Song: I Was Gonna Marry You
Artist: Tristan Prettyman, San Diego, CA
Album: Cedar + Gold, 2012
Notes: One of the best songs in any genre from the past 12 months documenting her engagement to and breakup with fellow musician, Jason Mraz. The easy-flowing lyrical and melodic rolls combine for a blissful union, one which eluded her in real life. This should be released as a single, period.
Song: Clowntime Is Over
Artist: Elvis Costello, England
Album: Get Happy!!, 1980
Notes: Backed by his always reliable backing band The Attractions and with fellow songsmith Nick Lowe at the production helm, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer with another hidden gem, this one from the fourth of his 32 studio albums.
Song: What Have I Become?
Artist: Loney Dear, Sweden
Album: Hall Music, 2011
Notes: Multi-instrumentalist Emil Svanengen, who has been making interesting music for a decade, is joined by collaborator Malin Stahlber, who contributes some sweet vocals to his dense instrumental work on this catchy, almost flower-power track.
Artist: Kate Earl, Chugiak, AK
Album: Stronger, 2012
Notes: Of Welsh, Dutch and Filipino ancestry, the LA-based singer-songwriter displays a rather engaging Laurel Canyon feel to the lead-off track to her latest album, on which she collaborated with Brett Dennen and Blake Mills.
Artist: Travis, Scotland
Album: The Man Who, 1999
Notes: With the Glaswegian band about to release their seventh album, appropriately titled 'Seven', this is a gem from their second outing released 14 years. The literate and engaging Fran Healy is one of the best frontmen out there.
Artist: Lucy Rose, England
Album: Like I Used To, 2012
Notes: Her given name is Lucy Rose Parton, so perhaps wisely, this English folkie has decided not pursue a musical career as a Parton. When on the road, she sells her own blend of 'Builder Grey' tea - two parts English Breakfast, one part Earl Grey (presumably the remaining one part is her own magic ingredient,) instead of merchandise or CDs. One to watch in 2013.
Song: Wishing Wells
Artist: The Colourist, Orange County, CA
Album: Not available, 2013
Notes: A bright, smart new indie pop/rock quartet fronted by Adam Castilla. They claim they met through an online dating site, although it's hard to believe that their female drummer Maya Tuttle has ever been near one.
Song: Hey Ho
Artist: Gin Wigmore, New Zealand
Album: Holy Smoke, 2009
Notes: A track from her first album and subsequently featured in the TV series 'Weeds.' Backed by The Cardinals and featuring a Day of the Dead mariachi solo, she co-wrote it with the seemingly omnipresent Dan Wilson. She'll be playing a handful of club dates at the end of the month on both coasts.
Song: Shadows For Sunshine
Artist: The Brevet, Irvine, CA
Album: Battle Of The Heart, 2013
Notes: Another track from the soon-to-be released debut album of this powerhouse quartet fronted by Aric Damm. They describe their music as 'a unique one of kind sound that serves to be the soundtrack of your life'. More on the group at www.thebrevet.com.
Song: Gonna Get Over You
Artist: Sara Bareilles, Eureka, CA
Album: Kaleidoscope Heart, 2011
Notes: A playful overlooked slice of pop from her last album written with Sam Farrar, bassist with Phantom Planet and the son of the composer of 'You're The One That I Want.' Irresistibly finger-snapping, with a fabulous piano bass line in the chorus, with a passing nod to Jackson Browne's 'Doctor My Eyes.'
Song: The World Is Ours Again
Artist: Ross Copperman, Roanoke, VA
Album: My Love Will, 2013
Notes: Anthemic belter from the consistently splendid singer-songwriter who has travelled far and wide for too little success. He teamed up with Micah Wilshire, one half of the duo Wilshire, to write this tune.
Song: Where Does The Lovin' Go
Artist: David Gates, Tulsa, OK
Album: Falling In Love Again, 1980
Notes: Melodic West Coast country rock at its finest from the former frontman of Bread. Backed by his Bread mates, the late great Larry Knechtel and Mike Botts, and his own sublime string arrangement, a master class in great writing, impeccably performed.
Song: Spinning In Circles
Artist: Rachael Yamagata, Arlington, VA
Album: Heavyweight (EP), 2012
Notes: Another masterclass in contemporary songwriting and performance from an L&F favorite. Now releasing her music through her own Frankenfish label, she recently told the Washington Post: 'I feel like I'm in a pretty good place right now in terms of being the visionary for my own career in a way that I haven't been.'
Song: No Regrets
Artist: Walker Brothers, England
Album: No Regrets, 1975
Notes: Although coming a decade after their greatest successes, this re-working of the Tom Rush classic shows the vocal genius of Scott Walker, one of the truly great voices in the history of pop music. Mention must be made of John Walker's superlative harmony work. He passed away in 2011, but Scott returned last year with 'Bish Bosch,' his first album in six years.
Song: A Girl Called Johnny
Artist: Waterboys, Scotland
Album: The Waterboys, 1983
Notes: Lovely rolling piano and sax sounds from veteran Scottish band still going strong since making their debut thirty years ago. Led by the supremely-talented, multi-instrumentalist Mike Scott, they've cut some terrific music never veering too far from their Celtic roots. Catch them in New York in March, when they'll be bringing their 'An Appointment With Mr. Yeats' evening to town.
Song: Too Many Women
Artist: Rachael Sage, Port Chester, NY
Album: Public Record, 2003
Notes: How such a fine artist who's been making records for nearly twenty years is still unknown remains a mystery. She's shared the stage with Sarah McLachlan, Judy Collins and Ani Di Franco and performed at the Lilith Fair over 15 years ago. She'll be at the SXSW Music Festival in March.
Song: Love Goes Down
Artist: Plan B, England
Notes: Vintage-splashed soul from the blue-eyed soul hip-hopper from London's East End. The multi-talented Benjamin Ballance Drew is also an actor and burgeoning screenwriter and director - he made his debut as such last year with 'Ill Manors.' A new album, 'The Ballad of Belmarsh,' is expected later in the year.
Song: In Dreams
Artist: Windsor Drive, Wausau, WI
Album: Bridges (EP), 2010
Notes: Terrific track by an alt indie/rock band from Green Bay Packers territory. Fronted by vocalist and keyboardist Kipp Wilde, they've been together for four years and in that time have released four EPs. Now based in Houston, find out more at windsordrivemusic.com
Song: In The Deep
Artist: Bird York, Chicago, IL
Album: Have No Fear (EP), 2008
Notes: Better known as actress Kathleen York, who played Andrea Wyatt on 'The West Wing', she is also an accomplished songwriter and singer. This moody, piano-led ballad, with an Angelo Badalamenti feel to it and a beautiful string arrangement, snared her an Academy Award nomination for its appearance in the movie 'Crash.'
Artist: Jason Poe, Austin, TX
Album: Flesh + Blood (EP), 2012
Notes: A lovely simple piano refrain underscores this enchanting literate ballad, that builds with a sumptuous string arrangement. Taken from his third EP, he's hoping sales from the record will enable him to buy 10 braille typewriters for the Buhangija School in Tanzania, where students suffer from albinism, a cause particularly close to his heart.
Song: Barren Ground
Artist: Bruce Hornsby & The Range, Williamsburg, VA
Album: A Night On The Town, 1990
Notes: Taken from the consummate piano-playing Virginian's third and final album with his band The Range, this politically-tinged track, written with his brother John, features Jerry Garcia on guitar, Bela Fleck on banjo and Shawn Colvin on backing vocals.
Song: The North
Artist: Stars, Canada
Album: The North, 2012
Notes: Sparse, wintry chords with Amy Millan's beautiful voice floating above them. She also finds time for a solo career as well as work with Broken Social Scene, a musical collective which also includes Torquil Campbell, the leader of this group. The ubiquitous Campbell is also a member of Memphis and has a solo project as Dead Child Star. If that's not enough, he is also an in-demand actor and theatre director.
Artist: Stealers Wheel, Scotland
Album: Ferguslie Park, 1973
Notes: A track from the duo's second of three albums shows how well the talents of Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan worked together, despite the fact they were at odds with each other most of the time. They also feared that producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller might actually make them too successful.
Artist: Echocell, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Not available, 2013
Notes: Warm and welcome top-drawer synth-pop from the duo of Belinda Kazanci and Adam Beltran. Following a lengthy sabbatical, the ten-year music veterans, who wear their Depeche Mode/Goldfrapp influences on their sleeve, are back with their fourth album, 'Babylon.' Check out their website at echocell.com, where a free download of 'Shake Your World' is available.
Artist: Elbow, England
Album: The Seldom Seen Kid, 2008
Notes: Mercury Music Prize, Ivor Novello and BRIT Award winners and composers of BBC's theme for the London Olympics last year, this quintet from the Manchester area of north-west England have been making brilliant music for two decades, but still mean little this side of the Atlantic. That probably won't change because they're a band, and especially their lead singer and main writer Guy Garvey, which put their music above all else. (Garvey even has his own weekly radio show in the UK, where he champions the music of others - that sounds familiar.)
Song: The Beginning Of The End
Artist: Steve Moakler, Pittsburgh, PA
Album: Watching Time Run, 2011
Notes: Outstanding piano backed track by the superlative singer-songwriter who's been a L&F for some time now. This beautiful song with a lovely cello part and sweet harmony vocals should no longer be overlooked. Still releasing records for his own Free The Bird label, find out more about him at stevemoakler.com.
Song: Radio Can't Rewind
Artist: Sam Wilson, Charlottesville, VA
Notes: A famed guitarist in central Virginia, former member of thrash-metal combo Catharsis, he has a quieter side as an accomplished singer/songwriter. He spends more of his time fronting roots/rock quintet Sons of Bill, which also includes his brothers Abe and James. This song can be heard in a totally different style on their latest album 'Sirens.'
Song: Big Star Baby
Artist: Mojave 3, England
Album: Puzzles Like You, 2006
Notes: A splendid retro-groove vintage West coast country sound (the riff sounds a lot like the Eagles' 'New Kid In Town') with some exquisite pedal steel work and dream-pop jangly harmonies from a British quintet. (The two extra members were added after they'd already chosen their name.) It's been six years since their last album, but lead singer Neil Halstead, whose third solo album 'Palindrome Hunches' was released in September, has revealed the band has been working on new material.
Song: I Need
Artist: Maverick Sabre, England
Album: Lonely Are The Brave, 2012
Notes: The performing name of Anglo-Irish singer/songwriter Michael Stafford with a track stewed in R&B, folk, electronic and vintage blue-eyed soul - even a hint of hip-hop, and for good measure some strings and Hammond organ. The 22-year old recently appeared in the role of Parson Nathanial on 'Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds - The New Generation,' a part created by Phil Lynott in the 1978 original, and which features him duetting with Joss Stone.
Artist: Jump, Little Children , Winston Salem, NC
Album: Magazine, 1998
Notes: A 15-year old lost charmer from a sadly defunct band, who called it quits in 2005. Leader Jay Clifford, who released a solo album called 'Silver Tomb For The Kingfisher' in 2011, now devotes most of his time to his own Hello Telescope recording studios in Charleston, where he produced L&F alumnus William Fitzsimmons' latest album.
Song: One More Hour
Artist: Jennifer Warnes & Randy Newman, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Ragtime, 1981
Notes: An achingly beautiful song from the pen of one of the greatest songwriters and sung by the quintessential female singer. Nominated for Best Original Song in 1981, where it was bested by Christopher Cross' 'Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do),' this was part of the superb soundtrack to the movie 'Ragtime,' in which the legendary James Cagney made his last screen appearance.
Song: Dream Big
Artist: Max & Simon, New York, NY/Los Angeles, CA
Album: Not available
Notes: Clever, vintage-laced fun by a trio comprising Blake Healy, Kevin Bard and Mark Rosas, passing itself off as a duo. Their song 'Oh, Imagine That' was used for a JC Penney commercial while 'More More More' was featured on TV's 'The Biggest Loser.' Healy was a member of the short-lived Metro Station, while Bard still fronts Stereo Skyline.
Artist: Aloe Blacc, Orange County, CA
Album: Rhythms del Mundo, 2012
Notes: The jazzy hip-hop singer, born Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III, has contributed this 2010 song to a new various artists World Music album called 'Rhythms Del Mundo' which features similar Africa Remixes of several nuggets including others by the likes of R.E.M., Coldplay, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beyonce and Eminem. Sales benefit the Artist Project Earth charity which helps to mitigate the impacts of drought and climate change worldwide.
Artist: Amanda Marshall, Canada
Album: Amanda Marshall, 1995
Notes: A tale of an abused woman planning her escape from her violent Jim Beam-drenched husband, the fictional Virgil Spencer, in the Alabaman city. The singer-songwriter, and alumnus of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, disappeared following her 2001 album 'Everybody's Got A Story.' She moved to California for a while and then bought a house, taking time away from music. She'll be back later this year with a brand new album.
Song: Next Time I See You
Artist: Richard Walters, England
Album: Regret Less, 2012
Notes: Another sensational ballad from a tunesmith who grew up in the bucolic English countryside. From an album he has put into 'the big bad world without label assistance. That is to say, without the financial support and marketing clout of a record company,' saying he doesn't want people to buy it to fill up his pockets but to hear it because he can 'stand beside it very proudly and say it's the finest thing I've done yet.'
Artist: Liz Longley/Van Morrison, Philadelphia, PA/Northern Ireland
Album: Hot Loose Wire, 2010
Notes: An acoustic gem from Berklee College of Music graduate of the Van The Man classic. She's on the road at the moment, check out where at lizlongley.com/tour. Meanwhile the master himself released his 34th studio in October, titled - most appropriately - 'Born To Sing : No Plan B.'