Artist: Cherry Ghost, England
Album: Herd Runners, 2014
Notes: Radiant but noirish melodic pop/rock with stellar strings from an indie rock combo who took their name from the Wilco song Theologians. Firmly built around the talents of a former Maths teacher, Simon Aldred, who's from the northern English town on Bolton. (Their first single was called Mathematics.) One of the band's most popular cuts is People Help The People, which gave Birdy her first hit in Europe. More at cherryghost.co.uk.
Song: Buildings and Mountains
Artist: Republic Tigers, Kansas City, MO
Album: Keep Color, 2008
Notes: A cracking, highly melodic and engaging song from the indie-rockers, 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 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: Young Summer, Washington, DC
Album: Taken (single), 2014
Notes: Dreamy ambient-pop, a recent one-off single from DC-based songstress Bobbie Allen who describes her music as floating somewhere between Florence Welch and Sarah McLachlan though, interestingly, she was most inspired by Karen Carpenter. Trent Dabbs described producing her as a creative calling. Suffering through a rather transient childhood, Bobbie describes music as 'a safe harbor or the 'home' I've never had'. More on her at facebook.com/youngsummermusic.
Artist: Coldplay, England
Album: Ghost Stories, 2014
Notes: The confessional scars and bruises from Chris Martin's recent uncoupling from his wife are in every groove of Coldplay's melancholic sixth album, not least right here on this plaintive gem. Many so-called critics have hammered the album, many of them citing self-indulgence and a too-maudlin vibe: well, all art is arguably self-indulgent and Coldplay are past masters of sensItive, rather sad, reflective songs. More at coldplay.com.
Artist: Madeleine Peyroux, Athens, GA
Album: Dreamland, 1996
Notes: Long before Norah Jones exploded onto the scene, there was the cool vocal vibe of Madeleine Peyroux, a truly original and worthwhile vox which many have also compared to Billie Holiday. She's hails from Athens, Georgia, but spent part of her teenage years in Paris, where she learned to play the ukulele from her mother and began busking around the streets of the French capitol at the age of 15. Six carefully crafted albums have followed her 1996 debut, including last year's The Blue Room, which examined the influence Ray Charles' 1962 album Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music had on music. More at madeleinepeyroux.com.
Song: Castles In The Air
Artist: Don McLean, New Rochelle, NY
Album: Tapestry, 1969
Notes: A near perfect recording of a song he originally cut in 1971 as his very first single, and subsequently re-recorded ten years later for the album, Believers - Castles In The Air. For all the acclaim he has as a songwriter, he's a much underrated singer - a truly pure vocal style as strong on stage as it is in the studio. He still performs live and has a busy schedule through the rest of the year - dates at don-mclean.com. Seventy next year, he has long been resident in Camden, Maine.
Song: Blood Like Lemonade
Artist: Morcheeba, England
Album: Blood Like Lemonade, 2010
Notes: Vampirical atmospherics on an overlooked sonic delight by a soulful trip-hop electronica trio from London. Their stylish brand of electronica began in 1995 when brothers Paul and Ross Godfrey first teamed up with singer Skye Edwards, but then came off the rails when she was fired from the band in 2003. They used a succession of stand-in replacements during the following seven years - but all is well that end's well - and she rejoined the Godfrey brothers in 2010.
Song: My Destiny
Artist: Lionel Richie, Tuskegee, AL
Album: Back To Front, 1992
Notes: Featured as one of three new songs on the ex-Commodores' first best of compilation, this song came during a barren period for the singer - his previous record had come out six years earlier and it would be another four years before his next, Louder Than Words, was released. In a career spanning 40 years, he came back with a bang in 2012 with the release of Tuskegee, a selection of his best songs newly interpreted with various guests vocalists. A number 1 smash in Holland - but it didn't even make the top 100 over here - so much great music doesn't get heard on the radio because the image is wrong, unhip, despite its possessing real quality.
Song: Lost and Found
Artist: Kim Taylor, Cincinnati, OH
Album: Little Miracle, 2010
Notes: Minimalist but superior balladry from a tunesmith who's been making records for more than a decade. Her music has been featured on TV shows such as One Tree Hill, Smallville, Ghost Whisperer and others and she has supported the likes of Ron Sexsmith, Over The Rhine and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Her fourth album, 'Love's A Dog,' came out late last year. More at kim-taylor.net. As an interesting side note, she used to own a popular coffee shop in her home city with the charming name, The Pleasant Perk.
Song: Everyday Is Like Sunday
Artist: Morrissey, England
Album: Viva Hate, 1988
Notes: Astonishingly this masterpiece didn't even make the US Modern Rock chart let alone the Billboard Hot 100. The distinctive vocal strains of Morrissey with an outstanding but armageddon-beckoning gem which was tucked away on his first solo album, recorded after the bitter breakup of the Smiths the previous year. He's released ten studio albums on his own and resists all thoughts and offers for a Smiths reunion. The band members have sued each other silly for years and remain as far apart as ever - such a shame, as of all the reunions rock fans wait for, the Smiths are consistently top of the list. He recently cancelled his US tour, citing a virus, accusing support act Kristeen Young of passing on a horrendous cold. More at facebook.com/Morrissey.
Artist: Birdy, England
Album: Fire Within, 2013
Notes: Born 18 years ago with the delightful name Jasmine van den Bogaerde (her great uncle was film actor Dirk Bogarde), she won the Open Mic UK contest in 2008 when she was 12 and followed it with her debut single, a stunning cover of Bon Iver's Skinny Love and her self-titled debut album in 2011. She was nominated at this year's BRIT Awards in the Best Female Solo Artist category, losing out to Ellie Goulding, while picking up the Female Solo Artist International award at the German Echo Awards. This song, which leads off her new sophomore album, was co-written and co-produced by the ubiquitous Ryan Tedder. More at officialbirdy.com.
Song: Second Avenue
Artist: Tim Moore, New York, NY
Album: Tim Moore, 1975
Notes: Starting out in his native Philadelphia in a band called Gulliver which he founded with Daryl Hall, Moore had a solo career that promised so much and delivered so little unfortunately. His first album which featured this track as well as A Fool Like You and When You Close Your Eyes fell by the wayside after the album's distributor went out of business. He then got caught up in a bidding war between Clive Davis and David Geffen, which the latter won, but his subsequent Asylum albums, although well reviewed, failed to sell in quantity. His songs, most notably the Bay City Rollers' version of Rock And Roll Love Letter, have afforded him a steady income over the years. He still performs occasionally. More at facebook.com/pages/Tim-Moore/73986413209.
Song: Coming Home
Artist: Storyman, Ireland
Album: This Time Round, 2013
Notes: Based in Brooklyn for the last four years, the former Guggenheim Grotto duo of Mick Lynch and Kevin May - who are both originally from Ireland - had a musical rebirth which resulted in a name-change to Storyman. The new music is edgier with a broader palette while still retaining the strong songwriting sensibilities that secured Guggenheim Grotto a following. The pair are both featured on Ingrid Michaelson's new album Lights Out - and indeed have recently completed some opening dates for her on a US tour. More at storymanmusic.com.
Song: Angel Dream
Artist: Glen Campbell, Delight, AR
Album: Meet Glen Campbell, 2008
Notes: Before Alzheimer's cruelly drew the curtain across his remarkable six-decade career, he recorded some of his best albums in years, notably the astonishing Ghost On The Canvas in 2011 and Meet Glen Campbell three years earlier - both of which were beautifully curated covers albums of mostly modern rock fare, and overseen by producers Julian Raymond and Howard Willing. This nifty update of a 1996 Tom Petty song sat comfortably alongside material from Jackson Browne, The Foo Fighters, Green Day, The Replacements, Travis and U2.
Song: Mind Made Up
Artist: Jillian Edwards, Dallas, TX
Album: Headfirst (EP), 2011
Notes: Dripping with quality, songwriting and execution of the highest order, from a Texan singer-songwriter who relocated to Nashville after she graduated from Baylor in May of 2011. Check her out on facebook - just add jillianedwardsmusic, where she writes I want to make music forever and ever, even if it's in coffee shops until I'm a cute, little old lady.
Artist: Melody Pool, Australia
Album: The Hurting Scene, 2013
Notes: Despite its '0s coffee house vibe, this is a 2013 number by a new Aussie songstress. She raised recording fees through a crowdfunding effort, cutting this beautiful longplayer in Nashville and then licensed the results to the iconic Australian label, Mushroom Records. L&F favorites The Milk Carton Kids invited her to open for them for both US and European dates, but international airplay has thus far proved elusive. More at melodypool.com.au where you can stream three other cuts from her first CD. (Don't forget to add au or you'll probably end up taking swimming lessons in Clayton, Ohio.)
Song: Pale Sun Rose
Artist: Matthew & The Atlas, England
Album: Other Rivers, 2014
Notes: One of the more recent signings to the always worthwhile Communion Records label co-founded by Mumford & Sons member, Ben Lovett in London's fashionable Notting Hill, the band is led by Matthew Hegarty. The Independent newspaper describes their music as 'absolutely spellbinding', while Baeblemusic describes the record as 'possessing a beautiful sense of desolation with faintly alarming string and synth arrangements, all of which are held together by Hegarty's shakily hesitant howls. More on them at matthewandtheatlas.com.
Artist: David Bowie, England
Album: Pin Ups, 1973
Notes: Never a hit in the US, recorded in France, a Number One success in Australia and a brilliant cover version of an old tune by the Merseys, which in its turn was a cover of the McCoys' original. On his 66th birthday last year, his first studio album in a decade was released. Produced by long-time cohort Tony Visconti, the record, The Next Day, contained 14 new songs and three bonus tracks.
Song: Fallen Leaves
Artist: Grand Nationals, Newtown, NJ
Album: Tennessee Rain, 2011
Notes: A sorely underloved quartet formed in 2010 by longtime musical chums, lyricist Ian Bennett and melody maker Adam Honeycutt, rounded out by top fiddler Sammy Barnes and bassist Jay Harris. They had a couple of songs featured on last year's equally overlooked festive movie The Oranges which starred Hugh Laurie. More than a passing resemblance to the wonderful Blue Merle, check them out at www.thegrandnationals.net.
Artist: Greg Laswell, San Diego, CA
Notes: A 2013 update of a song which originally graced his 2006 long-player Through Toledo reversioned from last year's extremely quiet and reflective remakes CD. He said of the collection The idea for this album stemmed from playing live in various formations over the years, wanting to do something new for the audience,fans asking for alternate versions of songs after hearing them live and/or because the songs themselves changed meaning. He recently wrapped up a tour supporting Ingrid Michaelson. More at trentdabbs.com.
Song: Slave To The Rhythm
Artist: Grace Jones, Jamaica
Album: Slave To The Rhythm, 1985
Notes: The inimitable style icon, with a delicious track from her seventh album, produced by Trevor Horn. The Jamaican singer, just turned 66, remains so creative, non-conformist, bold, extremely visual, frequently controversial, an extremely empowered performer and actress. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper in the UK a few years back, she commented on Lady Gaga saying 'I've seen some things she's worn that I've worn, and that does kind of piss me off. I really don't think of Lady Gaga at all. I go about my business.
Song: The Truth In You
Artist: The Garden District, Canada/Columbus, MS
Notes: A collaboration between Blind Melon's Brad Smith and Digital Daggers' Andrea Wasse, which has seen the pair writing dramatic music for film and TV together while Brad also works on his solo project Abandon Jalopy. This new single received an airing on The Vampire Diaries last month. More at facebook.com/thegardendistrictband.
Song: Love Is In Season
Artist: Spinners, Detroit, MI
Album: Crossfire, 1984
Notes: A cracking 1980s R&B ruby arranged and produced by the great Leon Sylvers III from one of the greatest soul vocal groups of all time, active from 1961 to the present day, although co-founder Henry Fambrough is the only surviving original member. This glorious cut featured the lead vocals of John Edwards, who replaced the group's seminal lead singer, Philippe Wynne - who took lead mic on all of their amazing '70s hits for Atlantic Records - and who sadly died too young the same year this record came out, succumbing to a heart attack while performing live in San Francisco. More at spinnersmusic.com.
Song: Message To My Girl
Artist: Split Enz, New Zealand
Album: Conflicting Emotions, 1983
Notes: One of the most successful bands to come out of New Zealand, founded by Tim Finn in 1973. He recruited his younger brother Neil in 1977 after which the band scored three consecutive LP chart topper down under. The band split up at the end of 1984, at which point Neil founded Crowded House, recruiting Tim in 1989 before the brothers formed The Finn Brothers. In 2001, this song was named 36th best New Zealand song of the 20th century by the Australasian Performing Right Assocation. More on the brothers Finn at timfinn.com and neilfinn.com.
Song: Made To Live Free
Artist: Trent Dabbs, Jackson, MS
Album: Not available
Notes: This lovely two-minute charmer was recorded for his last album The Way We Look At Horses but didn't make the cut. Born in Jackson, Mississippi, but now one of Nashville's finest, he is incapable of making disinteresting, mediocre music, just a superb but under-loved catalog, with plenty of TV placements for his melodic repertoire but too few hit records. His side project, Sugar + The Hi-Lows, with Amy Stroup, recently opened for Ingrid Michaelson on her Lights Out tour. More at trentdabbs.com.
Artist: Heather Headley, Trinidad & Tobago
Album: This Is Who I Am, 2003
Notes: One of the finest soul vocalists of the past 15 years with a divine lost love song. Born in Trinidad, her family relocated to Indiana in 1989 where she honed her vocal chops in school and church choirs before dropping out of college to join a stage production of the musical Ragtime. With a voice like hers, she is unsurprisingly in demand for stage musicals, notably getting raves in the London production of The Bodyguard in 2012 in the role of Rachel Marron which Whitney Houston famously portrayed in the original movie and she has also worked with India Arie, Al Green and Andrea Bocelli. She's expecting the birth of her second child before reprising her role in The Bodyguard in an expected Broadway production next year. More at heatherheadley.com.
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 albums. 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 played a gig in Pasadena last year to benefit the survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. More at haircut100.net.
Song: Edge of the Dark
Artist: Armon Jay, Chattanooga, TN
Notes: A Chattanooga-born tunesmith who raised close to $14,000 on Kickstarter to record this debut album in two weeks with producer Joshua James near American Fork in Utah. Introduced to the music of Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, even Kenny Loggins and Whitney Houston by his parents, he learned his trade as a member of Christian bands Nevertheless and Revive when he went by the name of AJ Cheek. Diagnosed with Adult ADD, he writes of his predicament, 'It's been quite a trip, but the most liberating thing is to be able to walk in my own skin, whatever that means the good, the bad or the ugly. And not follow what somebody else thinks I should be. I don't have to hide my sickness in the dark anymore. This is me. Nothing's changed. Even if everything's different." More at armonjay.com.
Song: Bleed To Love Her
Artist: Fleetwood Mac, England/Palo, CA/Phoenix, AZ
Album: The Dance, 1997
Notes: A song about the irrational power of blinding love offering unconditional loyalty and support to a severely damaged soul, written by Lindsey Buckingham at the top of his game, and recorded live for the band's reunion after a 10-year break. The once-again reunited band, now with Christine McVie back on board, continues its open-ended tour at the end of September, adding two new songs, 'Sad Angela' and 'Miss Fantasy' to their repertoire. More at fleetwoodmac.com.
Artist: Natalie Taylor, Mechanicsburg, PA
Album: Not available
Notes: Another deft acoustic winner from the Pennsylvania-born singer-songwriter who grew up in Alabama but is now based in Nashville. Regrettably there's very little material by her currently available to download, though there are a fair sprinkling of songs to stream on her website. Her influences include Jon Howard, John Mayer and Sara Bareilles. More at www.natalietaylormusic.com, where she declares I do musical things, am an esthetician, and could do R&B riffs in harmony for days. Oh and Roll Tide ;)
Artist: James Morrison, England
Album: Undiscovered, 2006
Notes: A man still in love, but at the end of his tether, acknowledging the end of the road, coming to the realization that although he gave it his all, it was simply not enough, that all the reasons they originally came together no longer apply. The soulful English tunesmith, born 29 years ago as James Morrison Catchpole and who despite huge success around the globe, remains unknown over here. This superb track is one of many lost pearls buried on his outstanding freshman album. Two more have followed, the most recent being 2011's Bernard Butler-produced The Awakening. More at jamesmorrisonmusic.com.
Song: Over and Over
Artist: Smallpools, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Self-Titled (EP), 2013
Notes: Freshly minted new indie power pop by a relatively new LA-based quartet fronted by Sean Scanlon. This song was used to promote the photo-messaging application Snapchat while another of their songs, Dreaming, was used for the FIFA 14 video game. They've already nabbed opening slots for the likes of Two Door Cinema Club and Neon Trees. They're currently on the road, wrapping up with their tour with an appearance at this year's Lollapalooza in Chicago on August 2nd. More at smallpoolsmusic.com.
Song: Somebody To Love
Artist: Valerie June, Jackson, TN
Notes: Marvelous, equal parts vinegar and honey, a voice unlike any other is a rare thing these days. A haunting, authentically raw lost ruby, co-produced by Black Key Dan Auerbach. Born in Franklin Tennessee and weaned on gospel, blues and R&B, she began her music career in her late teens in Memphis. She opened for new folkie Jake Bugg on a UK tour last year and will be appearing at the Newport Folk Festival on July 27th, before embarking on a series of dates through August. More at her Organic Moonshine Roots Music site - valeriejune.com.
Artist: Beat, England
Album: I Just Can't Stop It, 1980
Notes: Known over here as the English Beat and in Australia as the British Beat - but originally simply called The Beat - this is their uber-cool ska treatment of the classic Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman composition made famous by Andy Williams back in 1963. They recorded it for their 1980 debut LP which was packed with seminal rock-steady ska goodies. The Birmingham, England ska revivalists are still going strong 30 years on with a recent UK tour and plans for a new album, recorded through a crowdfunding effort by PledgeMusic. More at englishbeat.net.
Artist: Liz Longley, Philadelphia, PA
Notes: A splendid interpretation of Queen's 1980 chart-topper by another graduate from the esteemed Berklee School of Music in Boston, described by the Washington Post as destined for a larger audience. She was named Female Performer of the Year in New England a couple of years ago, while Dig Boston named her 'a rising acoustic sensation.Even John Mayer is a fan, calling her music 'gorgeous, simply gorgeous.' She's currently on the road. More at lizlongley.com.
Artist: Queen, England
Album: The Game, 1980
Notes: Written by Freddie Mercury in about ten minutes while relaxing in the Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich, Germany as a tribute to Elvis Presley, the song has subsequently become a popular cover. Over the years the likes of Diana Ross, Dwight Yoakam, Michael Buble, Maroon 5 and even The Chipmunks have recorded it. A new Queen album, Queen Forever, comprising long-forgotten tracks featuring Mercury, is due for release in late 2014/early 2015.