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When CT's music critics had narrowed down the list of candidates for the year's best albums, a trend seemed to be emerging, prompting one of our critics to say, "We seem to be kind of a country bunch, don't we?" Well, it's certainly a country/bluegrass flavored list, but standing alone at the top is indie veteran Josh Garrels, who spent 18 months working on what would become CT's Album of the Year—only to end up giving it away. Find out why by reading his story here.

Here are our top 12 albums of 2011, with links to our original reviews.

  1. Josh Garrels, Love & War & the Sea In Between (Small Voice Records)
  2. Gillian Welch, The Harrow & the Harvest (Acony)
  3. Over the Rhine, The Long Surrender (Great Speckled Dog)
  4. Burlap to Cashmere, Burlap to Cashmere (Jive Records)
  5. Joe Henry, Reverie (Anti)
  6. Paul Simon, So Beautiful or So What (Hear Music)
  7. Alison Krauss & Union Station, Paper Airplane (Rounder)
  8. Emmylou Harris, Hard Bargain (Nonesuch Records)
  9. Sara Groves, Invisible Empires (Fair Trade Services)
  10. Mutemath, Odd Soul (Teleprompt/Warner Bros.)
  11. Laura Marling, A Creature I Don't Know (Ribbon Records)
  12. Gungor, Ghosts upon the Earth (Brash Music)

Honorable Mention (listed in alphabetical order)

Blind Boys of Alabama, Take the High Road; The Civil Wars, Barton Hollow; Amos Lee, Mission Bell; Bill Mallonee, The Power & The Glory; Buddy Miller, The Majestic Silver Strings; Jill Phillips, In this Hour; Aaron Strumpel, Birds; Switchfoot, Vice Verses; Phil Wickham, Response.

Go to ChristianityToday.com/ct/music to read full reviews of these albums.

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The 2011 CT Music Awards