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 et al.
Artist: It's Immaterial, England
Notes: A quirky, curious but rather winning number by a Liverpudlian combo led by John Campbell. Originally a quartet, including Henry Priestman who subsequently became a member of the Christians, but by the time they cut this track they were a duo. They released two albums, cut a third and then disbanded in 1990. Part of the fertile Liverpool music scene of that decade, the band prided itself on a real smorgasboard of musical genres, mixing new wave, folk, synth, pop even some occasional blues.
Song: Dancing In The Moonlight
Artist: Toploader, England
Notes: An imaginative recasting of a 1973 pop hit by King Harvest by veteran British indie-rockers. They have actually recorded two covers of the song, a full-blown electric arrangement in 2001 - and this rather stylish acoustic treatment made after they got back together following a six-year hiatus. The band has shifted more than two million record sales mostly in the UK, and have just released an excellent new single. Check it out at www.toploaderofficial.com.
Song: Lime Tree
Artist: Trevor Hall, Hilton Head, SC
Album: Trevor Hall, 2009
Notes: A lovely mellow laid back Caribbean reggae-tinged flavor from a singer who cites Bob Marley and Ben Harper as two of his heroes. He scored a notable film placement with his song 'Other Ways' on the 'Shrek The Third' movie soundtrack. Now based in southern California, he devotes time to the Baal Dan charity, helping feed children and build schools and orphanages in India.
Artist: Wake Owl, Canada
Album: Wild Country (EP), 2013
Notes: Some nu-school Americana from a Vancouver based act firmly revolving around Californian-born singer-songwriter Colyn Cameron who has begun making music after several years training in organic agriculture and working on farms around the globe including rural stops in Germany, Britain and Chile. Snapped up last year by the wonderful Vagrant Records which consistently signs literate, melodic tunesmiths.
Song: Lost Count
Artist: Ebba Forsberg, Sweden
Album: Been There, 1997
Notes: A sad tale about failed relationships ('Made my life a mess, I can't put the blame on anyone but myself') from the singer's debut album on Madonna's Maverick Records, to which she was briefly signed. Since then, she has released five albums, two of which have been collections of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen songs translated into Swedish. Also an accomplished actress on home turf, find out more on her at www.ebbaforsberg.com, making sure to hit the 'in english' tab!
Song: Do You Realize?
Artist: Flaming Lips, Oklahoma City, OK
Notes: Perhaps their most popular live number and one of their signature songs despite never being a hit. The neo-psychedelic combo who always put on a dazzling and colorful stage show is fronted by the creatively restless Wayne Coyne. It was made Official State Rock Song of Oklahoma in 2009 after an online poll, receiving 51% of the vote among a number of other tunes. Only three states have one - 'Hang On Sloopy' is Ohio's and 'Louie Louie' is Washington's - pretty good company to be in.
Song: Oh My My
Artist: Act As If, Los Angeles, CA
Album: The Iron Is Hot (EP), 2012
Notes: A catchy bright outing and the lead-off cut from the band's most recent four-track EP. They're a tight LA-based indie-rock quartet fronted by Peter Verdell and featuring Sara Lindsay on keyboards, with just one full long-player to date. There's a fun companion video clip available still streaming on a Youtube near you, demonstrating that if you're the lead singer of a band you get to kiss really pretty women: www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yMQMEFTdBU. More on the band at www.actasifmusic.com.
Song: Strange Overtones
Artist: David Byrne & Brian Eno, Scotland/England
Notes: An engaging collaboration by top art-rockers from their sorely overlooked album named after Amos Tutuola's 1954 novel of the same name. It was another 27 years before they worked together again on the album 'Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.' As Eno continues a career as an in-demand producer as well as creating always interesting solo work, Byrne recently teamed up with St. Vincent, formerly of Polyphonic Spree, for the album 'Love This Giant.'
Song: Here I Am In London Town
Artist: Deacon Blue, Scotland
Album: The Hipsters, 2012
Notes: A song about a Scotsman stranded in London yearning to be back with his lost love and the superb lead off cut from the band's comeback album - their first long-player in 11 years. Having been a staple on the British charts from the mid-'80s to the early '90s, the band couldn't catch a cold in the US despite making highly accessible quality pop-rock. Front man Ricky Ross and fellow band member Lorraine McIntosh have been married for over 20 years and even released an album together in 2009 as McIntoshRoss. The always literate and eloquent Ross also became a fine broadcaster in the UK - his musical knowledge always welcome on the BBC.
Artist: Donald Fagen, Passaic, NJ
Album: The Nightfly, 1982
Notes: The inimitable lead singer of Steely Dan with the still-fresh, bouncy, snyth sapphire, virtually indistinguishable from his work with that band. He's such an absolute perfectionist in the studio: all of his recordings still sound so contemporary because he's always used state of the art equipment and production techniques. The song's title is a geeky reference to an international scientific convention called the International Geophysical Year, which was staged way back in 1957 and 1958.
Song: Love And Affection
Artist: Joan Armatrading, Saint Kitts
Album: Joan Armatrading, 1976
Notes: Recorded way back in 1975 and much been much covered over the years including versions by Martha Davis of the Motels and Melissa Etheridge - but the original remains peerless. The veteran singer-songwriter has now recorded more than 20 albums over a 40-plus career - every one of them contains at least one lost pearl. Sax part courtesy of Jimmy Jewell - and American actor Clarke Peters, who you might have seen in HBO's 'Wire' series playing Detective Lester Freamon, provides the rather cool baritone backing vocal.
Song: Love They Say
Artist: Tegan & Sara, Canada
Album: Heartthrob, 2013
Notes: Such smart synchronicity from the identical Quinn twins born in 1980 and writing and performing together since they were 15. Snapped up by Neil Young's manager to Neil's Vapor Records in 1999, they haven't looked back since. Much in demand as a support act on major tours, last year they opened for both the Black Keys and the Killers, and are finally ready for a major breakthrough with the release of their dazzling seventh album, which is filled with similarly melodious indie pop nuggets.
Song: Double Barrel
Artist: Dave & Ansel Collins, Jamaica
Album: Double Barrel, 1971
Notes: Dave Barker and Ansel Collins were a Kingston Jamaican duo working for legendary reggae producer Lee Scratch Perry, who went on to work with the Clash. They signed to the legendary Trojan Records label in Britain which did so much to export the rock-steady sound of ska and reggae around the globe in the 1970s. The track is notable for featuring one of the great rhythm session drummers of all time, Sly Dunbar, he of Sly & Robbie fame, who was just 18 when he made his recording debut on the song.
Song: Old Friend
Artist: Lyle Lovett, Klein, TX
Album: I Love Everybody, 1994
Notes: First class alternative folk/country from the king of the genre. Almost impossible to categorize and all the better for it, a real musical purist - quirky actor, bandleader, erudite singer-songwriter, never seen in public without a tie and, most of all, super dapper. His wife at the time he recorded the parent album was (then wife) Julia Roberts who can be heard singing backing vocals on several cuts.
Song: Walk My Way
Artist: Beth Nielsen Chapman, Harlingen, TX
Album: Beth Nielsen Chapman, 1990
Notes: Heavenly Spanish guitar, effortless hooks and vocals and crisp execution from one of the very best singer-songwriters out there today. Although she's never received the commercial success she clearly deserves as a recording artiste in her own right, she has become the go-to composer for many country musicians, penning hits for the likes of Faith Hill, Waylon Jennings and Trisha Yearwood - but do check out any of her sublime 10 albums. More at www.bethnielsenchapman.com.
Song: Alberta Bound
Artist: Bryan Adams, Canada
Album: Alberta Bound (Single), 2011
Notes: Released as a digital single from the veteran singer-songwriter who's still on a seemingly endless solo acoustic live trek called the Bare Bones tour. He's taken it around the world over the past couple of years (to see where he's playing next go to www.bryanadams.com) - and when he performs this song he changes the city name from Alberta to whichever city he's playing that night - and of course, the audience goes nuts. The song reached Number 100 on the Canadian chart and didn't score on any other chart anywhere else in the world.
Song: Breaking My Own Heart
Artist: Sweet Talk Radio, Los Angeles, CA
Album: State of the Union, 2012
Notes: A self-piteous organic lost pearl from the husband/wife duo of Tim Burlingame and Kathrin Shorr off their second album. A lovely short bio on their web page reads: 'Boy plays music he writes. Girl plays music she writes. One day girl goes over to boy's house and they start to sing together. Boy smiles. Girl smiles back. Flash forward to their wedding day a few years later. Soon after, Sweet Talk Radio is born. Boy smiles. Girl smiles back.?
Song: Buildings And Mountains
Artist: Republic Tigers, Kansas City, MO
Album: Keep Color, 2008
Notes: A cracking, highly melodic and engaging song from an indie band, creating a lovely meld of pop, psychedelic rock and folk. Only one album to date and a couple of EPs, the group's founders Adam McGill and Kenn Jankowski have a sort of one-off commitment to the group so their catalog is a little sparse, although their new album 'Mind Over Matter' is expected before the end of the year.
Artist: Mavis Staples, Chicago, IL
Notes: As authentic and soulful a ballad as you're likely to hear. Written as a parlor tune by Stephen Foster, known as 'the father of American music,' in 1854, it's been covered by oodles of singers over the centuries, more recently by the likes of Bob Dylan and James Taylor. Recorded in just one take at the Sound Emporium Studio in Nashville by a soul great who is currently in the studio with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy working on a new album.
Song: Not Supposed To
Artist: Guards, Anaheim, CA
Album: In Guards We Trust, 2013
Notes: A promising stew of late-'0s vibed psychedelic dream pop by the long-haired trio of frontman Richie Follin, Loren Humphrey and Kaylie Church. Follin and Humphrey have both been members of the garage-rock band The Willowz for the past ten years. They've toured with the Cults, fronted by Follin's sister Madeline, and this intriguing number can be found on their just released debut album. You can stream all its tracks and an earlier self-titled EP on www.guards.bandcamp.com. They're currently on the road until early April.
Song: Nobody's Fool
Artist: Haircut 100, England
Album: Pelican West, 1992
Notes: A single which came and went unnoticed in 1982 and only appeared on an album with the re-release of 'Pelican West' a decade later from a band who were only together for four years, cutting seven singles and two LPs. Their lead singer Nick Heyward left midway through to pursue a solo career, which has resulted in eight albums over the years. In 2009, he rekindled his friendship with his old bandmates by way of Facebook and got back together to perform 'Pelican West' live in its entirety. Always one of the good guys, Heyward recently played a gig in Pasadena to benefit the survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Song: The Weight Of Us
Artist: Sanders Bohlke, Oxford, MS
Notes: A sensational, melodramatic confessional offering conversely mixing hope and fear for a new love, by an underrated indie-rock stylist. It's been seven long years since he bowed with his superb self-titled debut set, but pleased to report that his new album has finally dropped. It's called 'Ghost Boy' and you can preview tracks at www.sandersbohlke.com.
Song: In Time You'll See
Artist: Betty Wright, Miami, FL
Album: Sevens, 1987
Notes: A terrific track from the wonderful soulstress, still based in Miami where she was born 70 years ago. She scored a couple of crossover hits in the 1970s - 'Clean Up Woman' and 'Tonight Is The Night,' set up her own successful record label Miss B in 1985 and has since become an in-demand producer more recently for the likes of Tom Jones and the wonderful Diane Birch. A mainstay on the R&B charts over three decades, the Grammy winning artist has still not received the due she deserves.
Song: What If
Artist: Coldplay, England
Album: X&Y, 2005
Notes: A gorgeous love song, evoking strains of the Beatles' 'Golden Slumbers,' from the most melodic of rockers tucked away on their 2005 multi-platinum opus, mysteriously only released as a single in France. For hardcore fans of the band, they recently began publishing a Mylo Xyloto comic series, all based on the story behind the making of their last album - details of course at www.coldplay.com. The band is currently working on its sixth studio album, which Chris Martin promises 'is much easier to pronounce.'
Artist: Sara Yasmine, Iran/Sweden
Notes: Curiously haunting honest lyrics and an engaging but fragile broken vocal style from an Iranian/Swedish singer-songwriter, who has only been recording for two years. Based in Gothenburg, she has issued just two EPs and a single to date and has about 1,000 friends on Facebook. Influenced by the Fleet Foxes, Emmylou Harris and Katie Melua, add to her numbers at facebook.com/sarayasminemusic.
Artist: Louis Armstrong, New Orleans, LA
Album: Satchmo Serenades, 2000
Notes: An evergreen pop vocal standard written by Tin Pan Alley greats, Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby and Oscar Hammerstein in 1935 in a version by perhaps the single most important figure in popular music history of the 20th century. One of the vital building blocks of everything that subsequently created rock and roll, it all began with the jazz legend known as Satchmo - indeed his 1928 recording 'West End Blues' is rightly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Could anyone possibly improve on the gentle, rolling authentic soul of its greatest interpreter? Obviously Rod Stewart didn't get the memo.
Artist: Family Of The Year, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Loma Vista, 2012
Notes: Named L&F's top song of 2012, a drop dead gorgeous melodic winner, hitting all the right notes, by a quintet led by Welsh brothers Joseph and Sebastian Keefe. Replete with folk-styled acoustic guitar, a smart hook-filled melody and a summery West Coast sound. It's the kind of record Emitt Rhodes made so brillantly and effortlessly some forty years ago.
Artist: Duncan Browne, England
Album: Duncan Browne, 1973
Notes: Extraordinarily nimble acoustic fret-work on a fine song from a long lost 40 year-old gem. An alumnus of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, the tunesmith was discovered by then Rolling Stones manager and producer Andrew Loog Oldham in 1967, and always moved around in the shadows of rock'n'roll. Little known on these shores, he notably co-wrote 'Criminal World' for David Bowie's 'Let's Dance' album. Sadly his own journey came to an end far too soon, aged just 46 when he succumbed to cancer in 1993.
Artist: Maria Mena, Norway
Album: White Turns Blue, 2004
Notes: A young girl yearning for parental guidance, love and strength from an incapable mother, just a simple, pure lost diamond. Written by the Norwegian songbird when she was 13, and inspired by the pain she felt while witnessing her parents' divorce, based on notes she kept in her diary from the age of nine. Six quality CDs by her since bowing in 2002, the most recent 'Viktoria' from 2011.
Song: Wedding Party
Artist: Paul Buchanan, Scotland
Album: Mid Air, 2012
Notes: Another beautiful ballad, one of a string of quiet pearls housed on the impeccable solo opus by the Blue Nile frontman. Having cut just four albums with his band over a thirty year period, the elusive and enigmatic Scotsman finally emerged with his solo debut last year. If you like your music erudite, poised, pensive, stylish and melodic, there is no one better. Do check out his website: PaulBuchanan.com - which also includes notes of the magical Blue Nile archive.
Song: What A Wonderful Life
Artist: Katie Ro (Brace), Nashville, TN
Album: Not available
Notes: A perky number, which regrettably isn't available online, from a singer-songwriter who has been working mostly as one of Nashville's finest demo sessioneers, creating top-drawer demos for other artists for more than a decade. More at www.katieromusic.com. She also has her own YouTube channel as well: www.youtube.com/katieromusic.
Song: Voices In My Head
Artist: Naked Eyes, England
Album: Burning Bridges, 1983
Notes: A catchy slice of new wave pop rock by the British duo of Pete Byrne and Rob Fisher, who hailed from the lovely ancient city of Bath. Better known of course for their big hits 'Always Something There To Remind Me' and 'Promises Promises,' interestingly they were always more popular in the US than in their native country. Fisher passed away in 1999 at the too early age of 39, but Byrne put together a band to reform Naked Eyes, and has been touring regularly since. A new album, 'Piccadilly,' is rumored to be coming next month.
Artist: Black Dub, Canada/US
Album: Black Dub, 2010
Notes: A spare, atmospheric original Americana groove, rolling along so sweetly by a combo assembled in 2009 by top producer, Daniel Lanois - who is of course one of U2's longtime producers and also helmed a couple of albums for Dylan. (He has also been behind the desk for the likes of Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Dashboard Confessional and Peter Gabriel.) He's been putting out the occasional solo albums since 1989 before assembling this quartet, which also features Trixie Whitley, daughter of the late blues-rock singer Chris Whitley, Daryl Johnston and Brian Blades.
Song: No One's Gonna Love You
Artist: Kristina Train/Band Of Horses, New York, NY/Seattle, WA
Notes: L&F favorite Miss Train with the sole cover on her new brilliant album seguing into the original version, recorded by its writers six years ago. With their latest album, 'Mirage Rock,' released late last year, BAnd of Horses will be on the road in April, including two performances at the Coachella festival.