5. Big Head Todd and the Monsters – Big Head Blues Club: 100 Years of Robert Johnson (Ryko)Genre/Style: Blues
Added: January 2011
Sampled tracks: Ramblin’ On My Mind, When You Gotta Good Friend, Preachin’ Blues
Notes: we got our first taste of what this album might sound like with the band’s interpretation of Smokestack Lightning off of their Rocksteady album. The featured guests on this album reads like a who’s who, with the late Hubert Sumlin, Charlie Musslewhite, Ruthie Foster, BB King and others making appearances.

6. John-Alex Mason – Jook Joint Thunderclap (Naked Jaybird)Genre/Style: Blues
Added: January 2011
Sampled tracks: Gone So Long, Ridin’ On, Rolled and Tumbled
Notes: RIP John-Alex (1976-2011). The release of Juke Joint Thunderclap marked a revolution of sorts in the fusion of rap and blues, with Cody Burnside laying down some very cool rap on top of John-Alex’s blistering blues grooves.

7. Tennis – Cape Dory (Fat Possum)Genre/Style: Pop/inde
Added: January 2011
Sampled tracks: Marathon, Pigeon, Seafarer
Notes: Getting nostalgic and bringing back a sound embodying at least part of the 60s feel good sun and surf propelled this album into the top 10 – with nearly all reporting stations reporting high spins and taste.

8. Spring Creek – Hold On Me (self)Genre/Style: Bluegrass
Added: July 2011
Sampled tracks: Way Back in the Mountains, With Body and Soul, Hold On Me
Notes: Hold onto this release – Spring Creek has reportedly decided to move onto new projects beginning some time in 2012. Following their success on Rebel Records, the fellas got a new bass player, and decided to record an album that matched their own ideas of how they wanted to sound on record. Produced by the band with Sally Van Meter, recorded at Notably Fine Audio (now Mighty Fine Productions) with Colin Bricker and Mario Castillo at the helm. Masterd by Dave Glasser at Airshow.

9. Carmen Sandim Sextet – Brand New (Dazzle Recordings)Genre/Style: Jazz
Added: February 2011
Sampled tracks: Zoloft Bounce, Brand New, Feliz
Notes: *serviced to radio/press by Rocky Mountain Music Network* – There were no jazz records in our TOP 20 in 2010, so this is an excellent surprise. “The songs also work as vehicles for some fine soloing from trumpeter Ron Miles, guitarist Matt Fuller and saxophonist Danny Meyer.” (Westword)

10. Whiskey Blanket – No Object (self)Genre/Style: Hip-hop
Added: December 2010
Sampled tracks: Up Up Away, Rule the Roost, Joie De Vie
Notes: *serviced to radio/press by Rocky Mountain Music Network* — one of the most unique hip-hop records to emerge from Colorado in recent memory, all three core members of the band are incredibly educated and skilled classical and bluegrass musicians who expand anyone’s most conservatively held position of what hiphop should sound like. Very high taste factor among the voters. Special guests include Bonnie Paine (Elephant Revival)

11. Rose Hill Drive – Americana (Slowly and Shirley)Genre/Style: Rock/hard rock
Added: July 2011
Sampled tracks: Telepathic, Pictures of You, Birds Against the Glass
Notes:  the biggest knock against these boys the past few years has not been their ability to play, but their ability to craft original tunes.  They’ve come a long way in that department.  While many critics point to obvious modern as opposed to classic rock influences in the songwriting, Americana presents an entirely new side to the band – now a quartet – that brought high taste scores, if airplay still remained hard to come by around the state.

12. Bare Bones – Bare Bones (self)Genre/Style: Americana, folk-rock
Added: September 2011
Sampled tracks: Come In Stay Out, Hope and Feather, Last Dance
Notes:   This record made the top 20 on the basis of its taste factor.  One of the critically well received albums of the year, this made the top ten of nearly every member of the media who contributed to this year’s Best of poll.

12. The Patti Fiasco – The Patti Fiasco (self)Genre/Style: Americana/country-rock
Added: July 2011
Sampled tracks: Nobody’s Girl, Bottle of Wine, You Break It You Buy It
Notes: KRFC almost singlehandidly launched this album into the top twenty on the basis of spins alone. This NoCo band has become of the most popular along the northern Front Range area in 2011.

13. Wendy Woo Band – Austerity (Woomusic)Genre/Style: Rock/adult contemporary
Added: June 2011
Sampled tracks: Drunk In Love, Walk Along the Water, Unwind
Notes: Wendy has been a perennial favorite locally for well over a decade. On this, the second, Wendy Woo Band release, she once again stretches out stylistically while giving us the wonderful folkier side she’s also been known for. Not among the most selected in taste, spins were especially strong at NoCo outlets like KRFC and KUNC.

14. Great American Taxi – Paradise Lost (self)Genre/Style: Americana/country-rock
Added: October 2011
Sampled tracks: Blair Mountain, AM Radio, Poor House
Notes:  only a couple of Colorado bands have managed to crack the Americana Music Association radio airplay charts, and I can’t name one I remember breaking into the top 10, as GAT has done with this Todd Snider produced record.  WTG fellas!

15. John Oates – Mississippi Mile (PS Records)Genre/Style: Americana/blues
Added: April 2011
Sampled tracks: You Make My Dreams Come True, Mississippi Mile
Notes: The secret of this album’s top 20 status was the fabulous re-read of the Hall & Oates classic You Make My Dreams Come True, which was a big hit with folks who got their hands on this album from the over 23 year resident of Colorado.

16. Kenny Perkins – Wild Frontier (self)*Genre/Style: Rock/adult alternative
Added: November 2010
Sampled tracks: Tiny Distraction, Last Goodbye, Who But An Angel
Notes: *serviced to radio/press by Rocky Mountain Music Network*  … I am very pleased to see this exceptional album make the TOP 20 of 2011.  Yes, I made sure that the record got to radio and other media types last January.  But it was the good taste of those who got it, aired it on their shows, and/or wrote favorably about it in 2011 that it earned its spot as one of the best of the year. (trust me … not everything I send out to radio and press even sees a cd player or review .. I’ve sent out enough to know)  Highly recommended if you like Van Morrison, Delbert McClinton, and John Hiatt.

17. Driftwood Fire – How to Untangle a Heartache (self)Genre/Style: Americana/folk
Added: September 2011
Sampled tracks: Turn On the Radio, Small City Nights, Appalachian Hills
Notes:  Produced by John McVey, our Producer/Studio of the Year winner for 2011 – this is one finest contemporary folk/americana records to come out in 2011.  Driftwood Fire captured this year’s Merle Fest/Chris Austin Songwriting contest.  John has enlisted the aid of highly praised studio musicians that includes e-towners Christian Teele (drums), and Chris Engleman (bass), along with Sally Van Meter (dobro), Scott McCormick (Boulder Acoustic Society, accordian, piano), Eric Moon (piano, sound design), Kailin Yong (violin) and John McVey (guitars, electric bass)

18. Bonnie and The Clydes – Bonnie and the Clydes (self)Genre/Style: Classic Country
Added: February 2011
Sampled tracks: It Ain’t Nothin’, Snake Mountain Blues, Cowboy Yodel
Notes: Watch for a new album with a new lineup in 2012, featuring new members – husband Taylor Sims (Spring Creek) on guitar, Chris Ramey on pedal steel, and Nancy Steinberger (Giddyup Kitty) on fiddle and back up vocals.

19. Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – Unentitled (Alternative Tentacles)Genre/Style: Adult Alternative
Added: March 2011
Sampled tracks: Thy Will Be Done, No Doubt About It, My Last Black Scarf
Notes:  Unbeknownst by most, SCAC has been one of the most popular Colorado bands to emerge since 1990.  On this, their seventh album (not inc compilations), they don’t veer too far from previously praised efforts that showcase a neo-americana-gothic-gospel-hell fire and repentance theme, musically and lyrically.  It’s like going to a revival meeting every time I hear one their records.

20. Peter Sommer – Tremolo Canteen (Dazzle Jazz) Genre/Style:  Jazz
Added: March 2011
Sampled tracks: The Sweeper, Mushi Mushi, Next Exit
Notes: Personnel: Peter Sommer: tenor saxophone; Dave Devine: guitar; Ken Walker: bass; Rudy Royston: drums.  One of only two jazz records to make our TOP 20 … very nice, since last year there were none.  This is one of those very understated records that allows you to not have to think too much about what everyone is doing and just enjoy the feelings being emoted by the players.  Strong record … high in taste factor, and in spins this year.

The Rest of the TOP 50 2011

21. Lionel Young Band – On Our Way to Memphis (self) Blues [Aug-11]
22. Cary Morin – Sing It Louder (Music Maker) Americana/blues [Aug-11]
23. The Quiet American – Vol. II (self) Folk [May-11]
24. The Honey Gitters – Poor Gitters’ Almanack (self) Americana/country-rock [Sep-11]
25. The Haunted Windchimes – Live at the Western Jubilee (Blank Tape) Americana/folk-rock [May-11]
26. Paper Bird – Carry On (Long Spoon) Americana [Jul-11]
27. Jim Stranahan – Free For All (Capri Records) Jazz [Apr-11]
27. Justin Roth – Now You Know (Rothirric Music) Folk/singer-songwriter [Mar-11]
27. Rene Marie – Voice Of My Beautiful Country (Motema) Jazz/vocal [Apr-11]
27. SHEL – When the Dragon Came Down (Mad King Records / Morraine Records) Adult alternative [Sep-11]
28. Gary Bragg – High Plains Storm (Q&B Records) Americana/country [Apr-11]
29. Cassie Taylor – Blue (Hypertension) Blues/adult alternative [Aug-11]
29. Jami Lunde – Big Black Birds (self) Americana [Jun-11]
30. The Broken Everlys – Stoned In Juarez (self) Rock/roots [Feb-11]

31. The Whiskey Bottles – Ain’t No Crime (self) Americana/alt-country-rock [Apr-11]
32. The Hickman-Dalton Gang – The Hickman-Dalton Gang Vol II (self) Americana/alt-country-rock [Jun-11]
33. Zach Heckendorf – The Cool Down (self) Rock/pop [Jul-11]
34. Adam Bodine Trio – Up ‘N Hear (self) Jazz [Jul-11]
35. The H2 Big Band (f/Bobby Shew) – You’re It! (Jazzed Media) Jazz [Jul-11]
35. You Me and Apollo – Cards with Cheats (self) Folk/indie [Aug-11]
36. My Body Sings Electric – Changing Color (self) Rock/alternative [Jan-11]
37. Joe Johnson – A Time to Dance (Blank Tape) Americana/country-folk [Feb-11]
37. Katey Laurel – From Here (Roaring Twenties Records) Adult contemporary [Jan-11]
38. FaceMan – FaceMan (self) Adult alternative [Jan-11]
39. Snake Rattle Rattle Snake – Sineater (Greater Than Collective) Alternative/indie [Sep-11]
40. Mosey West – Vaca Money (self) Rock/alternative-country-rock [Sep-11]

41. The Holler! – Gratitude (self) Americana/folk-rock [May-11]
42. Ego vs Id – Taste (Abbatoir) Rock/alternative [Feb-11]
43. Rob Roper – Misfit (self) Adult alternative [May-11]
44. Eef – I Ain’t Gonna Wait Forever (Blue River Records) Blues [Feb-11]
44. Take to the Oars – American Volume (self) Rock/alternative [Feb-11]
45. Petals of Spain – Late Night Visitor (self) Adult alternative [Sep-11]
46. Mandy Harvey – After You’re Gone (self) Jazz/vocal [Dec-10]
46. Pretty Lights – Making Up a Changing Mind (self) RPM [Jan-11]
47. Fox Street Allstars – Welcome to the Mighty Pleasin’ (self) Rock/roots [Jan-11]
48. Hazel Miller Band – Coming to You Live… From KUVO (self) Jazz/r&b/vocals [Jun-11]
49. Bob Rea – Ragged Choir (Shiny Dime Records) Americana/country-folk [Dec-10]
49. Royal Peeps – Alessia’s Walk (Contra Basso Music) Funk/R&B/Soul [Feb-11]
50. Bop Skizzum – Beauty Queen (self) Funk/R&B/Soul [Nov-10]

Author: goat

I've been on the air in Northern Colorado since 1978. The Colorado Playlist is broadcast on 30 FM frequencies in the state. I am also a musician, talent buyer and business consultant. Email me at

2 thoughts on “News, Notes & Spins – Best of 2011”

  1. And, don’t forget that Signel-Z released their eclectic, sensual, dreamy and organic jamming jazz album Io Rise in 2011!

    Happy New Year to all Colorado musicians, fans, press, venues and anyone that I left out too!

    Kind regards,

    Steve Ignelzi

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