Best (local) music of 2011

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal


Music fans, we are apparently on the Nice List this year. Our gifts from North Mississippi’s talented musicians are excellent EPs and albums, wrapped in wonderful production.
Here are a few of my favorites that were released this year. This isn’t all of the local music released in 2011, just the best of what I was able to hear.

‘Parachute,’ Justin Posey
‘Flower Press,’ Drew Gatlin

These albums have a common denominator, and I’ll get to that in a second.
It’s almost hard to listen to Drew Gatlin’s music. It’s so intimate and so beautiful.
The Saltillo musician makes timeless music.
Hear his music at drewgatlin.bandcamp.com.
Justin Posey, a singer-songwriter from Saltillo, developed his sound for his sophomore album, “Parachute.” His EPs and debut album featured just Posey and his guitar, but “Parachute” features him with a full band. Posey’s music is magical, full of meaningful lyrics over incredibly infectious pop music.
Listen to his music at facebook.com/justinposeymusic.
The common denominator in both of these albums is that they were produced at House Creative, a production studio headed up by Bobby Hudspeth and Cody Hickman of Tupelo indie band The Embrace.
The pair have been producing albums for their pals for years, and this year they fine-tuned their efforts. Hudspeth and Hickman make Posey sound like a star; they make Gatlin sound as though he’s performing just for and right in front of the listener. They highlight the little quiet heartbreaks in Gatlin’s music, and provide Posey with plenty of handclaps and sing-along “whoa”’s for his hooks.
Maybe they’re magical musicians, maybe they’re the Tupelo music scene’s best kept secret (or secret weapon?), but one thing’s clear: they make already terrific music even better.
‘Young Von Prettylips,’ Young Buffalo
Oxford-based rock band Young Buffalo has been causing a stir in the indie scene for a while now, and the band’s debut EP lived up to the hype.
Listening to “Young Von Prettylips” is like falling down a musical rabbit hole, with swirling, pounding music and in-your-face vocals accented with ghostly sounds.
Young Buffalo is a powerful band, and its EP is just a taste of what’s to come. Learn more at youngbuffaloband.com.

‘On and On,’
The Gondoliers

When a band loves what it’s doing, it’s evident in that band’s music.
Starkville’s The Gondoliers made an EP that sounds like a love letter to making music, to each other and to those who’ve passed on.
Musically, The Gondoliers sound like The Beatles, writing pretty, infectious melodies with lyrics that speak to anyone with a heart. But the music goes a step further, somehow, finding a way to honor The Gondoliers’ former bandmate, Del Rendon, while moving forward with its sound.
Check out this rock band at thegondoliers.com.
‘Live Life,’ Jake Wood
The best thing about Jake Wood is that the man has no airs about him. He’s honest, direct and sincere, and his music is a reflection of that.
Wood’s inspirational singer-songwriter album is full of dreams and encouragement, but it’s never cheesy. The Tupelo-based musician also throws in a few instrumental gems that really make the whole album worthwhile.
Have a listen at myspace.com/thejakewoodband.
‘Breaking Grass,’ Breaking Grass
Like Young Buffalo, Breaking Grass had a bit of pressure to perform on its debut album.
The Booneville band was crowned the Bluegrass State Champs at the 2011 Down From the Hills Festival, and nearly every band member won awards in their instruments’ categories.
The CD shows why the band won those awards: tight musicianship, solid song writing and overall great bluegrass music.
Breaking Grass weaves together secular songs and gospel songs, and each sound suits the band well.
Learn more at breakingrass.com.
‘New Sound Old Soul,’ Sky Shelton
Sky Shelton is the very embodiment of blue-eyed soul. The Oxford singer-songwriter worships Stevie Wonder, and he made an entire record trying to capture Wonder’s sound and make it his own.
Shelton’s sound is funky and radio-friendly, but his powerful voice is what could make him a star. Check him out at skyshelton.com.
sheena.barnett@journalinc.com

Click here for more of the Best of Music 2011 from Sheena Barnett.