Artist: Charlene Soraia, England
Album: Ghost (single), 2013
Notes: A 24-year-old British singer-songwriter, based in London, who started playing guitar when she was five years old. She attended the country's only contemporary music academy of note called the BRIT School - in the same class as Adele and Kate Nash no less. Her debut album, 'Moonchild,' was released in 2011, with her second, 'Love Is The Law,' due this summer.
Song: I Don't Mind At All
Artist: Bourgeois Tagg, Sacramento, CA
Album: Yoyo, 1987
Notes: A deeply catchy Beatlesque track, produced by the legendary Todd Rundgren, which charted modestly three decades ago. Frontmen Brent Bourgeois and Larry Tagg moved to the Bay Area after high school before teaming up with their bandmates in Sacramento, and recorded a couple of albums in the mid-'80s before splitting up. Bourgeois moved into the Contemporary Christian music field, where he is now a successful writer and producer, working with the likes of Michael W. Smith, Jars of Clay and 4Him.
Song: Hurricane Glass
Artist: Catherine Feeny, Philadelphia, PA
Album: Hurricane Glass, 2006
Notes: Based in Portland, Oregon, she's released four solo albums over the past decade, the most recent being last year's 'America,' as well as a couple of folk albums with the group Come Gather Round Us, a quartet she formed with her husband and producer Sebastian Rogers. She has also toured with many top artists including Dr. John, Suzanne Vega and John Prine. In November 2011, she was arrested for participating in the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York. More at www.catherinefeeny.com.
Song: Wild Country
Artist: Wake Owl, Canada
Album: Wild Country (EP), 2013
Notes: Ace Americana, sitting somewhere between Ray LaMontagne and Ben Howard with some pastoral Neil Young thrown in for good measure. A new Vancouver based act, basically a one man band by the name of Colyn Cameron, who began making music after several years working on organic farms around the globe. Picked up last year by the fab Vagrant Records which consistently signs literate, melodic tunesmiths like Colyn. Check him out at www.wakeowl.com.
Song: Secret Smile
Artist: Semisonic, Minneapolis, MN
Album: Feeling Strangely, 1998
Notes: A track that got a few Modern Rock spins back in 1999 by the alternative rockers who had one big hit, their signature 'Closing Time' in 1998. Why none of their other fine fare managed to crack the Billboard Hot 100 is somewhat of a mystery. The band is now largely dormant although they did play a local gig or two last year. Lead singer Dan Wilson is now enjoying an incredibly successful career as a writer and producer for other artists, including P!nk, The Dixie Chicks, Taylor Swift, Missy Higgins and Adele, for whom he helped out on a little number called 'Someone Like You.'
Artist: Snow Patrol, Northern Ireland/Scotland
Album: A Hundred Million Suns, 2008
Notes: A glorious cacophony of sound, this is merely Part 1, sub-titled 'What If The Storm Ends?' of a 16-minute track. Lead singer Gary Lightbody conceived the song while caught in a terrifying but exhilarating hurricane one night in Glasgow - it's become one of the group's most popular numbers during their live sets accompanied by some dazzling origami-themed special effects visuals.
Artist: Missy Higgins, Australia
Album: On A Clear Night, 2007
Notes: The ever reflective singer-songwriter from Melbourne with an achingly beautiful song. She's had modest success in the US among those who know better, but the L&F preferred artiste is a huge star in her own country. The multi-instrumentalist and erudite songwriter is also very active in environmental causes, indeed she tries to ensure her tours are carbon neutral. She's only released three albums in a decade, the most recent being last year's 'The Ol' Razzle Dazzle' - all of which warrant investigation.
Artist: Fleetwood Mac, England/Palo, CA/Phoenix, AZ
Album: Rumours, 2013
Notes: An early demo version of the glorious bittersweet melter from the recently issued expanded deluxe edition of the band's classic megaseller, although interestingly not included on the original album. Perhaps the most personal and painful song Stevie Nicks has ever written about her former beau Lindsay Buckingham (and if you haven't seen the remarkable chemistry between the two of them on the latter-day update they recorded for 'The Dance' project in 1997 then you haven't lived - check it out on youtube, simply unmissable). 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: Safe And Sound
Artist: Capital Cities, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Capital Cities (EP), 2012
Notes: An infectious dance-synth roller with some neat horn runs from the duo Sebu Simonian and Ryan Merchan, a pair of LA-based former jingle writers, sporting beards and wacky spectacles. They met on Craigslist and have only been around for a couple of years, but are already causing a buzz in electro-pop dance circles, with just two EPs and a great live act.
Song: Like The Dawn
Artist: Oh Hellos, San Marcos, TX
Notes: The Texan brother-sister duo of Maggie and Tyler Heath, staunchly independent and all the better for it, with a track from their freshman offering simply brimming with lovely harmonic folk-Americana. You can preview all of the tracks on the album at www.theohhellos.com. Easy to understand why one of their influences are the Lumineers.
Artist: Paul Carrack, England
Album: I Know That Name, 2009
Notes: A self-penned gem written for the Eagles and recorded by them for their 2007 album 'Long Road Out Of Eden,' by one of the industry's most respected and admired musicians. This version features the warm harmonizing of Eagles members Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit and is laced with some tasteful restrained Memphis horns. The lead singer of Ace in the 1970s, who had a big hit with 'How Long' and then the featured vocalist on Squeeze's 'Tempted' and Mike & The Mechanics' 'The Living Years', he's released a string of quality albums over the years and is currently playing keyboards on Eric Clapton's latest US tour.
Song: Missed The Boat
Artist: Modest Mouse, Issaquah, WA
Notes: A cracking modern rock concoction by the Seattle-based indie band founded 20 years ago by Isaac Brock. Nothing new in the way of albums over the past six years, but they have been in the studio of late. They'll be playing a couple of nights at this year's mighty Coachella Festival in mid-April as well as a handful of other dates before setting off for Europe. Check where they are playing at www.modestmouse.com. Their wacky frontman and clever wordsmith Brock still fronts his side project combo, Ugly Casanova.
Song: Finders Keepers
Artist: Miriam Bryant, England
Notes: Shamelessly recalling Adele's 'Rolling In The Deep' and 'Pavement', the huge sound of a 22-year-old English born singer raised in Gothenburg, Sweden. Only two individual tracks to date, released by EMI in Germany. More on her at www.miriambryantmusic.com where you can watch a smokey-cool black and white video clip of this number.
Song: Time Enough For Tears
Artist: Gavin Friday, Ireland
Album: In America, 2002
Notes: The former lead singer of post-punk band The Virgin Prunes who's released five solo albums since 1989, the most recent being 'catholic (album)' in 2011, teaming with the youngest of The Corrs on a track written by Friday and Bono for Jim Sheridan's wonderful movie about an immigrant Irish family settling in New York. 'Blood Rising,' a film documentary featuring Friday's musical score, has just closed the Dublin Film Festival.
Song: Anything Made Of Paper
Artist: Bill Carter & the Blame, Austin, TX
Album: Unknown, 2012
Notes: Inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame last week, a three-decade music veteran with a number inspired by Damien Echols. Echols, one of those wrongly convicted in what is known as the infamous West Memphis Three murder case, was only allowed 'anything made of paper' on death row. Carter's repertoire has been covered by the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Waylon Jennings, Charlie Sexton and Billy Gibbons - and Johnny Depp is also a big fan - indeed the movie star recently appeared on guitar in his backing band when Carter performed the number on the 'Late Show With David Letterman.' He's currently on tour with Charlie and Bill Sexton. Check out www.billcarterandtheblame.com.
Song: This Is The Life
Artist: Amy MacDonald, Scotland
Album: This Is The Life, 2007
Notes: A top three smash all over Europe in 2008 but it couldn't catch a cold over here, a catchy strummer written by the Scottish folk rocker when she was just 18. She hails from a wee town in the Scottish highlands called Bishopbriggs and has released a couple of sterling followup albums since her booming first effort. The song was subsequently used in a stylish Fiat TV commercial across Europe in 2010.
Artist: David Gray, England
Album: Life In Slow Motion, 2005
Notes: A simply stunning song from an album put together after a three year hiatus from the business of making music. After a burst of creativity which saw six albums released over a decade, he's only made three in the past ten years, the last being 'Foundling' in 2010. He performed at a charity fundraiser for MoxAfrica in London last week and there are rumors of a new album, but he continues to keep the lowest of profiles.
Song: He Who Will
Artist: Tom The Lion, England
Notes: Off beat vocal runs and a quirky rhythmic backdrop on an extremely obscure but worthwhile cut from a 24-year-old south east London tunesmith and pianist who's flying way under the radar. From an album initially released as two 10 vinyl EPs, very limited, and then assembled in a wooden boxed set for release by the esteemed UK Rough Trade indie label. His full-length debut offering will emerge later this year. www.tomthelion.com gives some info about the record, but little else.
Song: Come Back Down
Artist: J. Viewz, Israel
Album: Rivers And Homes, 2012
Notes: A superb rolling electronic/acoustic meld from one Jonathan Dagan working out of Brooklyn as a one-man band/producer. Buried on a 2011 album called 'Work In Progress,' a project whereby he released each new song on the internet the moment it was ready. Once the complete album was finished he rounded them all up as 'Rivers and Homes.,' which went on to receive a Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package. He's also remixed tracks by Dido, Depeche Mode, the Kings of Leon and Moby. More at www.jviewz.com.
Song: As We Are
Artist: Kongos, Phoenix, AZ
Album: Lunatic, 2013
Notes: Some strong no-nonsense rock from a vibrant fresh combo formed in 2008 by the four Kongos siblings, Johnny, Jesse, Dylan and Danny. 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: Corrina, Corrina
Artist: Boz Scaggs, Canton, OH
Album: Memphis, 2013
Notes: His distinctive blue-eyed soul chops are still in fine working order on a track from his first album in five years - a collection of mostly blues covers which he recorded at the vintage Royal Studios in Memphis. The song was a Top 10 hit for Ray Peterson in 1960, produced by Phil Spector, but its origins go back to 1928, when it was first recorded by Bo Carter. Busy over the last few years touring each autumn with Michael McDonald and Donald Fagen on their collective Dukes of September bill, he'll be stepping out his own to promote the album. The tour starts later this week in Modesto, California and wlll continue through July. Check out dates at www.bozscaggs.com.
Artist: Elizaveta, New York, NY
Album: Beatrix Runs, 2012
Notes: Bittersweet song chronicling the sunset of a relationship gone sour. Describing herself as a singer, pianist, opera vocalist, poet and flower alchemist, the little known Miss Khripounova was born in New York (her father was an international Russian diplomat working for the United Nations), but variously brought up in Russia, Italy and Czechoslovakia. Her musical influences include Nina Simone and J.S. Bach. More at www.elizaveta.net.
Song: Save Me
Artist: Matthew Perryman Jones, Levittown, PA
Album: Swallow The Sea, 2008
Notes: One of Nashville's finest, and like many top-flight singer-songwriters supplements his career by licensing his superb repertoire for use in films and on tv shows. This track was picked up for an ABC News medical documentary last year called 'NY Med,' while 'Anymore Of This' was heard on 'The Vampire Diaries' last week. He's made five highly literate and melodic long-players over 13 years. Check him out at www.mpjmusic.com.
Song: When You're Gone
Artist: Hannah Boleyn, England
Notes: The brand new sound of a sultry British newcomer with a top-notch self-penned, soul-pop corker, super stylish in a retro early '60s kind of way both musically and image wise. Just 22, she's on record as saying about breaking away from her performing school training: 'I decided to do things my way. I ditched the jazz shoes and ballet bun for killer heels, big hair and mini-skirts.' A coup in itself to have Ash Howes agree to produce her debut, considering his resume includes female singers such as Dido, Ellie Goulding, Leona Lewis, Jennifer Hudson, Lindi Ortega, Kylie Minogue - even Susan Boyle.
Artist: Melee, Orange County, CA
Album: Devils And Angels, 2007
Notes: A relatively obscure quartet with a sturdy pop-rock lost corker that went Top 10 in Holland but did absolutely nothing here despite its obvious radio-ready qualities. The quartet led by lead vocalist Christopher Cron has a new four-track EP, available on soundcloud at soundcloud.com/theservice. The lead-off track is a cover of Gary Numan's 'Do You Need The Service?'
Song: Foreign Fields
Artist: Elton John Vs. Pnau, England/Australia
Notes: The singer-songwriter's 1973 vocal 'High Flying Bird' from 'Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only The Piano Player' reimagined and recreated with samples from 'Someone Saved My Life Tonight,' 'Chameleon,' 'Cage The Songbird,' 'Sweet Painted Lady' and 'Pinky.' A downright clever resurrection by the young Australian duo of Peter Mayes and Nick Littlemore, who Elton first heard while stuck in traffic in Sydney in 2007. Giving them carte blanche to re-shape his early '70s back catalog, they've wrapped brand new electronic atmospherics and melodies around the original material. The entire album is more of the cunning same.
Song: Stay Home
Artist: EG, England
Notes: Written by Andy Sturmer from the marvellous old San Francisco band, Jellyfish - they cut their own version in 1990 - this hidden gem is from Eg, better known as Eg White. Starting out from humble beginnings - he was a member of Yip Yip Coyote - he has become one of the most in-demand writers and producers around today. He has worked with Adele, Duffy, James Blunt, Florence + the Machine, Natalie Imbruglia, Kylie Minogue, P!nk, Joss Stone as well as L&F favorite Kristina Train.
Artist: Nina Simone, Tryon, NC
Album: Baltimore, 1978
Notes: If you consider yourself a serious music lover, you should have a copy of the unbelievable 'Baltimore' opus from 1978 from which this track comes. Covered by all and sundry over the years (Aretha Franklin, Dean Martin and Dinah Washington are among the many) since being composed in 1955 by Fritz Rotter, the late lamented jazz-blues vocalist's version stands head and shoulders above the all others. So much soul in one human being.
Song: Beautiful Pain
Artist: Keaton Simons, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Beautiful Pain, 2013
Notes: The title track from the underrated singer-songwriter's new album, which has a bunch of A-list talent helping him out, including co-writes with Jason Reeves, Glen Phillips and Jason Mraz among others. He's also a bit of an actor on the side, popping up in 'Malcolm in The Middle' and the movie 'Hollywood Dreams' - and indeed a rather fun cameo on this season's finale of Showtime's 'Californication' series. When his parents divorced, his mother married actor Eric Roberts. That probably makes Julia Roberts his step-aunt.
Artist: Erik Segerstedt, Sweden
Album: Meaning (single), 2013
Notes: Runner-up on the third season of the Swedish version of 'American Idol' in 2006, teamed with two other finalists to form the boy band E.M.D., and recently entered a bid to represent Sweden in the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest, but eliminated in the finals - don't hold these career decisions against this exciting new talent. This, his latest single, is a marvellous remake of the Gavin DeGraw song.
Song: Girl Who Got Away
Artist: Tyler Hilton, Palm Springs, CA
Album: Not available
Notes: Too sad for words - a sparse, longing goodbye ode to the love of his life, to the one that got away - written and earnestly performed by an L&F favorite who's been singing since he was 16. He's been performing the song since 2007, but has never recorded it. Hopefully he'll be singing it on the road in April and May. Dates at www.tylerhilton.com.
Song: Love Out Loud
Artist: Amy Loftus, Chicago, IL
Album: Not available
Notes: A breezy engaging chorus from a singer-songwriter now based in Los Angeles via Nashville. An alumnus of the Second City improv troupe, a former actress and now a yoga teacher, she's released a couple of smartly crafted albums with a third on the way.
Song: Simple Things
Artist: Dirty Vegas, England
Album: Dirty Vegas, 2002
Notes: Though more commonly recognized as a House Music band, this is a remarkably mainstream pop-rock bubbler from the British trio who scored a dance hit with 'Days Go By' back in 2001. They cut one more album in 2004, before splitting up the following year. They reformed in 2008, since when there has been a sole album in 2011. Quality not quantity is the order of the day.
Artist: Morning Benders/Cardigans, Berkeley, CA/Sweden
Notes: Terrific cover by a group who now go by the name of POP ETC. after discovering that their moniker had a double meaning in the UK seguing into the original hit by the Swedish rock band who reformed for a series of concerts last year following a five-year hiatus.