Song: Let Her Go
Artist: Passenger, England
Album: All The Lights, 2012
Notes: A restrained acoustic corker showcasing an engaging vocal style from British tunesmith, Mike Rosenberg. Somewhere between One Eskimo and Ed Sheeran (for whom he opened on a US tour in 2012), the one-time busker recently returned to the UK after a three-year stay in Australia. The song was recently anointed as the Number 1 selling single in Germany, having already topped the charts in a host of other European countries, not to mention his adopted home of Australia. A must-see live performer, he's touring North America from July 10th. More at www.passengermusic.com.
Song: Bottled Up Tight
Artist: Luke Sital-Singh, England
Album: Old Flint (EP), 2013
Notes: Promising fresh singer-songwriter magic from a young 20-something Anglo-Asian tunesmith from London, just getting started - his first EP 'Fail for You' emerged last autumn. Compared to Bon Iver, Ben Howard et al, he's just been chosen as one of the support acts for the Rolling Stones' summer concert in Hyde Park in London in July.
Song: When You're Gone
Artist: Hannah Boleyn, England
Notes: A bitter break-up percolator with Frank Farian-esque percussion on a new self-penned retro sound from a sultry British newcomer. 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: Boxer Rebellion, Maryville, TN/Australia/England
Album: Promises, 2013
Notes: A strong preview of the group's upcoming fourth album which is released on the 14th. They arrived on the UK scene at the tail-end of BritRock in 2001, comprising an American lead singer, Nathan Nicholson, an Australian, Todd Howe and two Englishmen, Adam Harrison and Piers Hewitt. They'll be opening for the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park in London this summer - but before that will play selected dates in cities across America. More at www.theboxerrebellion.com.
Song: Look Around
Artist: General Ghost, Philadelphia, PA/Mechanicsburg, PA
Album: Not available
Notes: Pennsylvania natives Kyle Rictor and Jon Howard, a fresh duo now based in Nashville combining as General Ghost, with a crisp, neatly flowing winner from their upcoming third EP. They only came together last year, writing and recording at Howard's studio called the Anchor Room. They're also top hired hands for other acts - Rictor plays with Brooke Waggoner, while Howard also helps out with rock combo, Paramore. More on them at www.generalghost.com.
Artist: Razorlight, England
Album: Razorlight, 2006
Notes: A rock diamond that wasn't a hit on these shores, although it was a Top 10 smash around the rest of the world. Some biting commentary on contemporary American culture from the point of view of a lazy foreign coach potato by the British indie rockers. It was co-written by the band's drummer Andy Burrows, who left the group in 2009 to follow a solo path. Band leader Johnny Borrell has just announced that the band has gone on hiatus while he also works on a solo project.
Song: Every Car You Chase
Artist: Snow Patrol vs. The Police, Northern Ireland/England/Alexandria, VA
Album: Not available
Notes: Conceived and executed by Bay Area DJ and mixmaster Ben Gill, who likes to go by the name Party Ben, this is a spot-on mash up of two monster hits: 'Chasing Cars' and 'Every Breath You Take.' Party Ben is a perfectionist blender, taking it upon himself to also cunningly mash Green Day with Oasis, Travis with Eminem even General Public with Rihanna. He's originally from Nebraska and calls his performing moniker, Party Ben, 'the dumbest name in showbiz.' Clever stuff though.
Song: Sweet Hand Of Mercy
Artist: Rebecca Pidgeon, England
Album: Slingshot, 2012
Notes: A lilting, delightful track from a British born singer-songwriter and accomplished actress - she has just been seen in HBO's Phil Spector movie, adding her version of 'Spanish Harlem' to its soundtrack. She was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts (her father was a visiting professor at MIT), but while acting in a production of 'Speed-the-Plow' at London's National Theatre, met and fell in love with its playwright, David Mamet, since when she has appeared in several of his films. Her latest record, wonderfully produced by Larry Klein, is crammed with equally literate material. She's currently doing some west coast dates. More at www.rebeccapidgeonmusic.com.
Song: Rollin' Home
Artist: Tyler Hilton, Palm Springs, CA
Notes: Such an underrated lyricist - is there another song inventive enough to have a rhyming couplet pairing 'vulture' with 'counter culture'' Tyler has an uncanny gift for crafting simple, memorable melodies and smart lyrics, delivered with a strong raspy voice. He's working on a new album 'slowly slowly slowly but steady steady steady' in Los Angeles and Nashville. He's also on tour at the moment through June 22nd. More at www.tylerhilton.com.
Song: Here It Comes
Artist: Emeli Sande & Rick Smith, Scotland/England
Album: Trance, 2013
Notes: Something fresh and new by the wonderful talent that is Emeli Sande'. Interesting that her naturally booming vocal is held way back in the mix on the number which is clearly in-synch with the trance-like rhythm track. It's the theme song to 'Trance,' the recent movie from 'Slumdog Millionaire' director Danny Boyle starring James McAvoy. Co-credited with producer Rick Smith, who's also the keyboardist and co-founder of uber-hip British electronic combo, Underworld.
Artist: Mat Kearney, Eugene, OR
Album: City Of Black & White, 2009
Notes: Brimming with a memorable melody, top-drawer lyrics, hope, superb vocals and co-written with two other first-rate L&F regulars, Trent Dabbs and Matthew Perryman Jones. Yet another top troubadour drawn to the city of Nashville, by way of Oregon and California State University, which he attended on a soccer scholarship. He's featured on the latest Brad Paisley album, with 'Pressing On A Bruise,' a song they co-wrote together and is currently working on his fifth album.
Song: Fever Dream
Artist: Young Summer, Washington, DC
Album: Fever Dream (EP), 2013
Notes: She describes her music as floating somewhere between Florence Welch and Sarah McLachlan though, interestingly, she was most inspired by Karen Carpenter. Just a couple of singles to date but such a promising start. Trent Dabbs described producing her as a 'creative calling.' More on her, confusingly, at www.bobbieallenmusic.com.
Song: My Oldest Friend
Artist: Andrew Belle, Nashville, TN
Album: The Ladder, 2010
Notes: Another Coldplay-recalling corker by the Wheaton, Illinois-born Drew Fortson, who must have decided fame would beckon with a name change. It hasn't happened yet which remains a mystery, because he is an accessible and consistently creative singer-songwriter. He constantly turns out first rate pop/rock music and this is no exception. He recently established his own 1L Music company, on which his own music appears as well as new signing Watt White - do check it out: www.1L-music.com. He's heading out on the road next week. More at www.andrewbelle.com.
Artist: Bombino, Niger
Album: Nomad, 2013
Notes: Such hypnotic grooves from an extraordinary guitarist right up there with Mark Knopfler and J.J. Cale - the shuffling world music rhythms of an artist singing in the Toureg language of Tamashek. His new album was produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, and they cooked up some dazzling chemistry at Auerbach's Nashville studio last year. Bombino whose real name is Goumar Almoctar learnt to play the guitar while watching videos of Knopfler and Jimi Hendrix while growing up in Algeria and Libya and has been a professional musician since 1997.
Artist: Hannah Georgas, Canada
Album: Hannah Georgas, 2012
Notes: Vancouver-based indie popster smartly combining her whispie vocal charms with some retro new-wave vibes. She's been recording for some five years and her biggest success to date was when her compositon 'You've Got a Place Called Home' was used in a Wal-Mart commercial in 2009. She took part in fellow Canadian Sarah McLachlan's Lilith Fair collective the following year - and last year was a member of the wonderful Kathleen Edwards backing band. More at www.hannahgeorgas.com.
Song: You'll Never Go
Artist: Wake Owl, Canada
Album: Wild Country (EP), 2013
Notes: 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. Neo-folksters, who easily bear comparison with the Mumfords, the Avetst and those luminous Lumineers, as well a bit of Ray LaMontagne and Ben Howard with some pastoral Neil Young thrown in for good measure. The band is set to tour all summer long including a stop at Lollapalooza in Chicago on August 4th. More at www.wakeowl.com.
Artist: Kenny Thomas, San Jose, CA
Album: Not available
Notes: A really neat, hook-filled groove from a single father, musician, producer and engineer alumnus of the Huntington Beach Academy of Radio Broadcasting. Based in San Jose, he's a big fan of L&F, keeping it simple here with some rather old school synth rhythms and runs, but showcasing strong melodic sensibilties and a grit-filled soul vocal. If you go a-googling him, make sure to key in kennythomas and the southern baptists - he's not the only musical Kenny Thomas out there. Also at facebook.com/kennythomasandthesouthernbaptists
Artist: Adam Agin, Nashville, TN
Notes: One of several choice selections found on the singer's recent long-player. All rather melancholic, but top-drawer. Sometimes hailed as Nashville's best-kept secret, he's released one EP and two lovely albums to date. It took him two years to record the new mini-LP, composing and finessing tunes at his dusty old house in Music City. Catch up with him on Facebook - just add adamagin.
Song: The Great Escape
Artist: Patrick Watson, Canada
Album: Close To Paradise, 2006
Notes: A singer-songwriter/pianist, whose work maintains a consistent melodic melancholia and haunting thoughtful lyrics and vocals. Clearly reminiscent of Nick Drake with a little bit of Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright, Patrick Watson is also the name of his band. He's lived in Canada since childhood though was actually born in California and incongruously began his music career in a high school ska band. He's playing at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee on June 15th. More at www.adventuresinyourownbackyard.com.
Song: Snow On The Sahara
Artist: Anggun, Indonesia
Album: Snow On The Sahara, 1997
Notes: The refreshing cool beats of an Asian artist who has sold more records as an international performer than any other (PSY doesn't count), and yet she remains largely unknown on these shores. She is a talented and telegenic singer-songwriter born in Indonesia, then based in Paris for many years before settling in Montreal, where she has been for the past decade. This is her signature song, released on her first English-language collection. She has a loyal following overseas - and a few years ago was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations.
Artist: Prefab Sprout, England
Album: Two Wheels Good, 1985
Notes: The chord-change momentum which builds up on this number is just terrific. So much first-rate but undiscovered music from top English tunesmith Paddy McAloon and his group. Mr. McAloon is considered by many music critics to be one of the most underrated writers of the 1980s. Sadly nothing from either McAloon or the band since 2009's 'Let's Change The World With Music.'
Song: My California
Artist: Beth Hart, Los Angeles, CA
Album: My California, 2012
Notes: Always marching to the beat of her own drum, the definitive LA fallen angel with a paean to her homestate, the title track to her most recent solo long-player and recently used as the swansong on the season finale of 'Californication.' Now in her 40s and perhaps best known for the lost classic 'LA Song' from 2000, she recorded a superb collection of blues standards with much revered blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa a couple of years ago called 'Don't Explain.'
Song: Find The River
Artist: R.E.M., Athens, GA
Notes: Hard to believe that this didn't even make the Billboard Hot 100. The easily flowing, highly accessible track was the sixth and final single released from their 1992 album, and features Michael Stipe at his most obtuse lyrically. Perhaps about death, they did dedicate to song to Warren Zevon after his passing, but who knows?
Song: The Day Before You Came
Artist: Abba, Sweden/Norway
Notes: A highly inventive, superb melody with curious well-written lyrics based on a woman's diary entries documenting her mundane, habitual single life on the very brink of finding the man of her dreams. Only the Beatles have been offered more hard cash to reunite than Abba, but it never happened and never will. As they were the second biggest industry in Sweden behind car makers Volvo, they probably don't need to. A new solo album from the otherwise extremely engimatic co-vocalist Faltskog recently emerged simply called 'A.'
Artist: Biffy Clyro, Scotland
Album: Opposites, 2013
Notes: The alternative rock trio has been banging away since 1995, when they formed as Skrewfish in the town of Kilmarnock in the west of Scotland - incidentally the hometown of the famous Johnnie Walker whisky distillery. Comprising lead singer and guitarist Simon Neil and twins James and Ben Johnston, this cut comes from their latest album, recorded in Los Angeles with producer GGGarth. They've just cut short their North American tour, after Neil came down with a respiratory ailment.
Song: You Won't Let Me
Artist: Rachael Yamagata, Arlington, VA
Album: Chesapeake, 2011
Notes: The unimpeachable genius of 'the troubadour of heartbreak' with the pleading let-me-in-your-heart lost gem. The work evident on her three albums to date is simply peerless and she's incapable of making sub-standard music. Co-written with Mike Viola, who's just released the interesting 'Pure McCartney' covers record with Tim Christensen, Tracy Bonham and The Damn Crystals, the song was a top five hit in Australia last year for 'The Voice' winner Karise Eden. She sets out on a six-week tour from May 28th in Ithaca, New York. More at www.rachaelyamagata.com.
Song: See You Soon
Artist: Luka Bloom, Ireland
Album: Eleven Songs, 2008
Notes: The restrained acoustic art of the Irish story-teller/guitarist, a popular veteran on the international folk circuit for more than four decades. If you're a fan of Celtic fare from the Emerald Isle, you're sure to know of his older brother, Christy Moore. Young Kevin Moore changed his name in 1987 after hearing the Suzanne Vega hit 'Luka.' He cut a fine album in 2000 called 'Keeper Of The Flame' which included covers of songs by Bob Dylan, Radiohead, The Cure, U2, Bob Marley, Tim Hardin even Abba and released his most recent work last year in the shape of 'This New Morning.'
Song: In The Long Run
Artist: Staves, England
Album: Dead & Born & Grown, 2013
Notes: Emily, Jessica and Camilla Stavely-Taylor are three sisters collectively known as the Staves creating sweet hamonious honey on an overlooked cut from their delightful latest album. They're an indie folk trio based in London, who have opened for the likes of Bon Iver and The Civil Wars, while their influences include Feist, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. More at www.thestaves.com.
Song: Country Girl
Artist: Primal Scream, Scotland
Album: Riot City Blues, 2006
Notes: Terrific rollicking country punk from the veteran Scottish combo, fronted by Bobby Gillespie. They've been going strong for more than 30 years, originally formed in Glasgow in 1982 a tremendous band fronted by the ever-creative and uncompromising Gillespie. He was also drummer for another classic Scottish alt-rock combo, The Jesus & Mary Chain way back when. They've played around with several genres over a rich, diverse career and have a new album, 'More Light,' which has just emerged in the UK.
Song: When It Comes Around
Artist: Reed Foehl, Boston, MA
Album: Spark, 2004
Notes: An effortless, top-drawer indie folk-rock offering from a Colorado-based singer-songwriter. His hometown Boston Globe once wrote of him, 'He sings like he feels every note ' Each song tells a story, all of which he relates astonishingly well.' He's opened for the likes of Ray LaMontagne, Dave Matthews and My Morning Jacket, and this track received major exposure in the Ryan Reynolds/Amy Smart movie Just Friends in 2005.
Song: The Feeling I Had
Artist: Amy Grant, Augusta, GA
Album: Behind The Eyes, 1997
Notes: A lonesome battered heart heading home, unable and unwilling to give a failing relationship any more currency, any more energy - she wanted it to be the way it was. A self-penned achingly real breakup ballad from a grossly overlooked record, which in itself largely documented the failure of the singer's marriage to fellow musician, Gary Chapman - the personal, real songs drawn from life's ups and downs are often the very best.
Song: The Passage
Artist: Robert Vincent, England
Album: Life In Easy Steps, 2013
Notes: Despite its obvious Americana inflections, the folk-rocker is actually a tunesmith/guitarist from the lauded English city of Liverpool - weaned on the music of fellow Liverpudlians the Beatles and Johnny Cash. He left school at the age of 16 to follow his muse, became a father at the age of 17 and is now doing the solo thing after passing through a couple of bands. If your name is Robert Vincent, email him. He's looking for as many other Robert Vincents he can find to be featured in his latest video. More at www.robertvincentmusic.com.
Artist: Bird & The Bee/Daryl Hall & John Oates, Los Angeles, CA/Philadelphia, PA
Notes: Faithful and respectful cover of the Hall and Oates' classic from the always intriguing duo of Inara George and Greg Kurstin off their tribute album, which also featured Shirley Manson add backing vocals to 'Maneater.' The original was voted Number 6 on VH1's list of 'The Greatest Songs Of The '80s,' it was the Philadelphia duo's fourth chart topper. For added street cred, the song has been sampled by Simply Red, Stereo MC's, De La Soul, 2 Live Crew, Heavy D and Plan B, among others.