Song: I Was Gonna Marry You
Artist: Tristan Prettyman, San Diego, CA
Album: Cedar + Gold, 2012
Notes: Sensational, note-perfect, very personal cut from an ace album by a former Roxy model. Diagnosed with vocal cord polyps after the release of her 2008 album 'Hello,' she was briefly engaged (from December 2010 to June 2011) to singer Jason Mraz. This song pretty much covers what she has to say on that subject ('Just so you know, I never thought you'd let me go').
Artist: Walk Off The Earth, Canada
Album: R.E.V.O., 2013
Notes: A rebellious nu-folk rumbler and the title cut from a Canadian indie band, who made waves with the single 'Red Hands.' Their wildly popular and faithful cover of Gotye's 'Somebody That I Used To Know' is also on the CD. The five-piece from Ontario fronted by Ryan Marshall and Sarah Blackwood has been together for eight years, releasing their first album 'Smooth Like Stone On A Beach' in 2007. R.E.V.O. stands for Realize Every Victory Outright. Find out more at www.walkofftheearth.com.
Artist: Brooke Fraser, New Zealand
Album: Albertine, 2006
Notes: Superb, A+ gutsy pop/rock roller lost gem from 31-year-old music veteran, daughter of legendary All Black New Zealand rugby player Bernie Fraser. Three albums to date, all multi-platinum sellers in her native country. She now devotes much of her time to being a workshop leader at Hillsong Church, recording for the Hillsong record label under her married name, Brooke Ligertwood. Also known for her philanthropic activities, working for World Vision. This song is named after a Rwandan girl who was orphaned after that country's genocide and who she met on a visit to the country in 2005.
Song: Sunshine On My Shoulders
Artist: Train, San Francisco, CA
Notes: From an excellent tribute album to John Denver released by Dave Matthews' ATO Records label. Pat Monahan lets the original song shine and breathe without getting too fussy. Other artists covering his melodic gems on the collection include My Morning Jacket, Brandi Carlile, Emmylou, Amos Lee, Edward Sharpe et al. Radio at large hasn't touched Denver's catalog for years, regarding his superb canon of work as way too unhip. It's good to see these contemporary acts give him the credibility his music has always deserved.
Song: Blue And Green
Artist: Wood Brothers, Boulder, CO
Album: Smoke Ring Halo, 2011
Notes: Chris Wood has such a bold evocative deep woods country vocal style on a track recorded with his sibling Oliver. It's tucked away on their third long-player which is stacked with lonesome high harmonies and released on Zac Brown's Southern Ground label. Chris is also one third of the critically revered Medeski, Martin and Wood jazz trio, so he's not afraid of mixing up the genres. More at www.thewoodbros.com.
Song: Gimme Sympathy
Artist: Metric, Canada
Album: Fantasies, 2009
Notes: Lots of neat Beatles and Rolling Stones references and song titles throughout the song from a group which just keeps knocking out sterling hook-driven indie rock corkers. It's from their fourth album which was hailed Best Alternative Album of the Year at the Juno Awards in 2010. The quartet hails from Toronoto, ably fronted by guitarist James Shaw and their cool lead female vocalist, Emily Haines. They've just played Coachella and have a couple of House of Blues gigs before the end of the month. More at www.ilovemetric.com.
Song: I'll Take Care Of You
Artist: J.D. Souther, Detroit, MI
Album: 20 Songs, 1999
Notes: Simple, quiet, sparse - a previously rare cut by veteran renaissance man, which was originally released in 1984 on a vinyl-only album called 'Home By Dawn.' A longtime associate of the Eagles - he co-wrote and sung backing vocals on many of their earlier repertoire including 'Best Of My Love' and 'New Kid In Town,' as well as penning songs for Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt - he's also a fine actor, appearing in the TV series 'thirtysomething' some 20 years ago and most recently in 'Nashville' - the place he now calls home.
Artist: Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise, Detroit, MI
Album: New Ground, 2002
Notes: Founded in 1994 when former members of the band Second Self encountered the blind street performer - an immensely underrated blues roots singer originally from Alabama - busking on the streets of Detroit. The act's five studio albums, the last of which 'Out Of The Wilderness,' came out in 2008, are all highly recommended.
Artist: Erin Ivey, Austin, TX
Album: Dreamy Weather (EP), 2012
Notes: Originally recorded on her 2011 'Broken Gold' CD, this live version comes from a more recent recording from the Cactus Caf', crowd-funded as with so many acts these days by the excellent Kickstarter web site. The Cactus Caf' is one of the most influential and intimate clubs in the vibrant Austin Texas music scene. A professional musician since 2007 - she's opened for the likes of Loudon Wainwright and Shawn Colvin - and now regarded as Austin's Urban Folk darling, she quietly blew the roof off the place at last year's SXSW music festival.
Artist: Tom Baxter, England
Album: Skybound, 2008
Notes: A swirling love letter from an undiscovered English tunesmith who's released a couple of albums. The song was on his sophomore effort ands also featured on the soundtrack to a comedy film directed by David Schwimmer called 'Run Fatboy Run', which sank like a stone. Boyzone had a hit with their version of the song in 2009. 'Miracle', another track from the album, was used by the BBC for the final montage of its Olympic and Paralympics coverage. After a five-year recording absence, he returned last year with 'The Uncarved Block - Part One,' which can be sourced at Soundcloud.
Artist: David Byrne, New York, NY
Album: Grown Backwards, 2004
Notes: Byrne has made more solo albums than he did as a Talking Head. Ever creatively-restless, he recorded a typically inaccessible collaboration with St. Vincent last year and before performing his 'Here Lies Love' theatrical event at the Public Theater in New York. Don't expect a much desired Talking Heads reunion any time soon - never one to dwell on the past, he is on record stating that there's still some bad blood between him and his former Heads bandmates. Erstwhile colleague Tina Weymouth said in 2005 to the Glasgow Herald newspaper, that she thought that he was 'a man incapable of returning friendship.'
Song: One Drop
Artist: Plumb, Indianapolis, IN
Album: Need You Now, 2013
Notes: A refreshingly atypical ukulele-driven outing from the Indiana born singer-songwriter and one of the perkier highlights from her most recent outing - her first long-player in six years, renamed in honor of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Now a busy mom of three living in Nashville, the 39-year old Tiffany Arbuckle Lee crosses easily back and forth from Alternative Rock to Contemporary Christian genres.
Song: Enough Time
Artist: Ghosts, England
Album: The End, 2012
Notes: First-rate mid-tempo synth/pop/rock shuffler from fresh five-piece British combo. The indietronica band was formed in 2011 by former Ou Est Le Swimming Pool member Alex Starling and drummer Ian Palmer, who met at London's Euston Station in December 2010, had coffee and discussed what they 'liked and didn't like about music and used that as a starting point'.
Artist: Presets, Australia
Album: Pacifica, 2012
Notes: A bewitching, anthemic sea-shanty cracker framed in a modern neon urban context. The electronic duo of keyboardist/singer Julian Hamilton and keyboardist drummer Kim Moyes first met at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in 1995, both studying classical music but both with a shared interest in 1980s pop - its influence certainly noticeable in their work. They're also regularly commissioned to remix songs by other artists and have twiddled knobs for the likes of the Kings of Leon and Lenny Kravitz.
Song: My Lover's Prsyer
Artist: Bee Gees, England
Album: Still Waters, 1997
Notes: The deeply unfashionable Bee Gees have had their songs recorded by you name it - Astrud Gilberto, Dusty Springfield, Matthew Sweet, Al Green, Sarah Vaughan, Ray LaMontagne, Barbra Stresiand ... literally hundreds of artists across all genres and eras all unable to resist the extraordinary melodic songcraft of the brothers Gibb, who've sold more than 200 million records of their own worldwide. Only Lennon and McCartney have been more covered, and only McCartney has written more hits than Barry Gibb. Now the only surviving Gibb, Barry continues to perform his immaculate repertoire solo.
Artist: Wake Owl, Canada
Album: Wild Country (EP), 2013
Notes: Ace 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 a couple of years ago by the wonderful Vagrant Records which consistently signs literate, melodic tunesmiths. One of six sterling cuts on their promising freshman EP.
Song: Oliver's Army
Artist: Elvis Costello, England
Album: Armed Forces, 1979
Notes: The rollicking modern-rock belter composed on a plane trip from Northern Ireland to London in the late '70s inspired by a story about the plight of working-class mercenaries paid to join armies around the world. Long regarded as one of the most intricate and downright clever wordsmiths in rock history, he's also a noted musicologist, has a personal record collection almost as large and diverse at the L&F vault and extremely knowledgable about music from all genres and eras.
Song: Nonfiction Love Song
Artist: Jillian Edwards, Dallas, TX
Album: Galaxies And Such (EP), 2009
Notes: Beautifully crafted harmonies, dreamy lyrics clearly too good for the general cognoscenti, from a Texan singer-songwriter who relocated to Nashville after she graduated from Baylor in May of 2011. Check her out at facebook.com/jillianedwardsmusic where she says 'I want to make music forever and ever, even if it's in coffee shops until I'm a cute, litte old lady.' Right on.
Song: Rose Of Cimarron
Artist: Poco, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Rose Of Cimarron, 1976
Notes: Harmonic west coast country rock at its best, the Rusty Young-penned title cut to what was already the band's 11th album. Despite its radio ready melodic chops and the popularity of country rock at the time, this lost classic only peaked at Number 94 on the Billboard Hot 100. Emmylou Harris saw the gold in the number and recorded her own version for her 'Cimarron' LP in 1981. Now regarded as one of the band's signature songs - and they're still going strong after 45 years.
Artist: Cat Malojian, Northern Ireland
Album: Cat Malojian, 2008
Notes: Extremely obscure old country banjo-led stylings of the now defunct pairing of Steve Scullion and siblings Jonny and Rachel Toman described as a 'folk/twee band' from Lurgan in Northern Ireland. The seriously underrated Scullion went solo over a year ago, releasing the EP 'The Broken Deer.' Check out www.malojian.com for more on him. One of Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody's favorite bands.
Artist: Jamie Scott & The Town, England
Album: Park Bench Theories, 2007
Notes: Born Jamie Scott Baylin 29 years ago, he fronted The Town for a couple of years before combining with Tommy D in the electronica-tinged British combo Graffiti6, finally scoring a mini-hit with 'Free' in 2012. The pair have worked behind the scenes with the likes of Alicia Keys, Jay Z and KT Tunstall. They got together in 2008 and released their debut album on their own N.W. Free Music label two years later. Capitol then signed the pair and re-packaged the album two years ago. Scott is now enjoying major success as a songwriter, with a track on the New Kids On The Block comeback album as well as having several songs recorded by One Direction and even Enrique Iglesias.
Song: A Certain Light
Artist: Josh Ritter, Moscow, ID
Notes: A lovely late '60s almost Jim Croce folk feel to this number from the Americana tunesmith, who wrote and recorded his new album while suffering through his 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.
Song: Sail Away
Artist: Randy Newman, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Sail Away, 1972
Notes: Maybe the greatest social commentator in popular music history - certainly the most acerbic. Who else would dare match the lyrical notion of an American slave trader trying to persuade potential slaves in Africa to get onboard a ship and set sail for a new life a world away, and yet place those lyrics in a such a beautiful piano and orchestral musical setting? No one captures America's political and social conscience with more finesse or economy and all with such cunning simplicity.
Song: Troubled Mind
Artist: Everything But The Girl, England
Album: Amplified Heart, 1994
Notes: Apart from the monster hit 'Missing' in 1995, this much-revered English duo have been largely ignored by American radio over the years, despite cutting 11 terrific albums. The husband and wife team of Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn - they're still very much together but haven't released any material together for more than a decade, though Tracey's carefully crafted solo career continues often with contributions from Ben. New album from Ben, 'Hendra', his first in eons, drops April 29.
Song: Break It Down Baby
Artist: Robinella, Knoxville, TN
Album: Solace For The Lonely, 2006
Notes: The progressive blues-dipped sound that combines so many musical genres it's like a L&F show all on its own - a bit of bluegrass, jazz, blues, folk - just a magical stew. Robinella was a group led by Robinella Bailey. Now solo, her last album, 'Fly Away Bird', came out in 2009, but there's a neat live update available of this song on her well-titled concert set 'Sunday Kind Of Love' - all can be streamed directly at www.robinella.com where you can also check out her forthcoming dates.
Song: It Must Be Love
Artist: Labi Siffre, England
Notes: Madness cut a rather cool cover version of this song some years ago, but as is often the case, the original remains the best. A London-based poet and folk singer-songwriter - another one of his songs, 'I Got The', was used by producer Dr. Dre on Eminem's huge hit 'My Name' Is in 1999. The 68-year old hasn't released any new music since 1998, but check out www.intothelight.info to see what he's up to these days.
Artist: Alpine, Australia
Album: A Is For Alpine, 2013
Notes: As fresh as Swiss mountain air although the band is actually from Australia (they were originally known as Swiss). A quirky but winning electro/rock offering from a group that has been together for some five years. The six-piece combo from the lovely city of Melbourne is fronted by a pair of female singers Phoebe and Lou. They'll be touring the US and Canada in June, promoting their yet to be released new album. More at www.alpineband.com.
Song: Golden Heart
Artist: Mark Knopfler, England
Album: Golden Heart, 1996
Notes: The former lead singer and guitarist with Dire Straits, he's subsequently composed several excellent film scores and released a series of quality solo albums, including his most recent 'Privateering' double set. Ever modest, the Scottish-born 64-year-old is somewhat of an anti-star who just quietly goes about his business - erudite, smart, humble and ridiculously talented.
Artist: David Mead, Nashville, TN
Album: Wherever You Are (EP), 2005
Notes: A sorely underrated singer-songwriter, who is yet another non-country performer remaking the soundscape of Nashville, his last album was entirely financed by 253 fans through Kickstarter. As his website so succinctly put it - 'The yield on the investment? Pure pleasure, with humor, mystery, emotional wallop and dudes of all ages lurking behind a hundred unforgettable hooks.' More at www.davidmead.com.
Song: The Wake Up
Artist: Little Children, Sweden
Album: In Hau (EP), 2013
Notes: 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. Another cut from his highly recommended EP called 'Hollow' is directly inspired by Mark Hollis, the enigmatic former frontman for Talk Talk.
Song: Cherry Red Wine
Artist: Max Gomez, Taos, NM
Album: Rule The World, 2013
Notes: Too sad for words, a broken-hearted, inebriated troubador contemplating ending it all after the love of his life has left the room - whiskey, music, heaven - and a slice of musical heaven, one of several deceptively mature cuts from the 20-something singer-songwriter guitarist on his freshman album. Haunting alternative country-folk, old-school meets new school with a shades of early Kris Kristofferson and a dash of Johnny Cash. A rootsy newcomer and earnest tunesmith who earned his musical spurs playing blues and country covers in local bars around his hometown of Taos.
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. Side note, Abba The Museum opened last year as part of the Swedish Music Hall of Fame.
Song: Weather With You
Artist: Crowded House, Australia/New Zealand
Album: Woodface, 1991
Notes: Shades of America and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on an easy breezy lost oldie from the antipodean combo fronted by New Zealander Neil Finn. Founded from the remnants of Split Enz in 1984, the band enjoyed worldwide success until splitting in 1996. In 2007 they got back together culminating in the release of 'Intriguer' in 2010. Since then Finn has performed live with his son Liam, his brother Tim, set up a side project called Pajama Club with his wife Sharon and recorded the track 'Song Of The Lonely Mountain,' featured in the end credits of 'The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey.'
Song: At Last
Artist: Leftover Cuties/Etta James, Los Angeles, CA
Notes: From a six-track EP of covers, including a makeover of Coldplay's 'Trouble,' by the wonderfully quirky quintet fronted by the ukulele-strumming Shirli McAllen. When on the road they often look for folks to host concerts in their homes or backyards. If you want to oblige, check out their website for details - www.leftovercuties.com. The incomparable original, written for the 1941 movie 'Orchestra Wives,' still sounds fresh half a century on.