Song: The Ghost In You
Artist: Psychedelic Furs, England
Album: Mirror Moves, 1984
Notes: From what was by far their finest LP, a track which was never a hit in the US or indeed their home territory. A solid slice of accessible modern pop rock, written by the brothers Butler, bassist Tim and frontman Richard, who went on to pursue a solo career after the group disbanded in 1991. Best known for their 'Love My Way' and 'Pretty In Pink' hits, this was one of several top-notch nuggets which slipped through the cracks and much covered over the years by the likes of Duncan Sheik and Counting Crows. The band reformed more than a decade ago and tours most years and have US dates coming up in October. More at thepsychedelicfurs.com.
Song: Back Burner
Artist: Amy Stroup, Nashville, TN
Album: Tunnel, 2014
Notes: Her second full-length album is knee-deep in lost treasures, which in the words of the Nashville-based songstress represents a process of healing and a place to express the small self actualizing truths I've learned over the last couple of years. In February, Amy and her Sugar & The Hi Lows partner Trent Dabbs began collaborating with the Nashville Ballet company for an original work called 'Attitude' set to the iconic music of Johnny Cash - the CD for which 'Wild Desire (Johnny Cash Live Sessions)' was released last month. More on that fascinating project at amystroup.com, where you can find dates for a brief Sugar & The Hi Lows tour in September with L&F fave Andrew Belle.
Artist: Royal Teeth, New Orleans, LA
Album: Act Naturally [EP], 2011
Notes: Intriguing new modern rock by five-piece indie posters from New Orleans, who have been together for four years. Fronted by male vocalist Gary Larsen and female singer Nora Patterson, with just one long player 'Glow' to date, they wowed everybody at this year's SXSW and were personally invited by Harry Connick Jr. to perform on 'American Idol' this past season. More at royalteethmusic.com.
Song: Digging Shelters
Artist: Neil Halstead, England
Album: Palindrome Hunches, 2012
Notes: The former lead singer of shoegazing pioneers Slowdive, with a track from his third solo collection issued a couple of years ago on Jack Johnson's Brushfire Records. Born in the lovely English county of Berkshire but long-based in the west country in Cornwall, he was hailed as 'one of Britain's greatest songwriters' by Time Out magazine. Never one to be boxed in, he is also co-founder of a couple of other bands, Big Hearted Brother and L&F faves Mojave 3 - and he recently reformed Slowdive to perform a couple of European dates last spring. Keep up with his various movements at neilhalstead.com.
Song: Anyway The Wind Blows
Artist: J.J. Cale & Eric Clapton, Oklahoma City, OK/England
Album: The Road To Escondido, 2006
Notes: Eric Clapton combining with one of his personal musical heroes on a fabulous blues shuffler from a fine collaborative effort they recorded in 2006. He did of course cut two Cale compositions years earlier and made them extremely well-known - 'Cocaine' and 'After Midnight'. This album also contained the last ever recordings of keyboard legend Billy Preston - to whom the album was dedicated. Cale himself passed away last summer from heart failure at the age of 74, leaving an influential legacy as the architect of the Tulsa Sound out of Oklahoma, fusing soft shuffling blues, country, jazz and a splash of rockabilly, a style much revered by many. Clapton just issued a tribute album to his old friend: 'The Breeze - An Appreciation of J.J. Cale', with 16 Cale tunes reimagined with all-star backing from the likes of John Mayer, Tom Petty, Willie Nelson, and Mark Knopfler.
Song: Bring My Heart Out
Artist: Arthur Alligood, Athens, Ga
Album: One Silver Needle, 2012
Notes: Restrained mellow musings from a talented tunesmith with a superb CD described by a reviewer at the BBC as simply 'brilliant'. It featured a couple of iconic session veterans, drummer Jim Keltner who hit the skins for the likes of Dylan, George Harrison and John Lennon and bass player Leland Sklar who often plays alongside the likes of Carole King, James Taylor and Jackson Browne. Alligood is a southern troubadour, based in rural Tennessee and the winner of the Mountain Stage NewSong contest a couple of years ago. More at arthuralligood.com.
Song: Coming Home
Artist: Storyman, Ireland
Album: This Time Around, 2013
Notes: Based in Brooklyn for the past 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: Gold Dust
Artist: Brynn Elliott, Atlanta, GA
Album: Notions Of Love, 2014
Notes: A superbly crafted nugget from an Atlanta-based singer/songwriter who is just starting out at Harvard University. She was taught to sing from the age of three by her grandfather and picked up the guitar and piano as a teenager - but it wasn't until the tragic death of a close friend just a couple of years ago that she was inspired to pour her soul into music even though she was still attending high school. She only recently made her performing debut, describing it thus: 'From studio to stage, something shifted'. More on young Brynn at brynnelliott.com.
Artist: Broken Bells, Los Angeles, CA
Album: After The Disco,
Notes: Some smart modern rock from a side project assembled by top producer/musician Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) and Shins frontman, singer/guitarist James Mercer. They linked up after meeting in 2004 at the famous Roskilde Festival in Denmark where they discovered a mutual appreciation for the other's work. They're now touring the US well into the autumn supporting their latest album. Dates at brokenbells.com.
Song: No Other Guy
Artist: Natalie Taylor, Birmingham, AL
Album: Not available
Notes: Based in Music City Nashville for five years but originally from Alabama, a few of her tunes now have been picked up by TV shows, but regrettably very little material by her currently available to download - though a fair sprinkling of unreleased songs to stream on her website - natalietaylormusic.com.
Song: I Drink
Artist: Mary Gauthier, New Orleans, LA
Album: Mercy Now, 2005
Notes: A sadly autobiographical whiskey-soaked lost country classic - an alcoholic who has been successfully taking it one day at a time since achieving sobriety in 1990. Now in her 50s, she's had a rough road from day one, left at St. Vincent's Women and Infants Asylum when born in 1962 by a mother she never knew, she was already in rehab as a teenager and didn't find her calling in music until she sobered up at the age of 35 when she wrote her first song. Highly regarded in alternative country and Americana circles, she's also a noted author of popular short stories - and her fans include Bob Dylan and Tom Waits. She has three dates in Colorado coming up this month. More at marygauthier.com.
Song: Wond'ring Aloud
Artist: Jethro Tull, England
Album: Aqualung, 1971
Notes: The band was named after the famous English agriculturist of the 18th century, Jethro Tull who invented the seed drill. (There was also a progressive band around at the same time called Capability Brown, named after an English landscape architect.) The band formed in 1967, led by distinctive singer and flautist, Ian Anderson, and continued performing until as recently as 2011 - though this April Anderson confirmed in a Billboard interview that it was highly unlikely that he would reassemble the band again, prefering to leave their legacy as is. In one of the more bizarre Grammy awards handed out over the years, none can be more so than the distinctly non-heavy metal Jethro Tull winning one for Best Metal Performance in 1989, beating out the likes of Metallica.
Song: The Heart of Life
Artist: John Mayer, Bridgeport, CT
Album: Continuum, 2006
Notes: Great music need not be any more complicated than this - the sweetest simplicity of melody married with heartwarming lyrics at their very best. One of the most successful alumni from the esteemed Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mayer has just finished an extensive US tour, but has three dates coming up - Los Angeles (August 31st), Atlanta (September 19th) and Highland Park (September 20th). More at johnmayer.com.
Artist: Mat Kearney, Eugene, OR
Album: Young Love, 2011
Notes: A bonus cut which can be found at the very end of his 2011 album, 'Young Love', his poppiest and most accessible collection to date. You might wonder why his first name only has one 't' and not two: it turns out that when he was born the nurse left the second 't' off the paperwork and so he was named Mathew with only one solitary 't' used thereafter. (You need to know these things.) He has a sole date this month at the California Shakespeare Theater in Orinda, California. More at matkearney.com.
Song: True Love
Artist: Coldplay, England
Album: Ghost Stories, 2014
Notes: Tell me you love me, If you don't, then lie', howling like a sad lonesome wolf for his uncoupled spouse with some seemingly dissonant guitar wails by Jonny Buckland perfectly juxtaposed with angst against the overall mournful vocal melody by Chris Martin. A tour de force by the group and probably the finest moment on their sixth long-player, which is their only album to date for which there hasn't been an accompanying tour.
Artist: Naughty Boy featuring Sam Romans, England
Album: Hotel Cabana, 2014
Notes: One of singer du jour Sam Smith's earliest hits across the pond was as the lead vocalist on Naughty Boy's 2013 smash 'La La La'. Now Naughty Boy turns to a new Sam: Sam Romans for their spanking new single, which was recently added as a bonus cut on the US issue of Naughty's debut album, which also features some ace guest vocals by L&F alumnus Emelie Sande. Romans is the latest voice to burst out of the UK nu-soul movement arguably begun by Amy Winehouse, Duffy and Adele, while Naughty Boy is the performing name of 29-year old English producer, songwriter and DJ, Shadid Khan - the son of immigrant Pakistani parents. Khan began recording songs in his parents' garden shed as a teenager before saving enough money from part-time jobs to rent a proper studio in Ealing in West London.
Song: Goodbye To Love
Artist: Carpenters, New Haven, CT
Album: A Song For You, 1972
Notes: First-rate vintage pop from 1972, featuring one of the most iconic (and earliest) fuzz guitar solos in popular music, courtesy of session axe man Tony Peluso, who went on to work with Michael Jackson, Seals & Crofts and the Fixx among dozens of other acts. He was asked to perform that solo by Karen Carpenter after she had heard his earlier work with a band called Instant Joy. It's hard to believe that Karen died more than 30 years ago at the tragically young age of 32, after amassing 12 Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hits with her brother Richard in the Carpenters.
Song: Uptight Downtown
Artist: La Roux, England
Album: Trouble In Paradise, 2014
Notes: Catchy new electro-pop with lovely choppy Nile Rodgers-inspired rhythms from Elly Jackson, who goes by the name La Roux, and wrote the song as an homage to her home town of Brixton in south London. She had a musical falling out with her original La Roux co-conspirator Ben Langmaid in 2011 but kept the name when she went solo. Her disparate musical influences range from Nick Drake and Carole King to Bowie and Prince. She'll be coming to these shores in September for a 10-date tour. More at laroux.co.uk.
Song: Line of Fire
Artist: Junip, Sweden
Album: Junip, 2013
Notes: A superbly constructed, full-on indie pop-rock with a flamenco syncopation from singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez, who despite his Spanish-sounding name, fronts this trio from Gothenburg, Sweden. Their sophomore set, self-titled, dropped in March and its multi-culturally informed collection - indeed Jose describes the group's music as 'somewhere between a German jazz band and an African pop band' - although neither influence is evident on this delicious cut however. More at www.junip.net.
Song: Tomorrow Morning
Artist: Blue Nile, Scotland
Album: Peace At Last, 1996
Notes: So much largely unheralded superior music made by this group, showcasing the songwriting chops and distinctive vocal class of mainman Paul Buchanan. He's an enigmatic chap, happily flying under the radar. He formed Blue Nile in 1981 with childhood friend Robert Bell in his native Scotland, but seriously takes his time recording new material. He's only released four Blue Nile albums and one solo collection over more than three decades - though each of them worth their weight in platinum. Much loved among his contemporaries, notably Joni Mitchell, who's a big fan.
Song: Please Forgive My Heart
Artist: Bobby Womack, Cleveland, OH
Notes: Recently gone at the age of 70, the guitarist, singer-songwriter was one of the most authentic 'testifying' soul vocalists to emerge in the 1960s, his beseeching, gravel-filled baritone subsequently earning him the nickname The Preacher and latterly as the self-described Soul Survivor, having outlived his gospel-trained testifying contemporaries, Sam Cooke, James Brown, Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. This longplayer was his first new work in 18 years, featuring a cool duet with Lana Del Rey and was co-produced by the always busy Damon Albarn of Gorillaz and Blur fame. It's long forgotten that he penned 'It's All Over Now', which gave The Rolling Stones their first British chart topper in 1964.
Song: Lay My Burden Down
Artist: Aoife O'Donovan, Boston, MA
Album: Fossils, 2013
Notes: A fun Duane Eddy-ish guitar bridge gracing that lilting swayer from a lovely recent long-player. She's a Boston-based singer-songwriter, whose forename is pronounced EEF-ah, and frontwoman for bluegrass combo, Crooked Still, pronounced Crooked Still. She wrote the song quite a few years ago and was fortunate to have it recorded by Alison Krauss for her 2011 set, 'Paper Airplane.' She's playing a handful dates in mid September. For dates, check out aoifeodonovan.com.
Song: Rocket Man 03
Artist: Elton John, England
Album: Remixed [EP], 2003
Notes: Issued in 2003 on his own Rocket label on a long-overlooked EP of remixes. This cut was originally released as a 12 promotional-only 'Hani Mix'. The three other cuts on EP were 'Song For Guy', 'Are You Ready For Love' and a well-stripped acoustic treatment of 'Candle In The Wind' with just Elton's vocals backed by Davey Johnstone's acoustic guitar. He's off on a nine-date US jaunt in September. More at tour.eltonjohn.com.
Song: Big Girls Cry
Artist: Sia, Australia
Album: 1000 Forms of Fear, 2014
Notes: Directly contradicting Fergie, this is Adelaide-born Australian Sia Kate Isobelle Furler, better known as Sia, with a big bold new offering from her sixth long-player. The album's title is revealing: despite her growing success and popularity, she is uncomfortable with the public demands of fame and refuses to undertake promotion for her new record. She battled a serious episode of depression and anxiety a few years ago, before hitting the big-time as a co-writer for huge hits by Flo Rida, Rihanna and Beyonce - but she's declined to tour or do press appearances for the album. Her explanation on her twitter account that she 'was born from the bumhole of a unicorn named Steve' might well explain her problems. More at siamusic.net.
Song: Voodoo Child
Artist: Angelique Kidjo, Benin
Album: Oremi, 1998
Notes: A fantastic bridge on a world music update of the Jimi Hendrix classic. Hailed by Time magazine as 'Africa's premiere Diva,' the 54-year-old has a solid canon of world music albums under her belt - 12 releases over 26 years. Fluent in four languages, French, English, Foruba and Fon, she was also included in the BBC's list of Africa's 50 most iconic figures, and named one of the 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa by Forbes.
Song: Dancing Shoes
Artist: Green River Ordinance, Fort Worth, TX
Notes: Banjo, harmonia, mandolin, an old Hammond organ and unintended vocal shades of Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, from a Texan quintet fronted by Josh Jenkins. In addition to making fine music, they also have a big social conscience, launching their own charity website called thehopegros - that's 'the hope GROS.com', on which you can buy individual tracks with all proceeds going to a charity of your choice. They get their name from a legal ruling that prohibits door-to-door sales unless the homeowner gives permission to do so. They have half-a-dozen dates through the month. More at greenriverordinance.com.
Artist: Greg Laswell, San Diego, CA
Notes: Yet another quiet diamond from the L&F favorite, housed on his soft reflective and utterly brilliant remakes collection issued earlier this year. He said of the album: 'The idea for (it) 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.'
Artist: George Ezra, England
Album: Wanted On Voyage, 2014
Notes: The mature blue-eyed vocal style of 21-year-old British newcomer George Ezra with a rather crafty catchy dance/pop cut, co-written and co-produced by Joel Pott of the wonderful band Athlete. The track has already made its way around many charts in Europe as his breakout success. He arrived on the scene at last year's Glastonbury Festival and has a sellout UK tour coming up in October. You wouldn't know it from this record but he cites being musically influenced most by Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. More at georgeezra.com.
Song: Whisper Low
Artist: Adam Agin, Nashville, TN
Notes: Underrated singer-songwriter with another melancholic delight, the second single from his 2012 album, showing strong shades of Ed Sheeran in his overall sound. Often referred to by critics and fans as Nashville's best kept secret, he released one EP and two lovely albums before teaming up with William T. Cook as Neulore. They're currently playing some dates with Ingrid Michaelson and have a debut album, 'Animal Evolve', released on September 23rd. More at neulore.com.
Artist: Dan Fogelberg, Peoria, IL
Album: Wild Places, 1990
Notes: A top-tier slice of vintage singer-songwriting from the sadly departed Dan Fogelberg. He was given his first guitar by his grandfather and this fascinating and intensely melodic lost diamond makes specific reference to his Scottish mother and Swedish father. So much great music from him and such a shame he went somewhat out of vogue towards the end of his career. Gone too soon at just 56 in 2007 but certainly not forgotten, he's being inducted in the Colorado Music Hall of Fame with Joe Walsh this year, and deservedly so, and a tribute LP titled 'The Graylings Project' is expected soon. More at danfogelberg.com.
Song: Red Dirt Girl
Artist: Emmylou Harris, Birmingham, AL
Album: Red Dirt Girl, 2000
Notes: A woeful blue collar tale, a southern trapped tragedy, a girl growing up with no hope, no ambition, no favors, consigned to a loveless working class existence with mean parents, getting pregnant too soon, married to a truck driving brute, five kids in no time - she lost her dog, lost her mind, lost her life at just 27. Still making wonderful music, her recent collaboration with Rodney Crowell won the Grammy for Best Americana recording, and takes it out on the road with several dates coming up. More at emmylouharris.com.
Artist: Ella Henderson, England
Album: Chapter One, 2014
Notes: A top-drawer production, beginning to make big waves across Europe and just issued in the US, from a finalist on the ninth series of 'X Factor' in the UK, and immediately snapped up by Simon Cowell's Syco label - despite finishing sixth. The 18-year-old's video of 'Ghost' passed the 10 million views mark on YouTube last week and much of its success can be attributed the name of Ryan Tedder amongst its writers and producers. More at ellahenderson.co.uk.
Song: Tell Me You Want Me Back
Artist: Roland Gift, England
Album: Roland Gift, 2002
Notes: Indistinguishable from his Fine Young Cannibal hits, this is their former lead singer on a rare solo outing from his long-deleted self-titled solo album from 2002. The British trio themselves only made it through two albums together before splitting in 1992. In a recent newspaper interview he explained where he's been all this time: 'When I became a dad in 1991, I just thought to myself, Can I be bothered with all this? Financially I was OK, so I decided to take a couple of years off and that turned into 20 years! I don't regret that because I had my life back. Me and the missus are still together and I got to see my kids grow up. That's worth more than anything.' A couple of years ago he began writing a script for a new British TV crime drama and he's making music again, performing at a handful of festivals this summer in the UK.
Song: I Will Be There
Artist: Odessa, Santa Rosa, CA
Album: Odessa [EP], 2014
Notes: An airy hypnotic groove from a Californian songstress in her mid-'0s who has made Los Angeles her home. She has been touring with a wide variety of bands since 2008, but only now is her maiden EP emerging, a self-titled effort which will be available in a couple of weeks. This track was released as a single back in January and received widespread exposure in a recent Subaru TV ad. More at facebook.com/thisisodessa.
Song: Road To Nowhere
Artist: Release The Sunbird, Oakland, CA
Album: Imaginary Summer, 2012
Notes: In 2010, Zach Schwartz (aka Zach Rogue), the leader of Rogue Wave, took time out from group activities and travelled to Bloomington, Indiana and spent time in a friend's studio. The resultant recording turned into the album 'Come Back To Us' released in July 2011 and was followed by an EP the following February. Schwartz's career in music began after he lost his job in the dot.com bust and as leader of Rogue Wave he has been responsible for five albums-worth of material over the past decade, the most recent being 'Nightingale Floors' in June 2013. More at roguewavemusic.com.
Song: Road To Nowhere
Artist: Talking Heads, Scotland/Fort Campbell, KY/Coronado, CA/Milwaukee, WI
Album: Little Creatures, 1985
Notes: The band called it quits in 1991, reunited just once for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 but there's nothing since then - and don't hold your breath - never one to dwell on the past, David Byrne is on record as saying 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.'