Artist: Horse, Scotland
Album: The Same Sky, 1990
Notes: A distinctively sonorous vocal style by a sorely overlooked 55-year-old Scottish songstress called Sheena McDonald who goes by the rather odd performing name, Horse. This soulful lost pearl was on her maiden set in 1990, but she proved way too talented for both Capitol and MCA Records who dropped her after one album and she's been recording her unique brand of soulful indie-pop on her own Randan label for more than a decade. In a recent article she said Getting compared to Annie Lennox and Alison Moyet are huge compliments. But I think I sound just like me. More at horsemcdonald.com.
Song: Someday Never Comes
Artist: Brandi Carlile, Ravendale, WA
Album: Brandi Carlile, 2005
Notes: The Washington state native began her career taking up the guitar and songwriting at 15, before making her name around the clubs and coffee bars in Seattle performing with her twin brothers Phil and Tom Hanseroth. She was snapped up by Columbia Records, who have so far released five sterling long-players of hers. Her breakthrough came of course with her signature hit The Story - indeed her album of the same name sold more than 300,000 copies in the US. She's playing a dozen or so dates over the coming months. More at brandicarlile.com.
Artist: Gilbert O'Sullivan, Ireland
Album: Sounds of the Loop, 1993
Notes: Beautiful plaintive simplicity from the mind, the hands and voice of the veteran Irish singer-songwriter. He has an innate ability to write lyrics in the warmest conversational vernacular, and indeed in concert he becomes an immediate friend to the audience with his remarkable story-telling. He was ripped off by his record label MAM and its owner Gordon Mills during the early part of his career and was awarded $12 million in damages and unpaid royalties in a 1982 court case during which the judge described him as 'a patently honest and decent man'. He now lives in the Channel Islands on the beautiful island of Jersey and continues to make music more than forty years on from his debut. More at gilbertosullivan.net.
Song: I See Myself In You
Artist: Jae Laffer, Australia
Notes: Laffer began his career using his real name, Justin Laffer, as lead singer of indie-pop Aussie combo, The Panics, who have just hit the ten-year mark together. He played nearly all of the instruments on his solo effort, which was recorded in just a few weeks with promising results. When his solo debut was released he said The Panics are still very much together, but I saw this as an opportunity to take ideas and themes true to myself and see them from start to finish in one burst of inspiration, without looking up. No website, but more can be found at facebook.com/jaelaffermusic.
Artist: Mr. Probz, Netherlands
Album: The Treatment, 2013
Notes: A chilled blend of vintage soul vocals and contemporary ambient electro beats in the shape of German electronic producer Robin Schulz's edit of a 7+ minute original. Written, produced and performed by Dennis Princewell Stehr, who goes by the performing name Mr. Probz, the song was released in his native Netherlands last November and has steadily made its way around the European chartsthrough this year. Probz was shot during a street incident with fellow rapper Flex in August 2010 but mercifully recovered to kickstart his recording career just six months later, scoring his first domestic hit soon after. He's just done his first interview with Rolling Stone. More at facebook.com/MrProbz.
Song: Love Is Innocent
Artist: Colin Hay, Australia
Album: Man @ Work, 2003
Notes: A gorgeous lost ballad from his playfully titled eighth solo album. The former lead singer of Men At Work, he set out on his solo career in 1987 following the demise of the Down Under and Who Can It Be Now? chart-toppers the previous year. Born in Scotland and now in his 60s, his family emigrated to the land down under when he was 14, but he is long-based in lovely Topanga Canyon. He's playing a sole US date in Los Angeles on July 31st. More at colinhay.com.
Song: Beside You
Artist: Graffiti6, England
Album: The Bridge, 2014
Notes: The all-too-brief lead-off track from the duo's latest offering - another soulful sometimes gospel-inflected collection of sturdy electro-pop from the UK duo comprising Tommy Danvers and Jamie Scott. They've previously 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 in 2012. The duo, which describes their sound as 'psychedelic Northern Soul, began its collaboration in London in 2008 but remain well busy with other musical pursuits: indeed Scott has restarted his solo career with a second album, My Hurricane, due for imminent release.
Song: Inherit The Wind
Artist: Wilton Felder featuring Bobby Womack, Houston, TX/Cleveland, OH
Album: Inherit The Wind, 1980
Notes: Blissful old school soul of the highest order from sax great Wilton Felder featuring the unmistakably gritty r&b vocal of the late, great Bobby Womack, who passed away last week. Felder is of course, one of the founding members of the legendary jazz-soul combo, The Crusaders, who are still performing after more than 50 years together. Also a dazzling bass player, Felder has been a much in-demand session musician throughout a remarkable career, recording with the Jackson 5 (it's believed that it's his bass-playing on I Want You Back), Billy Joel, Marvin Gaye, Joni Mitchell, John Cale, America, even Randy Newman among many others.
Artist: Ludovico Einaudi, Italy
Album: Divenire, 2007
Notes: A thing of beauty from an Italian composer and pianist who trained at the Conservatorio Verdi in Milan and who has broadened his musical palate to include classical, world music, folk, pop and rock over more than two dozen rich and diverse works since the mid-'80s. As you might expect from hearing this delicious piece, he is much in demand as a film and tv scorist including the magnificent 2011 French movie, The Intouchables. He also provided the music to the pilot episode of the charming Derek series by Ricky Gervais. More at ludovicoeinaudi.com.
Song: Fountain of Sorrow
Artist: Jackson Browne, Germany
Album: Late For The Sky, 1974
Notes: The son of an American serviceman (hence his Heidelberg, Germany birthplace) and a Norwegian mother who began his career more than 40 years ago. Managed by David Geffen and Elliot Roberts, who when they failed to find a record company interested in his talent, set up Asylum Records. The five other acts signed in the label's first year were Judee Sill, Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, John David Souther and Glenn Frey, who soon teamed up with Don Henley, etc. to form the Eagles. This masterful track was released as a single in an edited down version but failed to chart and is widely assumed to document his brief relationship with Joni Mitchell.
Song: We Don't Eat
Artist: James Vincent McMorrow, Ireland
Album: Early In The Morning, 2010
Notes: First spun on Lost & Found more than three years ago, since when it has increasingly been heard on TV, so all is not lost. Born and still based in Dublin in the Emerald Isle, he issued his followup set Post Tropical in January, and it has just been named by The Guardian newspaper as one of The 10 best albums of 2014 (so far). More at jamesvmcmorrow.com, where you can enjoy a neat cover of Lana del Rey's West Coast.
Song: My Kind of Lady
Artist: Supertramp, England
Album: Famous Last Words, 1982
Notes: An old nugget, about as unfashionable as platform shoes, but from one of the biggest bands of the 1980s, when they made so much fine melodic pop-rock. The band still has a sort of Pink Floyd thing going on, a bit like the division bell between Roger Waters and Dave Gilmour - the band's two leaders Rik Davies and Roger Hodgson split after they made this record, with Davies occasionally going on tour and recording with a revamped lineup, but without Hodgson. A couple of years ago Davies said, 'In order to play a great show for our fans, you need harmony, both musically and personally. Unfortunately that doesn't exist between us any more and I would rather not destroy memories of more harmonious times between all of us.
Artist: Stephen Bishop, San Diego, CA
Album: Bish, 1978
Notes: A heart-stopping sweetener from a sorely under-appreciated ballad-laden LP from 1978. The West Coast tunesmith is best known for two film tunes: It Might Be You, the hit from Tootsie and Separate Lives the mushy duet by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin from the 1985 movie, White Nights. By his own admission he 'writes much better when I'm heartbroken and sad or melancholy. His first two albums Careless in 1976 and Bish are essential listening for anyone who likes well-crafted, highly melodic love song fare - both are lost classics. He also appeared in one of most memorable comic scenes in '70s film history: he's the sensitive folk singer sitting on the stairs who has his guitar totally trashed by John Belushi in National Lampoon's Animal House.
Song: Yellow Brick Road
Artist: Angus & Julia Stone, Australia
Album: Down The Way, 2010
Notes: Neatly rolling bluesy folk from Angus & Julia Stone, a brother sister duo from Sydney, Australia, the offspring of a mother/father folk duo, John and Kim Stone. They've been performing together for some eight years, with three long-players to date, including Down The Way, which won five ARIA awards, including Album of the Year. Their latest, Angus & Julia Stone, produced in Malibu by Rick Rubin, is due any day. More at angusandjuliastone.com.
Song: Around The World
Artist: East 17, England
Album: Steam, 1994
Notes: Delightful pop vocal outing, despite its of-its-time cheesy production by the boy band trio who were huge in Europe in the 1990s but were shut out in the US, which was feasting on the homegrown likes of the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync. Written by Tony Mortimer, who still fronts the band - although they have moved away from their dance/pop style. The group named itself after the London zipcode of their hometown of Walthamstow.
Song: I Am a Rock
Artist: Paul Simon, Newark, NJ
Notes: A brief, raw two-minute-and-change alternate version of I Am A Rock recorded on a single microphone for both his guitar and vocal and included on the singer's recent collection, which contains other demos and rarities - a privileged insight into the creative songwriting process of a certified genius. The better known version was the first track on his very first solo album, The Paul Simon Songbook, released in 1965 and was indeed his first solo single - a highly prized collector's item these days. He recorded an electric version with Art Garfunkel for the duo's 1966 LP, Sounds Of Silence.
Song: Everything To Me
Artist: Shane Filan, Ireland
Album: You And Me, 2013
Notes: A Top 10 smash in Ireland from the former Westlifer's freshman solo outing, which he recorded after 14 years as one of the lead singers of the boy band troupe. Despite amassing a small fortune in that band which scored dozens of hits around Europe, he managed to go broke and file for bankruptcy following the collapse of his property development company in 2012 during the global recession. He's opening for Garth Brooks in Dublin at the end of the month. More at shanefilan.com.
Song: Iceblink Luck
Artist: Cocteau Twins, England
Album: Heaven Or Las Vegas, 1990
Notes: A superior slice of modern dreamrock from 1990 by a marvellous Scottish band active throughout the '0s and '0s and fronted by the unique vocal stylings of Elisabeth Fraser. After the group split, she went on to work on a number of top soundtracks including The Lord Of The Rings - The Two Towers. The Guardian newspaper once hailed her distinctive vox as 'the voice of God'. She has also worked with the likes of Peter Gabriel and Massive Attack, but generally flies well under the radar. Another member of the three Twins was Simon Raymonde, son of iconic 1960s arranger and producer Ivor Raymonde (born Ivor Pomerance - does that mean he's Simon Pomerance?). Papa Raymonde co-wrote Dusty Springfield's first solo hit I Only Want To Be With You and continued arranging many of her tracks through the rest of the decade. More at cocteautwins.com.
Artist: Sea Wolf, Los Angeles, CA
Notes: An LA-based band led by singer-songwriter Alex Brown Church with an understated winner from their 2007 debut EP. They're yet another worthwhile music act now having to fund their craft via Kickstarter. Their new album, Song Spells, No 1: Cedarsmoke is available on Spotify and as a free or pay-what-you-want download on their website. If you like this number, listen to more at seawolfmusic.com.
Song: Hospital Food
Artist: David Gray, England
Album: Life In Slow Motion, 2005
Notes: This cut should clearly have been called Tell Me Something, but it's known as Hospital Food for reasons best known to its writer. Despite its clearly infectious melodic runs, the song received generally dire reviews when issued. The English tunesmith's tenth album, Mutineers has just been released which Gray is promoting with much touring - his month-long US summer tour kicks off in Boston on August 1 - all details at davidgray.com.
Song: The City Below
Artist: Mackintosh Braun, Portland, OR
Album: Arcadia, 2014
Notes: A deftly formed and executed track from the duo's upcoming long player, which was due in the spring but delayed for reasons unknown. They're a sadly under-appreciated electro-pop duo out of Portland, Oregon, releasing a stunning album four years ago titled Where We Are. Like many L&F favorites, their music has been featured on several TV shows, including Grey's Anatomy, which to musicians is what Law And Order is to actors. More at mackintoshbraun.com.
Song: Under The Pressure
Artist: War on Drugs, Philadelphia, PA
Album: Lost In The Dream, 2014
Notes: Fronted by Adam Granduciel, who started out as a member of the delightfully named Kurt Vile and The Violators before forming The War On Drugs with the aforementioned Vile in 2005, the group released its solo debut, Wagonwheel Blues, in 2008. Vile left shortly thereafter to pursue a solo career and a second album, Slave Ambient, followed in 2011. Their current album has been named by The Guardian newspaper as one of The 10 best albums of 2014 (so far) - along with James Vincent McMurrow's Post Tropical. They begin a major month-long tour in September and October. More at thewarondrugs.net.
Song: If You're Right
Artist: Andy Hill & Pete Sinfield, England
Album: Not available
Notes: This is the original demo by its backroom writers Andy Hill and Pete Sinfield of a tender love song with beautiful lyrical imagery and the simplest of melodies, which was subsequently covered by Lulu in 1981. Messrs Hill and Sinfield are accomplished British composers and producers - Andy has inked hits for the likes of Bonnie Tyler, Jane Wiedlin and Bad English and was behind Euro-winners Bucks Fizz, while lyricist Pete Sinfield was a co-founding member of prog-rockers King Crimson and produced Roxy Music's debut LP. They also wrote Celine Dion's Think Twice, while Hill also had a song on Susan Boyle's mega-selling I Dreamed A Dream album.
Song: It Should've Been Me
Artist: Yvonne Fair, Richmond, VA
Album: The Bitch Is Black, 1975
Notes: Perhaps the most bitter and twisted wedding song ever written. Penned by Tamla Motown legends Norman Whitfield and William Mickey Stevenson for Kim Weston in 1963, and then a minor hit for Gladys Knight and The Pips in 1968, Yvonne Fair's 1976 version - also a minor hit in the US, hit the Top 10 in the UK. The Virginia-born Fair began her career in the '60s as a backing singer for James Brown before going solo and signing to Tamla Motown the following decade. She died too soon at the age of 51 in 1994.
Song: That Summer
Artist: Andy Stochansky, Canada
Album: 100, 2005
Notes: A Canadian singer-songwriter, who started off as a drummer, discovered by folk rocker Ani DiFranco for whom he toured as a backing musician for some seven years, before he focused his talent on guitar and piano and writing his own material. Four thoroughbred albums followed, with his last outing some nine years ago, the 2005 album '00' which was produced by Goo Goo Dolls frontman Johnny Rzeznik. He moved to Los Angeles in 2008, and little has been heard of him since.
Song: You and Me
Artist: Sara Watkins, Vista, CA
Album: Sun Midnight Sun, 2012
Notes: Nickel Creek fiddler/singer from her confident 2012 sophomore effort, which features guest vocals from Jackson Browne and Fiona Apple. After the trio took a hiatus in 2007 she signed to Nonesuch Records, one of the best Americana and World Music labels out there, which has released her two solo albums to date. One of the most accomplished bluegrass folk fiddlers around, she has also served a stint playing percussion on a tour by the Decemberists and is now touring with a reformed Nickel Creek, describing the experience as a kind of a short and sweet little summer of getting to do these songs and these new songs. That's all we're thinking about now, I think. Dates at nickelcreek.com.
Song: Take It Back
Artist: Toni Braxton & Babyface, Severn, MD/Indianapolis, IN
Notes: From an album simply brimming with rewarding soulful outings - neither artist has ever compromised their desire to simply create well-crafted, highly melodic pop/soul - Babyface in particular incapable of writing or producing mediocre fare. Braxton, describes the union with her musical husband: My voice is a thick chocolate milkshake, and Kenny's the straw that comes in and helps you drink it a lil bit. She has just published Unbreak My Heart - A Memoir - more at tonibraxton.com, and the pair have a few Northeastern dates coming up later this month. For details go to babyfacemusic.com.
Song: Hey St. Peter
Artist: Flash & The Pan, Australia
Album: Hey St Peter (single), 1977
Notes: Quirky but so good - an Aussie-based new wave studio act from the late '70s put together by former Easybeats Harry Vanda and George Young. Concurrently they produced the first albums by AC/DC, which includes George's younger brothers, perennial schoolboy Angus and Malcolm. Vanda and Young's contribution to Australian music was acknowledged when they were inducted into the inaugural class of the ARIA Hall of Fame in 1988.
Song: Deep Inside
Artist: Gareth Dunlop, Northern Ireland
Album: Not available
Notes: A 24-year old tunesmith from Belfast who was named Young Songwriter of the Year at the 2011 Annual Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival - a sort of exchange program for top tunesmiths. He's opened for the likes of Nanci Griffith, Imelda May and Jeff Beck - and fellow Northern Irelanders Snow Patrol have performed his composition Firefly in concert. Engaging rootsy voices like his don't come around every day. More at garethdunlop.com. Click on free music for more from Mr. Dunlop.
Song: Freezing Rain
Artist: Hurricane Bells, Rochester, NY
Album: Tonight Is The Ghost, 2009
Notes: Splendid indie-Americana rock from Steve Schiltz who has fronted Longwave since 1990. This rolling belter was written, recorded, played and mixed entirely on his own on his MacBook. More at hurricanebells.com, which - if you join their mailing list - will provide you with a free MP3 of Before I'm Gone.
Song: Put My Little Shoes Away
Artist: Billie Joe & Norah, Oakland, CA/Brooklyn, NY
Album: Foreverly, 2013
Notes: The dying words of a gravely sick child speaking through the innocence of his youth to his grieving mother and as he says goodbye quietly asks her to give away all his toys - requesting only that she keep his little shoes so that one day they might be worn by his baby brother. An impossibly depressing and beautiful recording of a vintage composition inked by the then popular songwriting team of Samuel Mitchell and Charles Pratt in 1873, a typically sentimental Victorian parlor ballad which survived in country music long after its initial popularity waned. Recorded by the likes of Bill Monroe and the Everly Brothers in the 20th century but divinely updated here by Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones from their utterly blissful re-interpretation of The Everly Brothers' 1958 album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us.
Artist: Max & Simon, New York, NY/Los Angeles, CA
Album: Not available
Notes: Hard to believe that despite having their music featured in a couple of commercials for JC Penney and TV shows like The Biggest Loser, they remain unsigned and horribly under-appreciated. They consistently deliver ultra-catchy nuggets like this two-minute bubbler. Interestingly they are neither a duo nor do any their members have the name Max or Simon - they're actually a trio of Blake Healy, Kevin Bard and Mark Rosas, alternately based in New York and Los Angeles, who describe their mission to make the world a better place one sunny day at a time' Healy was a member of the short-lived Metro Station, while Bard still fronts Stereo Skyline. The Shine On Me mix of this song can be found at their nascent website at maxandsimon.com.
Song: Could It Be Forever
Artist: David Cassidy, New York, NY
Album: Cherish, 1972
Notes: After gaining popularity as Keith Partridge in the TV series The Partridge Family in the early 1970s, Cassidy branched out as a solo artist, recording his first LP Cherish from which this track came. Although this darling of a pop song failed to crack the Top 30 on home turf, it launched him into the teen-throb stratosphere in the UK. His producer Wes Farrell co-wrote this track in an illustrious career which included the songs Boys, cut by The Beatles in 1963 and Hang On Sloopy, one of the garage band classics of the '60s.
Song: Edge of Something
Artist: Jamie Cullum, England
Album: Momentum, 2013
Notes: Overly talented British jazz/pop singer-songwriter/pianist with a deliciously melodramatic track from last year's sadly overlooked Momentum album. The 5' 4 pianist is married to former fashion model Sophie Dahl, who at 6' towers over him, and is the granddaughter of Roald Dahl. Cullum hosts a terrific show on BBC Radio (bbc.co.uk/programmes/b047w613). More at jamiecullum.com.
Song: Only You
Artist: Fall Fires/Yazoo, England
Notes: A mystery cover of the Yaz classic from 1982 seguing into the original. The electro-pop backdrop is clearly reminiscent of early Depeche Mode and with good reason. Former co-founder and keyboardist Vince Clarke teamed with the utterly wonderful Alf and for a brief three-year partnership, produced just two albums, both of them winners, before Clarke went on to form The Assembly and then Erasure, while Alf reverted to her given name, Alison Moyet, and eked out a dazzling solo career.