Artist: Haerts, New York, NY
Album: Wings (single), 2013
Notes: A sensational rhythm track underwriting a modern rock corker from a New York based combo with a multi-cultural transatlantic lineup, its five members variously hailing from the US, England and Germany. Made available on iTunes just days ago, it can also be streamed on Soundcloud and at www.haertsmusic.com. They're currently working on their debut album and will be setting off on a two-week tour in Washington, DC on May 7th.
Song: If I Had A Heart
Artist: Andy Burrows, England
Album: Company, 2012
Notes: Harking back to the golden singer-songwriter era of the mid-'70s - it's almost got an Al Stewart flavor to it - some lovely breezy melancholia from the former drummer of British indie-rockers Razorlight. He inked their most popular number 'America' before leaving the group in 2009 for solo pursuits and a switch to tub-thumping for another band, We Are Scientists. He's just finished working on the debut album by bright young thing Tom Odell. More at www.andyburrows.co.uk.
Song: Love Love Love
Artist: of Monsters And Men, Iceland
Album: My Head Is An Animal, 2011
Notes: Before they hit the big time with 'Little Talks' and now 'Mountain Sound' they were an L&F secret find. The six-piece folk rockers are based in Reykjavik and feature the intimate honeyed vocal style of lead singer Nanna Hilmarsdo'ttir. They'll be playing at Coachella this weekend after a gig in Las Vegas mid-week, before embarking on a major North American tour in May and June.
Song: Voodoo Child
Artist: Angelique Kidjo, Benin
Album: Oremi, 1998
Notes: A fantastic bridge on a World Music update of the Hendrix classic. Hailed by Time magazine as 'Africa's premiere Diva,' the 52 year old has a solid canon of World Music albums under her belt - 11 releases over 25 years. The Jimi Hendrix Estate continues to mine his seemingly endless lesser-known recordings and leftovers - indeed a new album 'People, Hell And Angels' recently hit Number 2 on the Billboard albums chart, not bad for an artist who died more than 40 years ago and would now be 70.
Song: I Have Made Mistakes
Artist: Oh Hellos, San Marcos, TX
Notes: A Texan brother-sister duo of Tyler and Maggie 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 theohhellos.com. Easy to understand why they're fans of the Lumineers and Sufjan Stevens.
Song: Perfect Day
Artist: Lou Reed, Brooklyn, NY
Album: Transformer, 1972
Notes: Written more than 40 years ago for the singer's second album following the demise of the Velvet Underground. It got further leases of life when Duran Duran covered it in 1995, was featured in Danny Boyle's movie 'Trainspotting' the following year and again the next year when a star-studded charity version topped the UK chart. Last month the 71 year-old iconic artist made a surprise appearance at the Soho House in New York to discuss the 'Transformer' album during a special acoustic review staged by the uber-hip folks at www.high50.com.
Song: It's The Nighttime
Artist: Josh Rouse, Paxton, NE
Album: Nashville, 2005
Notes: A top drawer West Coast country rock outing from the veteran singer-songwriter, who has just released his tenth long-player 'The Happiness Waltz'. Long-based in Nashville, which has become a fertile breeding ground for lots of non-country, indie-roots performers, he's out on the road from next weekend. Check out dates at www.joshrouse.com/shows/
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,' which features this impeccable new acoustic strummer, due this summer.
Song: Stone Cold
Artist: Deuce Project, San Antonio, TX
Album: Stone Cold, 2003
Notes: An altogether BritPop feeling throughout, with shades of Richard Ashcroft and the Verve. The duo of Josh McMillan and Noah Pearce were pals from the age of eight and began playing music together in their teens and then snapped up by Madonna's Maverick label in 2002. For some reason they only recorded that one album together and have since faded from view. McMillan released a solo album, 'Stone Cold,' in 2006.
Artist: Eagles, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Hell Freezes Over DVD, 1999
Notes: In perfect harmony, Joe Walsh on lead vox on his own song, blending effortlessly with his Eagles cohorts Henley, Frey and Schmit on a track originally recorded for his ancient 'So What' solo album in 1974. Reversioned in the group's relaxed signature sound from the DVD of their 1999 comeback - irritatingly not available as a digital audio download. That tender tune is all the more poignant given what Walsh went through to get sober in order to be fit enough to reunite with the Eagles some years ago. There's a superb three-hour documentary about the band which recently aired on Showtime.
Song: You Are The One
Artist: Matt Hires, Tampa, FL
Album: Take Us to The Start, 2009
Notes: A lovely romantic folk-pop acoustic swayer, from a singer-songwriter who's currently scoring with a song called 'Restless Heart.' He began his music career fronting Brer, but an Atlantic Records A&R executive heard their debut record and persuaded him to go solo. His freshman set, from which this track comes, counted Sara Bareilles among its guest musicians. Songs from the album have been placed in 'Grey's Anatomy,' 'Private Practice' and 'Cougar Town.' He's just wrapped up a month-long tour with Matchbox Twenty.
Song: Sticks And Stones
Artist: Arlissa, England
Album: Sticks And Stones, 2013
Notes: An infectious bubbly new dance-rock offering with World Music flavors that deserves to be a smash. The half-British, half-German 20 year-old newcomer based in London has collaborated with rapper Nas (only the second UK artist he has worked with - the other being Amy Winehouse) and was smartly snapped up by Jay Z's Roc Nation management group in New York. The former part-time model for Abercrombie & Fitch used her earnings to fund her demo sessions and is currently working on her full-length maiden set for London Records. She cites Kate Bush as her greatest influence.
Artist: Shout Out Louds, Sweden
Album: Optica, 2013
Notes: A restrained, refined and mysterious, terrific vibe from a band founded in Stockholm more than a decade ago, who have toured with the likes of The Kings of Leon and The Strokes. Their songs have been featured on several TV shows, including 'One Tree Hill' and 'How I Met Your Mother.' Fronted by main songwriter and lead vocalist Adam Olenius, the band has released four sturdy indie-rock outings over a ten-year career. Check out www.shoutoutlouds.com, where there are details of their forthcoming North American tour.
Song: Lost And Found
Artist: Steve Mason, Scotland
Album: Boys Outside, 2010
Notes: Hypnotic beats and a cunning piano refrain from a singer-songwriter, electronic folkie who hails from Edinburgh. Formerly frontman for the folktronica combo, the Beta Band, which when they split up in 2004 left him so broke that he took a second job working construction while moonlighting as a musician. He recently issued a new record, 'Monkey Minds In The Devil's Time,' and will be playing a handful of US dates soon. More at www.stevemasontheartist.com/live/.
Song: Joy To You Baby
Artist: Josh Ritter, Moscow, ID
Notes: Americana tunesmith who wrote and recorded this new album during the throes of a painful divorce from fellow musician, Dawn Landes. It's a very personal collection about which he said 'these new songs felt like rocks in the shoe, hard little nuggets of whatever they were, be it spite, remorse, or happiness. I hadn't composed this stuff, I'd scrawled it down, just trying to keep ahead of the heartbreak.' Paste magazine once hailed him as one of the top 100 greatest living songwriters. He's currently touring the US with his backing group, the Royal City Band.
Song: Picture In A Frame
Artist: Rod Stewart, England
Album: Time, 2013
Notes: The pick of his first self-penned album since 2001 which hits retail in the first week of May. It's a welcome return to his underrated songwriting craft which he put on hold while fracking the great American songbook for a dozen years. Now 68, but still going strong even with 8 children from 5 relationships, the first born in 1963 the last in 2011. At a press conference back in 1990 after he married Rachel Hunter, he said: 'I've been tamed. I've put my last banana in the fruit bowl.' The Guardian's Sam Leith pithily responded later when Ms Hunter left him: 'Sadly, that fruit bowl went off in search of fresher bananas.'
Song: Mama Sail To Me
Artist: Amos Lee, Philadelphia, PA
Album: As The Crow Flies (EP), 2012
Notes: A typically restrained, poised and rewarding standout track from the eclectic singer-songwriter's third EP - featuring six songs recorded during the 'Mission Bell' sessions but not included on that album. An entrancing mid-tempo ballad with beautiful gospel backing vocals and produced by Calexico's Joey Burns. He gets better with each release. One of the best folk, blues and soul stylists getting it done every year now divides his time between homes in his native Philadelphia and San Francisco.
Song: How We Operate
Artist: Gomez, England
Album: How We Operate, 2006
Notes: A sorely underrated British alternative-rock outfit who've made much worthwhile music over the past 15 years - their last three albums all issued through Dave Matthews' ATO Records label. A big act all around the globe except in the US, fronted by co-vocalists Ian Ball and Ben Ottewell, who's on a 10-day solo jaunt of the US through the end of the month. This track was produced by Gil Norton - who's worked with the Pixies, Foo Fighters, Ben Kweller, Patti Smith, Counting Crows and many others.
Song: Ask Me To
Artist: Andrea Davidson, Louisville, KY
Album: Inspirit (EP), 2012
Notes: Outstanding ballad featuring a top-notch upright piano bridge. If you like her, book her for one of her house concerts: she'll come to your home and perform - barefoot as always, with your guests making a donation on arrival. More at www.andreadavidson.net, where it reads: 'An Andrea Davidson song, once heard, will be stuck in your head, while you're lying in bed. Come wired or tired, she promises you will leave inspired.' Ever a true word.
Song: Beautiful Haze
Artist: Babybird, England
Notes: English rocker Stephen Jones, aka Babybird, has been releasing consistently strong alternative rock gems under his own name and under the Babybird brand for about 20 years. Last year he created his latest musical venture, Black Reindeer, releasing the album 'Music For The Film That Never Got Made.' He's also a published author, writing a couple of fictional works including 'Harry And Ida Swop Teeth,' the title of a Babybird B side.
Song: Blank Maps
Artist: Cold Specks, Canada
Notes: Authentic, robust, new blues stylings of a songstress-guitarist from Toronto, the daughter of Somalian parents. The singer who goes by the name of Al Spx, in honor of her idol, the late Poly Styrene, the leader of X-Ray Spex, travelled to London to record her debut album. She's about to embark on a lengthy US tour with Jim James, even though she suffers from stage fright. Check for dates at www.coldspecks.com/live/.
Song: Senses Working Overtime
Artist: XTC, England
Album: English Settlement, 1982
Notes: The literate and hip new wave outfit which emerged from the ashes of punk rock in the mid-'70s in England formed by singer-songwriter/guitarist Andy Partridge who delivers the trademark vocals. They've reformed several times over the years but have been inactive since 2005 due to a lingering split between Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding. Partridge's longtime partner is Erica Wexler the niece of iconic record producer Jerry Wexler. Check out http://chalkhills.org - a seriously, in depth site about the band.
Song: Like Sister And Brother
Artist: Drifters, New York, NY
Album: The Drifters Now, 1973
Notes: A soul sapphire by the veteran R&B band during its early '70s incarnation. Although they've had a very fluid lineup over the decades, the group are now the longest lasting group of any kind in the popular music era - they started in 1953 and still perform today, some 60 years later. This lost ruby, featuring the lead vocals of Johnny Moore, was written by Roger Cook, Roger Greenaway and Geoff Stephens and recorded when the band was having great success in the UK (and indeed, moved there for a while).
Song: Not Worthy
Artist: Jack Savoretti, England
Album: Before The Storm, 2012
Notes: Shades of Chris Isaak but with more grit, an easy-rolling nugget from an English/Italian folkie. A European troubador, the singer-songwriter has lived, recorded and toured all over the continent but headed back to London to create his last offering - his third, which also includes a rather lovely duet with actress Sienna Miller.
Song: The Time Comes
Artist: Nina Gordon, Chicago, IL
Notes: Candidate for the saddest song of all-time from the former lead singer of alternative rockers Veruca Salt - she left the band acrimoniously in 1998. She cut three solo albums, one of which was never released. Also the partner of Tonic's frontman Jeff Russo, with whom she's had two children. Being a full-time mom now takes preference over music.
Song: Lay It Down
Artist: Al Green with Anthony Hamilton, Forrest City, AK/Charlotte, NC
Album: Lay It Down, 2008
Notes: The inimitable soul singer with the title cut from a largely ignored album which saw the strongest return to his signature Memphis soul sound, with neo-soul devotee Anthony Hamilton trading vocals. Irrespective of your faith or indeed lack thereof, it should be on everyone's bucket list to visit the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Memphis to see the Reverend Al deliver a service (which he still does most Sundays - it's a sight to see and hear, just up the road there from Graceland).
Song: Please Forgive Me
Artist: David Gray, England
Album: White Ladder, 1999
Notes: The followup to his only US hit single, 'Babylon,' from his epic 1999 album which remains his most commercially successful outing to date. 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 in January and is currently working on a new album at his own The Church Studio.
Song: Across The Universe
Artist: Beatles, England
Album: Let It Be ' Naked, 2003
Notes: Recorded in just four weeks during their fractured breakup, the original 'Let It Be' album tapes were handed over to Phil Spector in 1970 who put his Wagnerian production gloss on all of the tracks much to the particular disappointment of McCartney - who subsequently oversaw the remixing and remastering of the original unplugged recordings in 2002 - including this track finally stripped of Spector's vocal and instrumental overdubs and laying bare the core of John Lennon's masterful vocal and acoustic guitar playing. Ten years on from the iconic LP's release, it's just become available for download for the first time.
Song: You Get Me High
Artist: Max Gomez, Taos, NM
Album: Rule The World, 2013
Notes: The joy of new found love from a rootsy newcomer and earnest tunesmith who earned his musical spurs playing blues and country covers in local bars around his hometown of Taos. It's one of several deceptively mature cuts from the 20-something singer-songwriter guitarist on his freshman album which was released in January. He's currently on the road: www.maxgomezmusic.com/shows/.
Song: Finders Keepers
Artist: Miriam Bryant, Sweden
Notes: With a voice right up there with Adele, the 22 year old singer, from Gothenburg, Sweden, the daughter of a British father and Finnish mother, has just released her debut album 'Raised In Rain' in her home country. More on her at www.miriambryantmusic.com where you can also catch a rather stylish b&w video clip of this number.
Artist: Del Amitri, Scotland
Album: Twisted, 1995
Notes: A marriage splitting apart at the seams documented during the long ride home - a beautifully crafted song reflecting on the inevitable but often subtle power struggles that hallmark and ultimately damage so many relationships. Best known over here for their still-played chestnut 'Roll To Me'. The group's lead singer, Justin Currie, who released a solo album in 2010, still performs occasionally. His website www.justincurrie.com is well worth a visit.
Artist: Lighthouse Family, England
Album: Ocean Drive, 1996
Notes: Used by the Labour Party - Britain's equivalent of the Democrats - as its theme song in the 2001 election, and a huge hit in the UK back in 1996. An effortless soul-pop shuffler with neat gospel flavors, hitting all the right notes. The duo of keyboard whiz Paul Tucker and Nigerian singer Tunde Baiyewu reunited in 2010 having originally spent a decade together from 1993. In a January 2011 interview with the BBC Tucker said they had 'pockets full of songs,' since when, little has been heard.
Song: Leave The Lights On
Artist: Meiko, Roberta, GA
Album: The Bright Side, 2012
Notes: Lead-off cut from her brilliant sophomore album issued some five years after her splendid maiden long-player: both are stuffed with first-rate melodic singer-songwriter confections showcasing her engaging breathy vocal style and clever way with words. One-quarter Japanese, she grew up in Roberta, a small hamlet in Georgia. More at www.meikomusic.com.
Song: Just Like A Woman
Artist: Amber Rubarth/Bob Dylan, Brooklyn, NY/Duluth, MN
Notes: The 30 year old indie singer-songwriter has made half-a-dozen albums over the past decade and was the winner of NPR's prestigious Mountain Stage New Song Contest in 2010. Her previous album 'A Common Case Of Disappearing' from 2011 featured duets with the Jasons Mraz and Reeves, but this reworking of a classic is from her newest work, a beautifully sparse album which sees her clear voice, backed by her own acoustic guitar, a violin, a cello and percussion. Dylan's original was recorded in Nashville and now 47 years on, it truly stands the test of time.