Song: Lose That Gun
Artist: Alfred Hall, Norway
Notes: A light as helium, fresh as a daisy and one of ten first-rate cuts on the duo's freshman set. The duo comprises Hans Thomas Kiaer and Bjorn Tveit, a couple of Norwegian farm hands, who got together in 2009 and recorded the album in a barn in Drammen, Norway, where they encountered a bull named Alfred - hence their name. Snapped up last year by Sony Music in Europe and now seeking wider attention worldwide. Check them out at www.facebook.com/alfredhallpage. Their website www.alfredhall.com features a neat train on its main page and nothing else.
Song: Good Days Bad Days
Artist: Richard Butler, England
Album: Richard Butler, 2006
Notes: The former lead singer of Psychedelic Furs with a superbly crafted song which he dedicated to his father and which was described by the great British newspaper, The Guardian as 'an unexpected triumph.' The band which also included his brother Tim on bass, started life in 1977 in London and still intermittently performs today after reuniting in 2000. If you want to catch up with the Furs, head over to www.thepsychedelicfurs.com.
Song: A Promise Broken
Artist: Asha Ali, Ethiopia
Notes: Ethiopean born singer-songwriter but long-based in a town just outside Stockholm, Sweden, with a well-crafted lost pop/soul nugget. She cites her diverse musical influences as Dolly Parton, Kate Bush, David Bowie, Jeff Buckley and Nina Simone. Only one EP and two albums since bowing in 2005, she's fallen off the radar in recent years.
Artist: Bird and the Bee, Los Angeles, CA
Notes: A crisp, bouncy, yet faithful and respectful cover of the Daryl Hall and John 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.' 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. Fourteen of Hall and Oates' iconic songs have invidually been played on American radio more than 1 million times each.
Song: I'll Carry You
Artist: Left, Canada
Album: Cellophane [EP], 2011
Notes: A quintet of brothers and cousins who grew up in Langley, British Columbia but now call Vancouver home. They all attended the same high school and have been playing together for more than a decade. Their latest recording, 'Cycles,' produced by GGGarth (the man behind Biffy Clyro and many others) and Ben Kaplan, came out last year. More on them at www.theleft.ca.
Song: You're The Kind Of Girl
Artist: Lee Fields, Brooklyn, NY
Album: Faithful Man, 2012
Notes: Sensational throwback rhythm and blues by a sorely underrated soul belter. Hard to believe this is from a brand new album, utterly authentic and winning old school soul underpinned by his ace backing band, the Expressions, who even provide a groovy Jimmy Smith-style organ break. It's even available as a 7 vinyl single. Four decades of going unnoticed but still going soul strong, the North Carolina native was a sensation at this year's SXSW festival.
Song: Other Side Of The World
Artist: KT Tunstall, Scotland
Album: Eye To The Telescope, 2004
Notes: Hard to believe the Scottish songstress has been making music for almost a decade. Her new album, 'Invisible Empires/Crescent Moon' is due this summer. Now in her late 30s, she disowned her step-father a few years ago after he announced he was running as a candidate for the far-right British National Party - she herself is an outspoken activist for several causes.
Song: Santa Maria
Artist: Gotan Project, France
Album: La Revancha del Tango, 2000
Notes: Sounding distinctly South American with its tango beats and accordionic rhythms from a French band, led by Argentinian Eduardo Makaroff who relocated to Paris in the early 1990s. The eminently rhythmic nugget was featured in the 2004 dance-themed film, 'Shall We Dance' starring Richard Gere.
Song: Send My Heart
Artist: Adventures, Northern Ireland
Album: Theodore And Friends, 1985
Notes: First-rate pop-rock from a terrific mid-'80s band. Fronted by singer/guitarist Terry Sharpe and songwriter Pat Gribben, who first worked together in the punk band The Starjets, they were one of the very first bands to be managed by Simon Fuller - the rather clever British impresario responsible for 'American Idol' (no comment). A minor hit in the United Kingdom and Germany way back when but nowhere else.
Song: You've Got The Style
Artist: Athlete, England
Album: Vehicles And Animals, 2002
Notes: Since signing to the Parlophone label a decade ago and then seeing their brilliant debut album being Mercury Music prize-nominated, they have taken the less commercial route and musically the better for it. One of several fine cuts featured on that debut, showcasing the songwriting and vocals chops of their ridiculously talented frontman, Joel Pott. There have been four grossly under-appreciated albums since, but other than last year's 'Live At Union Chapel' there has been no new music from them for four years, although they have just finished their 10th anniversary 'Vehicles & Animals' tour in the UK.
Song: So Beautiful
Artist: Pete Murray, Australia
Album: Feeler, 2003
Notes: The restrained mellow musings of a big star Down Under, where this song went to Number 1 while three of his five albums to date have topped the Aussie charts. Influenced by the likes of Neil Young, Dylan and Nick Drake, he's a much overlooked singer-songwriter and former top rugby player and remains an acquired taste by those who know better over here. More on him at www.petemurray.com.
Song: I Surrender
Artist: Clare Maguire, England
Album: Light After Dark, 2011
Notes: Lovely old-school feel, a pop/soul diamond, co-written and produced by F.T. Smith, who has waved his magic wand over tracks for Adele, Leona Lewis, Florence + the Machine and others. Just 25 years old, she has been recording for three years after being discovered on myspace. More at www.claremaguire.com.
Song: Moon Memory
Artist: Popcult, Denver, CO
Album: Popcult [EP], 2011
Notes: Gorgeous strings kissing the underbelly of that number and positive shades of Coldplay. The tight rock quartet fronted by Justin Renaud freely admits to being influenced by the Britpop strains of early Coldplay and Muse. They've been around for a couple of years, and have made much of their music available for free. Check out their website at www.popcultband.com or on facebook - just add popcultband.
Artist: Bridie Jackson & The Arbour, England
Album: Scarecrow [single], 2013
Notes: Just two singles available thus far in the US by an ethereal all-female quartet of singers and acoustic multi-instrumentalists based in Newcastle in the north of England. Simple piano and string quartet accompaniment and some blissful harmony vocals on a pure traditional folk gem. Check them out at www.bridiejackson.com or www.bridiejackson.bandcamp.com. Equally absorbing is their other single, 'All You Love Is All You Are,' which can also be found on their debut album, 'Bitter Lullaby.'
Artist: Ali Campbell, England
Album: Big Love, 1995
Notes: Some cool reggae-tinged melodic bliss by the former lead singer of UB40, the veteran rock-steady reggae combo whose fortunes have floundered since he quit the band in 2008 over financial discrepancies after twenty-eight years with them and 60 million records sold worldwide. He's still going strong as a solo artist, playing a few scattered dates around the world this year.
Song: Devil Or Angel
Artist: Lou Doillon, France
Album: Places, 2013
Notes: Madamoiselle Doillon is already an accomplished actress but has moved sideways over the past couple of years to try her hand at singer-songwriting, with some success. The photogenic 30-year old is the daughter of Francophile British actress/singer, the lovely Jane Birkin, she of 'Je T'Aime Moi Non Plus' notoriety. If you're looking to brush up on your French, check out her website - loudoillon.fr.
Song: Whatever Happens
Artist: Bill Withers, Slab Fork, WV
Notes: A quiet masterclass from the best of the best, the writer and original performer of iconic recordings like 'Ain't No Sunshine' and 'Lean On Me', who has influenced successive generations of folk/soul stylists all the way up to Michael Kiwanuka, who's currently breaking through. Mainly down to his disgust and mistrust of the record label system as well as a feeling he'd said what he had to say, he left the building in 1985 and has enjoyed family life ever since. Late last year, his nine albums for Sussex and Columbia were released as a box set under the title 'The Complete Sussex And Columbia Albums.' Check out the riveting 2009 documentary 'Still Bill,' which goes some way to understanding this extraordinary man.
Song: Rough Cut
Artist: Amber Rubarth, Brooklyn, NY
Album: New Green Lines, 2008
Notes: The 30-year-old independent 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. From a beautifully sparse album which sees her clear voice, backed by her own acoustic guitar, a violin, a cello and percussion, as well as featuring duets with the Jasons Mraz and Reeves. She undertook a musical tour in California a couple of years ago called The Vespa Experiment along with Reeves and Brendan James where they all traveled around on Vespa mopeds, camping out in different places along the coast spreading the word about music and the environment. She also co-composed the score to the excellent warts'n'all Joan Rivers documentary called 'A Piece of Work' a couple of years ago. Described by the late great producer Phil Ramone as 'part of the new old-soul generation' of musicians.
Artist: Robbie Williams, England
Notes: One of England's biggest solo stars and a member of boy-band supreme Take That, with his anthemic ballad, sampling John Barry's 'You Only Live Twice' theme and which appeared on the 'Bridget Jones - The Edge of Reason' soundtrack. Mention should be made of the sumptuous production by Stephen Duffy, who fronts his own band, the always-interesting Lilac Time. A household name in every corner of the world - except the United States, where his record label spent a small fortune trying to break him over here a few years ago, he's sold nearly 60 million records around the globe to date.
Song: One Lovely Day
Artist: Citizen Cope, Washington, DC
Album: One Lovely Day, 2012
Notes: A lovely languorous cut from a singer the Washington Post regards as 'the city's most soulful export since Marvin Gaye'. Initially a DJ for hip-hop group Basehead, Cope (real name Clarence Greenwood) has been making some wonderful music for the past decade, when he started as a solo artist, writing and singing 'Sideways' for Carlos Santana's 'Shaman' album.
Song: Swallowed In The Sea
Artist: Coldplay, England
Album: X&Y, 2005
Notes: Get lost and we'll get found, and you'll come back to me.' Another song of yearning devotion and commitment from the pen of Chris Martin and his Coldplay chums. Incidentally one of the best run, most complete band websites out there is www.coldplay.com - well worth a gander. Since the group's last world tour ended last year, rumor has it that they're working on their sixth studio album.
Artist: Jillette Johnson, Pound Ridge, NY
Album: Water In A Whale, 2013
Notes: A 23-year-old newcomer based in New York who's just getting started. She began playing piano at the age of 10, and turned down an offer to appear on 'The Voice' (good for her.) She had an EP called 'Whiskey & Frosting' out last year and her maiden album is due any day. She's playing the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival on June 14th followed by a handful of dates the week after. More on her at www.jillettejohnson.com.
Song: Heaven's On Fire
Artist: Radio Dept., Sweden
Album: Clinging To A Scheme, 2010
Notes: Nice mid-'80s British indie-rock flavor to a number by a Swedish group formed in Malmo by high school class mates, Elin Aimered and Johan Duncansson, in 1995. They soon put the band on hiatus and they didn't get a record deal until 2002. Their freshman set 'Lesser Matters' was named one of the best albums of its year by influential UK rock mag, the NME. There's been nothing from them since their 2010 album, other than an apparent 2012 South American tour. Check them out at www.theradiodept.com.
Artist: Jillian Edwards, Richardson, TX
Album: Galaxies And Such, 2009
Notes: What a voice and such an engaging musical sensibility from another singer-songwriter who now makes Nashville her home, after she graduated from Baylor in May of 2011. She has four dates coming up in June. Check her out at www.jillianedwards.com. or facebook, just add JillianEdwardsMusic. On it, she writes, 'I want to make music forever and ever, even if it's in coffee shops until I'm a cute, litte old lady.'
Song: Learning The Game
Artist: Andrew Gold, Burbank, CA
Notes: Gorgeous take on Buddy Holly's evergreen chestnut by the multi-talented singer-songwriter, arranger and producer, who sadly passed away in 2011 at the young age of 59. Holly, who put the Texan town of Lubbock on the map, was of course one of the architects of rock and roll and one of the very earliest artists to both write and record his own songs. Los Angeles tunesmith Gold was a staple on American pop radio in the '70s with hits like 'Lonely Boy' and 'Thank You For Being A Friend' and was also Linda Ronstadt's longtime arranger and band member. For trivia buffs, his mother, Marni Nixon, is one of the great unknown names of music - she was the singing voice of Audrey Hepburn in 'My Fair Lady,' Natalie Wood in 'West Side Story' and Deborah Kerr in 'The King And i.'
Song: Baby Tomorrow
Artist: Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, Memphis, TN
Album: Chasing Someday, 2011
Notes: Top-drawer no-nonsense country rock from a singer-songwriter, helping to reinvent the sound of music city along with the likes of Mat Kearney, Jack White and Kings of Leon. His wife Ellie, daughter of prolific record producer Brown Bannister, is in his backing band along with three so-called neighbors. Their latest album, 'Good Light,' released in February, has been their most successful to date. They'll be playing at the Bonnaroo festival on June 15th and then hit the road in August. More on them at www.drewholcomb.com
Song: Too Many Women
Artist: Rachael Sage, Port Chester, NY
Album: Public Record, 2003
Notes: Such a simple but clever piano refrain throughout that delicious number. Ten erudite worthwhile albums since 1995 from a songstress and self-taught pianist from New York, who's opened for the likes of Marc Cohn, Shawn Colvin and Sarah McLachlan. She's nabbed four nominations at the upcoming 12th annual Independent Music Awards and is in the midst of a US mini-tour. Check out the remaining dates at www.sageandsequins.com - she's well worth seeing live. Also find her on facebook - just look under rachaelsagepage.
Song: Get Lucky
Artist: Daughter, England
Album: Not available
Notes: A haunting, ghostly cover of the current Daft Punk smash - completely and mercifully reconstructed - by a British trio fronted by 22-year-old vocalist Elena Tonra, with Igot Haefeli on guitar and Remi Aguilella on drums. Their debut set 'If You Leave' has just been released and they'll be playing a handful of dates in August supporting The National. Check out more at www.ohdaughter.com.
Song: To Protect
Artist: Mackintosh Braun, Portland, OR
Album: Where Are We, 2010
Notes: A catchy chorus on a splendid electronica rumbler by a Portland, Oregon-based synth pop-rock duo boasting Ian Mackintosh and Ben Braun. They issued a stunning debut album three years ago titled 'Where We Are,' which was chock full of melodic chestnuts. As MacKintosh explained at the time - 'We both wanted to create something exciting and innovative, but something that's also familiar.' They're currently polishing off their third long player. Check them out at www.mackintoshbraun.com.
Song: Only Love Would Know
Artist: Gordon Lightfoot, Canada
Album: Waiting For You, 1993
Notes: In the days gone by I came to believe, everything is trust, all the rest is dust.' One of the originals and one of the true greats proving his moving and understated genius yet again on another lost diamond. Following some big hits at the beginning of his career, the legendary singer-songwriter has subsequently been universally ignored by radio. He's now 74 and nearly died a few years ago from a very serious illness - but made it through, thank goodness. He's finally been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and continues to play his songs to those discerning enough to listen. His '50 Years on the Carefree Highway' tour opens in Roanoke, Virginia on June 15th. For details, check out his unofficial website www.gordonlightfoot.com.
Song: Letter Never Sent
Artist: Young Summer, Washington, DC
Album: Fever Dream (EP), 2013
Notes: The vagaries of destiny, the role that chance and fate play in every relationship - a woman and a man desperate to reconnect after a fleeting meeting, waiting to see if serendipity will come through for them. The young singer 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, who provides the male vocal line on the song, described producing her as a 'creative calling.' More on her, confusingly, at www.bobbieallenmusic.com.
Song: What I Wouldn't Do
Artist: Serena Ryder, Canada
Album: Harmony, 2012
Notes: The Toronto-based singer has a five-octave range and has been recording and performing since she was a teenager. She is now very part of the furniture up north and winner of a brace of Juno Awards, including New Artist of the Year back in 2008. She's up for two more this year. This fresh cut is on her latest studio album, produced by Jerrod Bettis and Jon Levine, as is 'Stompa' which gave her a well-deserved first Top 10 hit in Canada last year.
Song: The Sweetest Girl
Artist: Scritti Politti, England
Album: Songs To Remember, 1982
Notes: So inventive - some neat reggae bass lines underpinning an otherwise sly electronic pop outing, with the wonderful Robert Wyatt on piano, from more than 30 years ago by an endlessly fascinating band which has always revolved around its distinctive vocalist and main man, Welsh-born Green Gartside. Those nutty Madness boys cut a neat version of the song in 1985. Gartside keeps a low profile these days, although he's playing a one-off July 4th London date under the Scritti Politti name. He contributed a beautiful version of 'Fruit Tree' to the Nick Drake compilation album 'Way to Blue: The Songs of Nick Drake' in 2008.
Artist: Luminate/Pete Townshend, Tyler, TX/England
Notes: The Christian Contemporary band have been around the almost a decade, releasing three independent EPs over three years, before signing with Sparrow Records, since when there have been two albums in as many years. They're playing the Jfest in Chattanooga on June 1st. More at www.luminatemusic.com and www.petetownshend.com, which give details of his autobiography 'Who I Am,' but little else. He's still going strong on the road however, performing 'Quadrophenia' this summer in venues across England, France and the Netherlands.