40. CROWDED HOUSE - DREAMERS ARE WAITING
Back with some sons and all the harmonies.
39. CHRISTY MOORE - FLYING INTO MYSTERY
Another exemplary collection of Folk songs, with the issues of the time warmly declared.
38. SAINT SISTER - WHERE I SHOULD END
Winner of NI Music Awards Album Of The Year, I am delighted that it was one of my nominations! Built on their amazing blended voice they add artistic musical quirk and serious ear candy.
37. VILLAGERS - FEVER DREAMS
Conor O’Brien does his best Paul McCartney at his Sgt Pepper’s most brass and psychedelic.
36. CHRISSIE HYNDE - STANDING IN THE DOORWAY: CHRISSIE HYNDE SINGS BOB DYLAN
Chrissie's voice does Dylan. Not always a perfect match but sometimes just right.
35. ADELE - 30
Look deeper than the voice and these are crafted songs of some depth. I Drink Wine is one of my songs of the year!
34. FAYE WEBSTER - I KNOW I'M FUNNY HA HA
A memorising wistful blending of country/folk/indie/soul.
33. DAMON ALBARN - NEARER THE FOUNTAIN MORE PURER THE STREAM FLOWS
A quartet sets up to capture a soundscape of the landscape of the view from his flat in Iceland and then Albarn adds Devonish thoughts of Covid and nature.
32. TOM PETTY - ANGEL DREAM
More Petty revisits. You can never get enough of that. This time the She'd The One movie soundtrack becomes less of a soundtrack and more of a Petty record.
31. JEFF TWEEDY - LOVE IS THE KING
The prolific Tweedy with another stellar and imaginative work of Americana.
30. ED SHEERAN - =
Everyone loves Ed. The boy next door. His songwriting gets better and better. Love In Slow Motion resonated big time.
29. DAR WILLIAMS - I'LL MEET YOU HERE
Discovered this late in the year. Dar has been a favourite fo mine for 30 years. This one seems less zany but no less literate and brilliant.
28. LINDSAY BUCKINGHAM - LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM
Sacked by Fleetwood Mac, Buckingham tries to out Mac Mac. For most parts succeeds.
27. GARETH DAVIES-JONES - TRUTH, TRADITION, PROPHETS AND LOSS
Bangor born but absorbing both his Irish and adopted north east of England psycho-geography, original songs and traditional classics sit side by side with a strong sense of place.
26. STING - THE BRIDGE
Sting's voice can draw me in even when the songs aren't so great but here a lot of God and the spiritual had me for real.
25. JASON ISBELL & THE 400 UNIT - GEORGIA BLUE
Celebrating Georgia voting for Biden, my fave songwriter of the day cooks uo a collaboration to do Georgia written songs. It rocks.
24. IMELDA MAY - 11 PAST MIDNIGHT
Imelda might be Ireland's Ed Sheeran, the girl next door, but she rocks a little harder. Some great guests and songs.
23. NEEDTOBREATHE - INTO THE MYSTERY
They brought out 3 records in 2021, a live, an Ep and this studio gem. Concentrating on the song they write some great ones.
22. WAR ON DRUGS - I DON'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE
You can hear Petty and Springsteen in the foundations but not in the actual sound which allows one to surf across a wave of lush beautiful rock sounds.
21. FIRST AID KIT - WHO BY FIRE: LIVE TRIBUTE TO LEONARD COHEN
An entire night of Cohen songs, poetry and prayers, feminised. Delighted that they recorded it!
20. BIG RED MACHINE - HOW LONG DO YOU THINK IT’S GONNA LAST
Supergroup collaborating on tasty songs.
19. BLUE RODEO - MANY A MILE
Canada’s alt country legends are on very fine form indeed.
18.KARINE POLWART & DAVY MILLIGAN - STILL AS YOU ARE SLEEPING
Polwart’s voice on well chosen songs as always but this time with just Davy Milligan’s imaginative piano.
17. HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER - QUIETLY BLOWING IT
Laid back leisurely alt country with thoughtful songs, more gold with every message.
16. EDDIE VEDDER, GLEN HANSARD & CAT POWER - FLAG DAY (soundtrack)
What a collaboration and Vedder’s daughter steals the show. Covers and originals and no fillers. The best kind of soundtracks!
15. DANI LARKIN - NOTES FOR A MAIDEN WARRIOR
Monaghan’s favourite daughter with nu-folk brilliance. Strong voice and John Martyn like guitar. What a prospect!
14. BRANDI CARLILE - IN THESE SILENT DAYS
I discovered Brandi in 2021 and am glad I did. Read her memoir and investigated her songs. Fell in love with her attitude and voice.
13. INHALER - IT WON’T ALWAYS BE LIKE THIS
Bono’s son’s band make a fabulous debut, guitars and songs and attitude.
12. MICK FLANNERY & SUSAN O’NEILL - IN THE GAME
Very fabulous album where Mick and Susan converse in song about the breakdown of a marriage. The ambition doesn’t get in the way of great songs and arrangements and voices.
11. THE WALLFLOWERS - EXIT WOUNDS
Probably not their most financially successful record but for me the most satisfying.
10. DAVID CROSBY - FOR FREE
At his age and with the drugs he took, it is hard to believe that David Crosby is still with us never mind making his very best music.
9. THE KILLERS - PRESSURE MACHINE
Bit of a concept album about where Flowers grew up, you might see it as his version of Springsteen's Nebraska. Some great songs.
8. NICK CAVE - CARNAGE
If Cave releases a record it is guaranteed Top 10. This one is probably lower down because it is being compared to Ghosteen and Idiot's Prayer.
7. DEL AMITRI - FATAL MISTAKES
What a comeback. Into the twentieth year since the last one the Scottish boys were back with strong songs, deft touch lyrics and that earthy sound. Better than I ever imagined!
6. DAVID KEENAN - WHAT THEN?
Co Louth's Keenan is a quirk of a songwriter, eccentric in rhythms, vocal and songwriting. This record has grown and grown upon me. Another month and it might just have been #1.
5. JACKSON BROWNE - DOWNHILL FROM EVERYWHERE
One of my all time favourites makes a belter of a record, drawing in all his introspective and social justice history to make up his best collection of songs in decades.
4. DAVID GRAY - SKELLIG
Around the turn of the millennium David Gray was my very favourite artist but I have almost totally lost interest. Then comes Skellig with its meditative spiritual core and hypnotic tunes. He had my attention once more.
3. DECLAN O'ROURKE - ARRIVALS
Perhaps propelled these charts by the astonishing Chronicles of The Great Irish Famine album which utterly captivated me O'Rourke makes a beautiful collection of songs under the watchful eye of Paul Weller. Simple, clever. Lovely. Stars Over Kinvara was maybe my most played song of 2021.
2. MARTYN JOSEPH - 1960
My Welsh mate Martyn charts with every record BUT I think this is is highest ever. He made the organic 1960 in the year he turned 60 and released it in the year I turned 60. It is a far reaching soundtrack of 60 years, the joys, the grief and the spiritual journey. His best ever record at 60. Take another shot off your low golf handicap sir!
1. JOY OLADOKUN - IN DEFENSE OF MY OWN HAPPINESS (complete)
Tipped off my BBC Radio's Another Country presenter and Deacon Blue frontman Ricky Ross I fell in love with this young woman's songs and voice after about 15 seconds. So accessible and yet so deep and spiritual... and she does it song after song. Every position on this list has been a tough wrestle BUT #1 was a cert from late July!