Listen Up: Todd Burge’s Top Music Picks for 2011

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I normally don’t make New Year’s resolutions. When I do, I don’t usually keep them, but I did for 2011.

Just one, and that was to not download anything that I had already purchased on CD, LP, cassette or even 8-track (yes, 8-track).

I listen to 99% of my music via my smart phone. I was downloading stuff I already had and felt like I was in a bit of a musical rut. I find that I can get a bit more creative as a songwriter if I’m digging into unfamiliar listening territory.

But even with that resolution, I still find myself digging back into the music of my youth and rediscovering it, sort of like I do when I watch The Godfather every three years or so.

I listen to a gob of music everyday since I spend a lot of time booking and promoting shows for the Adelphia Music Hall, plus I have my radio show and podcast (

Musicians are constantly sending me music, which is great, but I rarely hear their entire recordings and I still love to listen to albums in their entirety.

Also, I’m a sucker for concept albums if they’re done well, like Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger. I totally dig Canary by Southeast Engine as well as The Hazards of Love by the Decemberists. I was turned on to that recording while listening to WOUB’s Crossing Boundaries late one night, driving home from a show.

Brandi Carlile’s Give up the Ghost makes me want to play rock and roll again…and again.

Almost all of Roger Miller’s tunes are lessons in songwriting. He gives you a twisted world each time in three minutes or less.

It’s almost cliche to put Paul Simon in a top 10 list, but he is worthy.

Early on this year I felt like I was behind on my Randy Newman listening and now I feel like I’m ahead.

And I’ll stand on Mick Jagger’s coffee table and yell it loud enough for the neighbors to hear, but I think Willie and Family Live is one of the best rock and roll records ever. Listen to the damn thing; it rocks.

My top 10 might be a bit different tomorrow than it is today. I suppose this list reflects what I remember the most about my listening in 2011. Happy New Year.

1. Bill Kirchen, Word to the Wise
2. Tim O’Brien, Chicken and Egg
3. Marti Jones & Don Dixon, Living Stereo
4. Southeast Engine, Canary
5. Brandi Carlile, Give up The Ghost
6. Paul Simon, So Beautiful Or So What
7. Roger Miller, King of the Road: The Genius of Roger Miller (box set)
8. The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love
9. Randy Newman, The Best of Randy Newman
10. Willie Nelson, Willie and Family Live