Leah Nairn: My Top Tunes Of ’12

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Of the many, many albums released in 2012, only four made it into my regular rotation: Bonnie Raitt's Slipstream, Kathleen Edwards' Voyageur, Shovels & Rope's O Be Joyful and Alabama Shakes' Boys and Girls.

Of those four, Bonnie Raitt’s Slipstream wins top honors.

Slipstream brings Bonnie back to us after a long hiatus from recording and touring. It reminds us of who she is and why we love her so much.

After listening (and also having the privilege of seeing her live at the Akron Civic Center this past spring), I immediately ran to Blue Eagle Music, bought a slide and tuned my Les Paul to open A.

The opening song, "Used to Rule the World," is a strong piece that grabs your attention right off. The album also features a reggae version of Gerry Rafferty’s "Right Down the Line," plus two Bob Dylan tunes.

She has the voice, she has the guitar licks and I want to be just like her when I grow up.

I had not listened to Kathleen Edwards much before her 2012 release Voyageur, but you can now count me as a fan. Songs like "Empty Threat" and "Change the Sheets" were on a loop for weeks when I got this album.

I personally love music that has an open, aerial feel with drive (i.e. Neko Case), and this album delivers all of these elements.

Shovels & Rope was by far my favorite group at the Nelsonville Music Festival this past year. The duo, with their on-stage energy, instrument switch-ups and spot-on harmonies, were the hit of the festival.

Shortly after NMF, the group released O Be Joyful. It’s gritty and driving. Carrie Ann’s vocals are just raw and jaw-dropping.

Another group featuring a dynamic female vocalist is Alabama Shakes. Brittany Howard's gritty, powerful vocals (reminiscent of Tina Turner) and the band's solid rock sound put the album near the top of my list.

Honorable mention goes to Shawn Colvin, who not only joined the ranks of music legends returning to the scene (new album: All Fall Down), but also joined those music legends who wrote their memoirs (new book: Diamond In The Rough). 

Ben Gibbard also put out a great album, Former Lives, that features Aimee Mann, who also released an album this year called Charmer. I highly recommend both records.

Shelby Lynne’s Revelation Road, released in 2011, was one of the most inspiring albums I’ve ever encountered. She not only writes riveting songs that reach very deep into her personal life, she performs all the instruments herself. The arrangements were simple with drive and passion. I highly recommend this album.

Heartless Bastards' Arrow was also another album I could not get enough of this year. I found it to be a huge step up from their previous recordings, bringing in dynamics that resulted in solid rock and roll.

Leah Nairn is a singer/songwriter living in Athens. Her many musical projects include Any Colour (Athens' very own Pink Floyd tribute band) and her own band, The Posers.