Artist: Embrace, England
Album: Out Of Nothing, 2004
Notes: Written by Coldplay and first performed by them in 2002, the song was given to their Embrace friends to put on their fourth album. (Coldplay then released their own version on the B-side of their single 'Talk' the following year.) A fifth album and a compilation followed after which there's been nothing. Last August their facebook page announced 'No-one in the world has heard anything from us in over 6 years, and in just a few weeks that's all going to change.' Still nothing however, but as 2013 sees the band's 20th anniversary it's highly likely that a new album will surface.
Song: Pitter Pat
Artist: Erin McCarley, Garland, TX
Album: Love Save The Empty, 2009
Notes: Lovely atmospherics swirling all over a track enhanced by the singer's whispery vocal and melodic sensibilities. She started out her musical career in San Diego after graduating from Baylor University. Now based in Nashville, she writes top-notch melodic pearls and has been part of the admirable Ten Out Of Tenn collaborative. If you look closely at the ABC TV musical drama series 'Nashville' you might see her popping up from time to time. Her second album, 'My Stadium Electric,' was released last year.
Artist: Al Lewis, Wales
Album: Battles, 2013
Notes: Breezy, easy like Sunday morning, acoustic indie pop from a young Welsh tunesmith very much influenced by the golden 1970s era of singer-songwriting. (The track has an Al Stewart feel to it.) The album was recorded at producer Charlie Peacock's home studio in Nashville, and this charming lead off track features the Paper Aeroplanes' Sarah Howells on harmonies. If you check out www.allewismusic.com, you'll be given the choice of perusing it in either English or Welsh. Click on Cymraeg rather than English, and you immediately come across a Christmas song in Welsh.
Song: Forbidden City
Artist: Electronic, England
Album: Raise The Pressure, 1996
Notes: Biting goodbye lyrics from one of the coolest ad-hoc bands ever formed, based around New Order's lead singer Bernard Sumner and former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. It's a glorious overlooked rock gem from their sophomore set. Upping the cool factor, they wrote it with Karl Bartos, who was a member of Kraftwerk between 1975 and 1991. Sumner is back with New Order and a new album 'Lost Sirens,' while Marr has just released his solo debut 'The Messenger.'
Song: Hold Onto Hope Love
Artist: Amy Stroup, Boston, MA
Album: The Other Side Of Love, 2011
Notes: Such a shame that music this good gets lost in the relentless modern day rush for mediocrity. Actually an update of a song originally recorded in 2009 and recently used for the promo of NBC's new show 'Ready For Love.' Check out the rather lovely video that accompanies the song now streaming on YouTube. The Nashville-based singer-songwriter is currently working on a side project with another L&F favorite, Trent Dabbs, as Sugar & The Hi-Los.
Artist: Wake Owl, Canada
Album: Wild Country (EP), 2012
Notes: One of six quality cuts on a promising freshman EP from a new Vancouver-based Americana act essentially comprising one chap by the name of Colyn Cameron. He started out making music after several years working on organic farms around the globe. He's currently playing selected dates around the country - you can check out where at www.wakeowl.com or facebook/wakeowl. If you like Ben Howard then you're sure to enjoy this.
Song: 40 Dogs (Romeo & Juliet)
Artist: Bob Schneider, Austin, TX
Album: Little Creatures, 2009
Notes: A classy singer-songwriter who has been plugging away creating top-notch, erudite, melodious fare for a long time. A local musical hero in his home town where he's won no less than 24 trophies at the city's annual Music Awards since being named Musician of the Year in 1999. His 12th studio album, 'Burden Of Proof,' is set for release in May, anD he'll be on the road for the next couple of months. (Most of his live shows are recorded and then made available to his audience on their way out.) Check out where at www.bobschneider.com.
Song: Waiting For A Train
Artist: Flash & the Pan, Australia
Album: Headlines, 1982
Notes: Aussie-based synth-pop duo comprising Dutchman Harry Vanda and Scottish-born George Young, who started out as members of The Easybeats in the 1960s, writing their most well-known hit 'Friday On My Mind.' In a parallel production career, they produced many of AC/DC's biggest hits (George is the older brother of band members Angus and Malcolm Young). They also wrote the worldwide smash 'Love Is In The Air' by John Paul Young (no relation!)
Artist: Emeli Sande, Scotland
Album: Our Version Of Events, 2012
Notes: So-called 'stripped' down version of the lead-off cut on her remarkable maiden album released over a year ago and which has been a staple on L&F since the day of issue. 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.
Artist: Lindsey Buckingham, Palo Alto, CA
Album: One Man Show, 2012
Notes: A live update of his 1981 solo hit recorded live in Des Moines, Iowa last September and released for download only via iTunes. Still underrated as one of the most dextrous guitarists of any era, it'll be interesting to see whether he includes the number on the extensive Fleetwood Mac reunion tour which gets underway next week in Columbus, Ohio. For dates check out www.fleetwoodmac.com - it may be your last chance to see the chemistry of the band together on stage.
Artist: Kristina Train, New York, NY
Album: Dark Black, 2012
Notes: Too good, too evocative, too well-conceived for prime time. A wistful winner sounding like it was recorded in the mid-'60s, but yet another standout track from her latest long-player. (The guitar part sounds like it's stepped straight out of a great 1960s movie.) Simply one of the finest releases of last year or any year. Soulful, thoughtful beautifully crafted melodic music at its best.
Song: Let Your Heart Hold Fast
Artist: Fort Atlantic, Birmingham, AL
Album: Fort Atlantic, 2012
Notes: A rousing Celtic edge, though an act from down South. The debut album was put together by Jon Black in his home made studio, calling on friends to play various instruments and drummer Josh Cannon. The anthemic multi-vox chorus was actually assembled by a choir of different voices which Black collected via his email. The song received some unexpected exposure in the CBS TV sitcom 'How I Met Your Mother.' Black moved to Portland, Oregon last year and has been rehearsing for his first tour, a two-week US jaunt in April - for dates check out www.fortatlantic.com.
Song: Heavenly Day
Artist: Patty Griffin, Old Town, ME
Notes: A self-penned slow burning treat, and a pensive note of optimism amidst our daily gloom from her 2007 Grammy-nominated album, with her friend Emmylou Harris helping out on backing vocals. She's back with a new album, 'American Kid,' which she premiered last week before an invited-only audience at The Caste in Austin, during the South By Southwest festival. Due out on May 7th, it features new husband Robert Plant singing on three tracks.
Artist: Bruce Cockburn, Canada
Notes: A music maker for four decades - his last album in 2011 was his 31st, a multi Juno award winner, a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, but still barely known south of the border. This musical poem, a Top 30 US hit back in 1979, swings along so effortlessly, but is rarely heard these days.
Artist: Pauline, Zimbabwe
Notes: A hook-filled perky pop/dance cut from the Zimbabwe-born Ms. Kamusewu. 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.
Artist: Midway State, Canada
Album: Paris Or India, 2011
Notes: Anthemic modern rock from a Toronto quartet fronted by Nathan Ferraro. They've been together for six years, a popular opening act around North America for the likes of Third Eye Blind, Jimmy Eat World and Death Cab For Cutie. Nothing heard from them since 2011, when they released the album 'Paris Or India.' In 2008 they cut a secret version of the Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush duet 'Don't Give Up' with none other than Lady Gaga, though never officially released.
Song: Buy Me Honey
Artist: Yellow Red Sparks, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Yellow Red Sparks, 2013
Notes: Very promising, neat easy-flowing country rock from a trio fronted by singer-songwriter Joshua Hanson, who's from Yellow Pine in Idaho. He released his own splendidly titled 'Four Steps In Corsets' EP before adding drummer Goldy and multi-intrumentalist Sara Lynn last year to craft their delightful first long-player. They made their debut at the SXSW festival last week. More on them at www.yellowredsparks.com.
Artist: Mindy Gledhill, Eureka, CA
Album: Anchor, 2010
Notes: A delightful little waltz ballad from a 30-something indie-folkster originally from California, but long-based in Utah. Although she hasn't received the love she deserves on home turf she scored a big hit in, of all places, Korea in 2011 with the catchy ditty and number 1 smash 'Crazy Love.' Last year her song 'Bring Me Close' was used for a Fruit of the Loom commercial and she's currently recording her fifth album in Nashville with producer Carson Cooley (Matthew Perryman Jones and Katie Herzig).
Song: One Better Day
Artist: Madness, England
Album: Keep Moving, 1984
Notes: The unmistakable sound of one of the UK's most enduring and endearing bands with a sorely overlooked gem about the plight of the homeless - inexplicably never originally released on a US album. (It did appear years later on a compilation.) Now in their 35th year together, the nutty boys from London's Camden Town - having sung their classic 'Our House' on the roof of Buckingham Palace last year - performed live on British TV the other night at the closing of the BBC's legendary TV studios in London.
Song: Running For Cover
Artist: Ivan & Alyosha, Seattle, WA
Album: All The Times We Had, 2013
Notes: Formed in 2007 by Tim Wilson and Ryan Carbary, taking their name from Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Russian masterpiece 'Brothers Karamazov.' Following the release of their first EP, they added Tim's brother Pete on bass and Tim Kim on guitar to the lineup. Two more EPs and a single were released in 2011 and 2012, before their first full-length album came out last month. In Tim Wilson's words: 'We didn't get it perfect, but I definitely think we got it right.' The band is trekking round the country through May. Check out their rather nifty website at www.ivanandalyosha.com.
Song: Planet Earth
Artist: Shawn Hook, Canada
Album: Cosmonaut And The Girl, 2012
Notes: The ultimate eco-conscious anthem, ('we don't belong here on planet earth'), from a talented pianist, guitarist singer-songwriter from Nelson in British Columbia, who boasts a stratospheric vocal range. Described, rather pretentiously, in his own biography as like 'meteors of Paul McCartney and Elton John hurtling through space collecting particles of OneRepublic and Muse.'
Song: Better At You
Artist: Sweet Talk Radio, Los Angeles, CA
Album: My Hallelujah, 2009
Notes: Plaintive, kind-hearted reflections from a wife to a husband. The wife in question is Kathrin Shorr singing her heart out to her husband Tim Burlingame. They're based in Los Angeles and have been making sweet music together for about five years. Do also check out their second release 'State Of The Union' from last year - and you can look them up at www.sweetalkradio.com.
Song: Break Down
Artist: Stacy Wilde, New Jersey
Album: Tear Down The Sky, 2007
Notes: The acceptable face of Jersey Shore where the singer-songwriter/guitarist rocker was born. She has opened for Crosby Stills & Nash, Fleetwood Mac and the Kinks among many others, but got a bit of a rough treatment by her label, mercifully managing to regain her own master recordings - all of which are now available on her own WildeWestMusic label via her website - www.stacywilde.com.
Song: Living In Another World
Artist: Talk Talk, England
Album: The Colour Of Spring, 1986
Notes: A complete aural masterclass with swirling Hammond Organs, an incredible, full rhythm track, urgent melodies, pleading lyrics and a spiffing harmonica solo thrown in for good measure. The band was around for a decade during the 1980s, fronted by the subsequently enigmatic Mark Hollis, splitting up in 1991. Hollis released a solo album in 1998 and then disappeared, to live quietly with his wife and two sons in London. In typically enigmatic style, he resurfaced last year providing an instrumental track for Kelsey Grammer's TV drama, 'Boss'.
Song: Find Me
Artist: David Gates, Tulsa, OK
Album: Songbook, 2002
Notes: Simple, clean, effortless, note perfect: an overlooked love song written and recorded as a bonus cut on an otherwise entirely retrospective collection of solo and Bread highlights, which sadly remains his most recent recording. Nothing new from him in more than a decade and don't hold your breath. Now 72 he made his first record way back in 1957, an ode to his high school sweetheart called 'Jo-Baby.' The major songwriting and lead vocal force behind all those glorious Bread ballads in the 1970s, he has resolutely refused to change his style over subsequent decades.
Artist: Little Children, Sweden
Album: In Hau (EP), 2013
Notes: Tender, dark musings in a haunting, stylish Americana-inflected curiosity from, of all places, Sweden. The singular tunesmith Linus Lutti, who used to be one half of Idiot Kid, but has now adopted a new moniker with some Bon Iver, Nick Drake, Will Oldham even John Martyn influences clearly evident.
Artist: Rachel Fannan, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Not available
Notes: An eclectic, quirky and winning number by Fannan with her cool new update of the obscure Roxy Music swayer, which was only ever issued as the B-side to their brilliant 'Same Old Scene' single in 1980. She most likely discovered the original while working for four years as a record store clerk at Streetlight Records in Santa Cruz after she left high school. She was also a member of the Los Angeles valley band Sleepy Sun and has now put together the all girl band, Only You. More at rachelfannan.tumblr.com.
Song: Dream Catch Me
Artist: Newton Faulkner, England
Album: Hand Built By Robots, 2007
Notes: Born Sam Newton Battenburg Faulkner in 1985 in the historic market town of Reigate, an hour out of London, he's a striking-looking chap, sporting long red dreadlocks which he began growing when he was 15. He attended the prestigious Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts and the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford and started out his career as a bassist in a Green Day covers band. Since his debut, he's released two more albums, 'Rebuilt By Humans' in 2009 and 'Write It On Your Skin' last year.
Song: I'd Be An Angel
Artist: Randy Crawford, Macon, GA
Notes: The angelic soulful jazz/R&B stylings of the wonderful Miss Crawford with the lost soul ruby released to almost universal silence in 1998. She has been knocking it out of the park for more than 30 years and has never got the mainstream success she richly deserves. She's recorded with dozens of top artists including the iconic jazz combo, the Crusaders, Quincy Jones, Al Jarreau even Steve Hackett from Genesis. Her last three albums have all been recorded with Joe Sample but nothing solo from her since 2000.
Artist: Lex Land, Orange County, CA
Notes: Another underrated songstress based on the west coast, a quirky 26-year-old (born Christmas Day) singer-songwriter whose real name is Alexa Holland. She's the daughter of Dexter Holland, the lead singer and founder of Orange County punksters, the Offspring. She made her recording debut in 2008 with the album 'Orange Days On Lemon Street,' since when there has been a live album, two singles and her 2011 album. More at www.lexland.net.
Song: I Remember You
Artist: Paul Buchanan, Scotland
Album: Mid Air, 2012
Notes: For once the lyrics aren't necessarily too sad for words - but the melody and the painstaking, sparse melody and vocal delivery are exquisitely depressing and profoundly sad - and so conversely rewarding. The art and craft of one of 24 karats on the diamond solo album from last year by the great Scottish tunesmith - if you like your music served up rare, poignant, quiet and melodic.
Song: Thinking Of You
Artist: Colourfield, England
Notes: A British trio fronted by Terry Hall who was lead singer for the seminal ska band, the Special AKA and then fronted his own Fun Boy Three combo. That unheralded lost gem, with Katrina Phillips guesting on vocals, was buried on his third band's 1985 album. A few more collaborations followed - one with Dave Stewart, but he's kept a low profile since a Specials reunion tour in 2009. He's never had a performing hit in the States - but he did co-write the evergreen pop smash 'Our Lips Are Sealed' with Jane Wiedlin for the Go-Gos in 1981, which most likely helps him pay the bills.
Song: These Foolish Things
Artist: Bryan Ferry, England
Album: These Foolish Things, 1973
Notes: The superbly constructed nostalgic vocal stylings of Ferry on an uber-stylish cover of the standard written by Eric Maschwitz and Jack Strachey. First performed by Joan Carr in 1936, it took several versions to turn it into the standard it is today. The 67-year-old smoothie returned last year with a new album called 'The Jazz Age.' He was made a Commander of the British Empire in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in 2011 and married a former flame of his son Isaac's last year.
Song: Wherever You Will Go
Artist: Charlene Soraia/Calling, England/Los Angeles, CA
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 version of the song was used for a Tetley's tea commercial in the UK (the song's better than the tea), while the original hit was by a Los Angeles-based group fronted by the appropriatedly-named Alex Band. They have been on 'indefinite hiatus' since 2005, which eight years on can only mean one thing - they've broken up.