Song: I Was A Fool
Artist: Tegan & Sara, Canada
Album: Heartthrob, 2013
Notes: Identical twins now in their early '30s, who began performing together at the age of 15 under the name Plunk, with a track from their most accomplished, mature and full-formed long-player to date. Initially signed to Neil Young's Vapor Records label, they have released seven fascinating and increasingly successful albums since bowing in 1999, finally synthesizing all of the promise evident on their previous work.
Song: Bleed To Love Her
Artist: Fleetwood Mac, England/Palo, CA/Phoenix, AZ
Album: The Dance, 1997
Notes: A song about the irrational power of blinding love offering unconditional loyalty and support to a severely damaged soul, written by Lindsey Buckingham at the top of his game, and recorded live for the band's reunion after a 10-year break. The once-again reunited band - sans Christine McVie - is headed out on the road in April, adding two new songs, 'Sad Angela' and 'Miss Fantasy' to their repertoire.
Song: Waiting For You
Artist: Adrianne featuring Jeremy Silver, Miami, FL
Album: Not available
Notes: A self-taught singer-songwriter who's been making music since 1999 (her full name is Adrianne Gonzalez,) has been long-based in Los Angeles, where she's also a member of that rather good band the Rescues. Her guest vocalist on this track makes a living like so many burgeoning musicians these days writing and licensing songs for tv shows.
Song: Constant Dream
Artist: Ben Semmens, Wales
Album: Western Lights, 2009
Notes: An unknown tunesmith from the same Welsh valley as Tom Jones, who so far has released just a couple of long-players. Check out his website at www.bensemmens.com, where currently streaming is a charming version of the Joe Cocker hit 'You are So Beautiful.' His Twitter account reveals that he is a 'lover of music, such as Greg Laswell.' The man has good taste.
Song: A Matter Of Minutes
Artist: Shawn Colvin, Vermillion, SD
Album: Whole New You, 2001
Notes: In a recording career spanning nearly a quarter of a century, the Grammy-winning performer has constantly produced the highest quality music. She has just begun a US tour with Mary Chapin Carpenter. Check out dates at www.shawncolvin.com. Well worth a look is her fascinating memoir 'Diamond In The Rough,' published last year - a really frank and at times highly amusing warts 'n' all autobiography.
Song: Inside These Lines
Artist: Trent Dabbs, Jackson, MS
Album: Your Side Now, 2009
Notes: A piano-driven beauty from one of Nashville's finest non-country tunesmiths, who's released five quality albums and a bunch of worthwhile EPs over the past decade. He's also become a real musician's musician, co-founding (with his wife Kristen) the Ten out of Tenn collective whose current members include Erin McCarley, Katie Herzig, Gabe Dixon, Matthew Perryman-Jones and the brilliant Andrew Belle - all of whom are L&F regulars. Last year he teamed up with Amy Stroup as Sugar and the Hi-Lows. Find out more at www.trentdabbs.com.
Song: Give Me A Call
Artist: Pauline, Sweden
Notes: Shades of Motown and pleasingly sounding a bit like Mozella, the Zimbabwe-born Ms. Kamusewu with a smart dose of retro-soul pop, released on her sophomore album. Long-based in Sweden, where so much catchy pop fare is consistently crafted - it seems like every musician there has a bit of Abba in their musical DNA - she has been making music since 2003 when she was named Best Swedish Newcomer.
Song: Dark Black
Artist: Kristina Train, New York, NY
Album: Dark Black, 2012
Notes: Yet another wonderful track from her recent album, co-written with Martin Craft. Raised in Savannah, Georgia, but now resident in London, she's performed and recorded with the likes of Marc Cohn, Chris Isaak, Robert Randolph, Herbie Hancock and Keb Mo. She recently performed this song live at the official opening of The Shard, the tallest building in the European Union. Check her out at www.kristinatrain.com.
Song: Fallen Leaves
Artist: Grand Nationals, Newtown, NJ
Album: Tennessee Rain, 2011
Notes: A sorely underloved quartet formed in 2010 by longtime musical chums, lyricist Ian Bennett and melody maker Adam Honeycutt, rounded out by top fiddler Sammy Barnes and bassist Jay Harris. They had a couple of songs featured on last year's equally overlooked festive movie 'The Oranges' which starred Hugh Laurie. More than a passing resemblance to the wonderful Blue Merle, check them out at www.thegrandnationals.net.
Song: Tell Me You Want Me Back
Artist: Roland Gift, England
Album: Not available
Notes: A rare solo outing by the former lead singer of the Fine Young Cannibals, and almost indistinguishable from that trio's own hits. From a long-deleted self-titled solo album released in 2002 by the terrific vocalist, who also had a concurrent career as an actor. Little has been heard of him over the past decade.
Song: Black Tables
Artist: Other Lives, Stillwater, OK
Album: Other Lives, 2009
Notes: Simple but mesmerising piano runs on an intriguing ballad from a band fronted by Jesse Tabish, and also comprising cellist/pianist Jenny Hsu, guitarist/violinist Jonathon Mooney, bassist/organist Josh Onstott and drummer Colby Owens. They've been together for about five years, opening for the likes of Bon Iver and Radiohead and are currently polishing off their third album, 'Tamer Animals,' which will be released in May. The long-player was produced by Beck's drummer, Joey Waronker - who's also the son of legendary producer and former Warner Bros. Records president Lenny Waronker and grandson of Liberty Records' co-founder Si Waronker - after whom Simon of The Chipmunks was named. More on the group at www.otherlives.com.
Artist: Emeli Sande, Scotland
Album: Our Version Of Events, 2012
Notes: An L&F favorite for more than a year, she has deservedly just won two BRIT Awards. On receiving her trophy for Best British Album, she said 'This was an album I wrote because I didn't have the confidence to sing these things in person, and for me, to have so many people to connect with this album and find strength in these words makes me feel incredible and doesn't make me feel as lonely.' Born of an English mother and a Zambian father but raised in Scotland, she has been writing songs for more than half her life.
Song: You And Me
Artist: Jason Poe, Austin, TX
Album: Now Is The Winter (EP), 2010
Notes: An earnest young singer-songwriter, who's been influenced by the classic pop of Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney, cites the Fray and Aqualung among his more recent influences. He's released a succession of extremely well-crafted EPs over the past four years. He is a passionate crusader for albinism, indeed he donated all proceeds from his recent 'Flesh + Blood' release to provide quote 'sustainable solutions for children living with Albinism in Tanzania.' He's hoping sales from the record will enable him to buy 10 braille typewriters for the Buhangija School. If you're intrigued or want to help him head over to www.jasonpoemusic.com.
Song: Rise Again
Artist: Lira, South Africa
Album: Rise Again, 2011
Notes: Some lovely flamenco Spanish guitar thrown in for good measure on a refreshing bubbly R&B/pop shuffler by a talented and telegenic 20-something songstress from Johannesburg. Growing up Lerato Molapo in the Daveyton township, her influences were the queen of South African music Miriam Makeba, but also Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin. She's been perfoming live since she was 16 and sang at the FIFA World Cup concert in 2010, alongside Alicia Keys, Shakira, John Legend and K'naan. More at www.misslira.com.
Song: Coming Home
Artist: Gabe Dixon, Augusta, GA
Album: Not available, 2013
Notes: Just a piano man alone at the keyboard working his way through a new song - that's typically first-rate, but little more than a one-take demo recorded in January in a downtown building in Nashville. Currently streaming on Vimeo, you can check it out at vimeo.com/57332007. The Georgian singer-songwriter continues to write and record some of the most melodic gems in modern music, very much in the tradition of 1970s singer-songwriters. In the last couple of years he's also been a touring member of Supertramp in between his own solo treks.
Song: This Woman's Work
Artist: Kate Bush, England
Album: The Sensual World, 1989
Notes: The original and still the best version of a track which first appeared on the soundtrack to the movie 'She's Having A Baby' before showing up on the tunesmith's own 'The Sensual World' album. The haunting profoundly emotional piece, written by the singer from a man's perspective, when events take an unfortunate and life-threatening turn while he helplessly watches his wife trying to give birth to their unbornchild, was brilliantly covered by R&B stylist Maxwell in 1997. Much used in other films and tv series ever since and covered by several other musicians including Greg Laswell as well as Mrs. Chris Martin, Gwyneth Paltrow.
Song: Little Numbers
Artist: Boy, Switzerland/Germany
Album: Mutual Numbers, 2011
Notes: A Swiss German female duo comprising Sonja Glass and Valeska Steiner, who met in 2005 while attending Hamburg's University of Music and Theater. They joined forces two years later, but didn't begin recording until 2011, since when they have released just one album. They begin a month-long tour of the US and Canada in New York on March 1st. For dates, check their website - www.listentoboy.com.
Song: I Want To Know
Artist: Kongos, Phoenix, AZ
Notes: A vibrant fresh combo formed by the four Kongos brothers, Johnny, Jesse, Dylan and Danny about five years ago. The sons of John Kongos, a South African singer-songwriter, who had some UK success in the 1970s with ' He's Gonna Step On You Again' and 'Tokoloshe Man,' they were raised in London and South Africa, where they are enormously popular, before relocating to Scottsdale, Arizona, where their mother, a former fashion model, is from.
Song: Step On
Artist: Happy Mondays, England
Notes: A modern rock gem from the vibrant Madchester music scene in the UK in the late '80s/early '90s of John Kongos' 'He's Gonna Step On You.' Fronted by their always entertaining lead singer Shaun Ryder, the original band reformed last year and are currently touring and working on a new album.
Artist: Sky Sailing, Owatonna, MN
Notes: Splendid dextrous acoustic guitar work throughout on a simple, melodic, easy-flowing track from Adam Young, better known as Owl City. Written and recorded in his parents' basement while he was employed as a metalworker at a warehouse in his home town in 2007, but not released until three years later.
Song: What Can I
Artist: Amanda Palmer, Australia
Album: Not available, 2002
Notes: Some cool piano runs and and a delicious, restrained smokey vocal, from - not the alternative punk cabaret artiste who fronts the Dresden Dolls - but a former television presenter who dabbled with parallel music ambitions earlier in her career. The unreleased track was co-written with her musical cohort Simon Laffy and recorded about 10 years ago in England. She is now an extremely successful film and media executive who founded the groundbreaking Doha Film Institute and its annual Doha Tribeca Film Festival.
Song: Same Old Scene
Artist: Roxy Music, England
Album: Flesh And Blood, 1980
Notes: One of the absolute best tracks by the British art-rockers, fronted by that most dapper of vocalists, Bryan Ferry. Bursting onto the synth-based new wave scene in the UK in the early '70s, they have periodically reunited for live work over subsequent decades though stopped recording together more than 30 years ago. Ferry returned last year with an orchestra and a new album 'The Jazz Age' while his Roxy co-founder keyboardist Brian Eno went on to become one of the most successful producers in rock history, helming epic works for the likes of U2 and Coldplay.
Song: Be Alright
Artist: Lucy Rose, England
Album: Middle Of The Bed (EP),
Notes: A jilted young lover pleading for a second chance on a song by a promising new English folk singer. She contributed vocals to two Bombay Bicycle Club albums before her debut last year. Lucy will be playing two dates in New York and Los Angeles in March, before heading up to Canada for a three-date trek. Check out the details at www.lucyrosemusic.com Her given name is Lucy Rose Parton, so perhaps wisely, she 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.
Artist: Kokomo, England
Album: Kokomo, 1982
Notes: Some legitimate old school British soul music from 30+ years ago from a band formed by Tony O'Malley and Terry Stannard from the remnants of the group Arrival. The 10-member combo, formed in London in 1973, featured three lead vocalists and cut two albums as well as helping on Bob Dylan's 'Desire' before going on hiatus in 1977. They went back into the studio in 1981 to record a third album before calling it quits the following year. The band members continued as in-demand session players and reformed briefly in 2008.
Artist: Paper Kites, Australia
Album: Woodland (EP), 2011
Notes: Some breezy, intricate organic folk pop from down under, with a delectable whistled bridge. A quintet based in Melbourne, fronted by Samuel Bentley and Christina Lacy, who are currently in the studio working on their debut album. More on them on Facebook, where their bio reads 'Hello, we're The Paper Kites, we play songs.' - just search under thepaperkitesband.
Song: Be Mine
Artist: The Heavy, England
Album: The Glorious Dead, 2012
Notes: A richly layered, soulful, beat-heavy sonic treat by a quartet fronted by singer Kelvin Swaby and guitarist Dan Taylor, hailing from the Roman city of Bath in the west of England. Their biggest success to date has come from their funked up numbers 'How You Like Me Now' and 'Short Change Hero' which have been used extensively on tv shows and in commercials. 'How You Like Me Now' was blasted out of the speaker system at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago when election results came in announcing the re-election of Barack Obama in November.
Artist: Splinter, England
Album: Harder To Live, 1975
Notes: Lovely strings arrangement on a deliciously melodic piece of pop by a duo from England's industrial north-east. Bill Elliott and Bobby Purvis had the distinction of being the first act signed to George Harrison's Dark Horse records label, achieving a minor hit in 1974 with 'Costafine Town.' They cut nine albums in all before splitting in 1984.
Song: Merry Go 'Round
Artist: Kacey Musgraves, Golden, TX
Notes: Rootsy Americana-spiced country tale with first-rate lyrics and a cute melody from an up-and-coming 24 year old Texan gal, who opened for Lady Antebellum on a tour of Great Britain last year. She's on the road through much of the year, promoting her debut album - out next month - and produced with Shane McAnally and Luke Laird. For details, check her website - www.kaceymusgraves.com.
Song: The Road Not Taken
Artist: Bruce Hornsby & The Range, Williamsburg, VA
Notes: A song written about a girl he's always loved in a Virginia town, but the one that got away ('I see her in my mind and then, I go down the road not taken ... again'), and featuring the most distinctive piano playing in rock music. Brilliant, distinctive and artfully crafted, it's easy to overlook what a great singer and writer he is also. He's undertaking a solo spring tour, so check out the dates at www.brucehornsby.com.
Song: Here And Gone
Artist: Mississippi Twilight, Nashville, TN
Album: Boomerang (EP), 2012
Notes: Channeling Robert Plant and all the better for it, a cool swampy slice of neo-blues rock from a band that released one EP and three singles, all in the space of six months early last year. Based in Nashville, their website no longer exists but their facebook page has just announced that one of their singles, 'The World Is Ours Again,' is being featured on commercials to promote 'Grey's Anatomy.'
Song: One Day
Artist: Isbells, Belgium
Album: Stoalin', 2012
Notes: From a four-piece acoustic combo fronted by Gaetan Vandewoude, who's influenced not least by the likes of Bob Dylan and Bon Iver. Winners of a best newcomer in their native Belgium a few years ago, they are regulars on the Euro festival scene, and have produced two albums thus far.
Song: I've Got My Mind Made Up
Artist: Michael McDonald featuring Jackie De Shannon, St. Louis, MO/Hazel, KY
Album: Together, 1979
Notes: A sensational vintage ballad, written by the great Burt Bacharach and Paul Anka for the movie 'Together' featuring the distinctive pipes of the ex-Doobie Brother before he set out on his solo career. The much underrated De Shannon, who recorded the original hit version of Bacharach and David's 'What The World Needs Now Is Love,' provides a perfect vocal counterpoint to McDonald's exquisite lead.
Song: Always Love You
Artist: Good War, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Not available
Notes: A Los Angeles-based music collective founded by top songwriter/producers Jon Pakfar and Chris Hartz who take a leaf out of the playbook by Steely Dan by inviting many of their talented musician friends to participate in their music making on an ad-hoc basis. The Chances' lead singer Julia Barna provides the charming lead vocals on this number.
Song: Friday I'm In Love
Artist: Daylights/Cure, Los Angeles, CA/England
Notes: One of Los Angeles' premiere indie bands, who have been around since 2004. Comprising brothers, Ran and Ricky Jackson and Svend Lerche, from Denmark, the trio has taken the alternative rock classic and created a deliciously slowed down update, seguing into the 1992 Robert Smith-penned original.