Song: Uncertain Smile
Artist: The The, England
Album: Soul Mining, 1993
Notes: The The was a collection of musicians led by British indie-rocker, Matt Johnson who cut most of the album on his own in New York, while the virtuouso piano solo comes courtesy of Jools Holland. The 'Soul Mining 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition Boxset', a remastered and expanded version of the original, was released in June. In a recent interview, Johnson said the 'Soul Mining' came about during a 'very intense period between leaving school and recording (the album) because my mum wouldn't let me have a moped'. More at www.thethe.com.
Song: Fall Like Rain
Artist: Feeling, England
Album: Boy Cried Wolf, 2013
Notes: The five members of the Feeling came together to make music while attending the University of Westminster in London, indeed all studying for a Bachelor of Arts in Commercial Music. It clearly paid off. Having served their collective apprenticeship as a covers band called Superfly which gained a residency at a ski resort in the Alps, they formally launched themselves as the Feeling about ten years ago: four popular albums on home turf in Britain, but they remain a well-kept secret over here which is a bit odd given their sturdy brand of melodic rock. More at www.thefeeling.com.
Song: This Is The Life
Artist: Amy MacDonald, Scotland
Album: This Is The Life, 2007
Notes: A 20-something folk rocker from Bishopbriggs, a town in the Scottish highlands, who was inspired to take up the guitar and career in music after seeing Travis perform in concert in 2000. This track was a top three smash all over Europe in 2008 and was subsequently used in a stylish Fiat TV. Despite performing the song on the Ellen DeGeneres chat show, it never caught on over here. She's currently polishing off her fourth album - keep up with her at www.amymcdonald.com.
Song: This Isn't The End
Artist: Owl City, Owatonna, MN
Album: Ultraviolet [EP], 2014
Notes: Another catchy melody from multi-instrumentalist/singer-songwriter Adam Young who goes by the name Owl City. He's performed under a number of names except his own, previously fronting Sky Sailing, The Atlantic, Swimming With Dolphins, Novel, Port Blue even the poorly named Charlton Heston and The Blast Beats. His major success has of course been via his Owl City moniker, bursting on to the scene with his chart-topping 'Fireflies' back in 2009. More at www.owlcitymusic.com.
Song: Just One Day
Artist: Mighty Oaks, Germany
Album: Just One Day [EP], 2013
Notes: A promising debut by a Berlin-based alternative folk trio, made up of American Ian Hooper, Italian Claudio Donzelli and Craig Saunders from Britain. They've been together for about four years but only just released their formal freshman EP last year. They've become a popular opening act for the likes of Kings of Leon, Churches and First Aid Kit in Europe. More at www.mightyoaksmusic.com.
Song: Hard To Say
Artist: Dan Fogelberg, Peoria, IL
Album: The Innocent Age, 1981
Notes: Glenn Frey is clearly evident on the harmony vocals on a hit from 1981 which you rarely hear on radio anymore from a great album which also boasted 'Run For The Roses', 'Leader Of The Band' and the New Year's Eve chestnut, 'Same Old Lang Syne', which has become Fogelberg's most popular radio oldie. Before he died too soon at the age of just 56 in 2007, he said, 'You've got to just follow your heart and do your best work. For better or worse, I have followed my heart. There is no doubt in my mind or heart that everything I've done is exactly what I intended to do.' 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 Grayling Project' is expected soon. More at www.danfogelberg.com.
Artist: Willie Nelson & Dolly Parton, Abbott TX/Sevierville, TN
Notes: So sweet and therefore inevitably written by Dolly Parton but from Nelson's collaborative country duets album, which also featured other romantic turns with the likes of Alison Krauss, Rosanne Cash, Sheryl Crow, Wynonna, Brandi Carlile, Emmylou Harris and others. Dolly has an uncanny knack of writing pretty little tunes which sound like they are standards but are actually new compositions. She made a triumphant appearance at this summer's Glastonbury Festival in England, by far the most popular performer at the iconic rock gathering - even Metallica were starstruck.
Song: May You Never
Artist: John Martyn, England
Album: Solid Air, 1973
Notes: The mellow, understated talent of a much missed singer-songwriter with one of so many underloved lost treasures in his extensive catalog. The half-English half-Scottish tunesmith's real name was Iain McGeachy and he spent much of his career on Chris Blackwell's legendary Island Records label. In 2008, he performed at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards when he was honored with the Lifetime Achievment Award, with Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones accompanying him on mandolin.
Artist: Jillian Edwards, Richardson, TX
Album: Daydream, 2014
Notes: From this year's blissful 8-track offering of the same name, the dreamy ethereal vocal class of a Texan songstress long featured on 'L&F'. Dripping with quality, songwriting and execution of the highest order, she relocated to Nashville after graduating from Baylor in May of 2011. She says 'I want to make music forever and ever, even if its in coffee shops until I'm a cute, litte old lady.' She's touring this fall with Matthew Perryman-Jones. For dates, check out www.jillianedwards.com.
Song: Haitian Divorce
Artist: Steely Dan, Passaic, NJ/Queens, NY
Album: The Royal Scam, 1976
Notes: Never hot on home turf and, ironically, their only Top 30 showing in the UK, the fabulous Steely Dan, with the distinctive talk box guitar work by session great Dean Parks. Remarkably it dates back almost forty years and sounds fresher and more contemporary than most music out there right now, testimony to the state-of-the-art recording and production techniques always employed by band leaders Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. Still touring regularly, they're in the midst of a nationwide summer trek through September 21st. More at www.steelydan.com.
Artist: Mark Knopfler, England
Album: Privateering, 2012
Notes: Another deft musical orphan by the former Dire Straits founder and leader. The album from which this track comes was described by The Financial Times as 'a fine set of songs about masculine struggle and salvation with a Knopflerian' cast of working-class characters - sailors, farmers, van drivers - and set to a variety of moods: Celtic folk-rock, gnarly blues, gruff rock and roll ... Superb backing from Scottish folk musicians and Nashville session men gives these blue-collar tales an expert craftsman's finish'. It's hard to believe it's been almost 20 years since Dire Straits broke up, but Knopfler's solo career has arguably been even more impressive. More at www.markknopfler.com.
Song: Cedar Lane
Artist: First Aid Kit, Sweden
Album: Stay Gold, 2014
Notes: Yet one more beautiful swayer from the first-rate latest offering from the Swedish sister act of Johnna and Klara Soderberg, despite their utterly authentic American alt-country stylings. They became critics' darling a couple of years ago and it's good to see that Columbia Records has snapped them up for their third album. Their world tour to support the album is underway and will swing into the USA on October 24th - well worth seeing live if you like your Americana served up sweet but Nordic - dates at www.thisisfirstaidkit.com.
Song: Broken Land
Artist: Adventures, Northern Ireland
Album: The Sea Of Love, 1988
Notes: The anthemic sound of 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'. They called it quits in 1993 though have occasionally reformed for gigs around Belfast.
Song: Bright Morning Star
Artist: Cara Dillon, Ireland
Album: Not available
Notes: Stunning new Celtic Folk of the highest order, the beautifully modest art and craft of a singer from the town of Dungiven in Northern Ireland. Steeped in traditional music growing up, she won the All Ireland Singing Trophy at just 14 and joined the band Equation in the mid '90s, where she met her future husband, Sam Lakeman, replacing Kate Rusby. She and Lakeman left to form the duo Polar Star before she began a solo career in 2001, which has seen five fine album releases through to her latest, 'A Thousand Hearts'. More at www.caradillon.co.uk.
Song: Chill In The Air
Artist: Amos Lee featuring Alison Krauss, Philadelphia, PA/Decatur, IL
Notes: Few current tunesmiths so consistently mix evocative lyric writing with organic melodious Americana tunes and authentic believable vocal delivery - he just goes from strength to strength. Signed for five albums and counting to the venerable Blue Note Records label, alternately based in his hometown of Philadelphia and in San Francisco during the winters. Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin and Tony Joe White are among the other guest musicians on this highly-recommended long-player. He's out on the road this summer. More at www.amoslee.com.
Song: Build Me Up From Bones
Artist: Sarah Jarosz, Austin, TX
Album: Build Me Up From Bones, 2013
Notes: Still just 23 years old, which belies the maturity evident in all her work. She took up the mandolin at the tender age of 10 before then becoming extremely proficient on the banjo (she's already well-known in bluegrass circles), and getting her first record contract while still in high school. Her debut album, 'Songs Up In Her Head', picked up a Grammy nomination for Best Country Instrumental Performance, since when she has released 'Follow Me Down' in 2011 followed by last year's 'Build Me Up From Bones'. More at www.sarahjarosz.com.
Artist: Indianapolis Jones, Atlanta, GA
Notes: Way cool incoming Atlanta-based indie-popsters with a choppy percolating winner, arguably the best cut from their sparkling retro-groove 6-track self-titled EP which emerged in April. The group was put together by Yacht Rock Revue alumnus Nicholas Niespodziani and the consistently in-demand Tim Smith, the over-talented axeman for the likes of Noel Gallagher, Sheryl Crow, Jellyfish and more recently, Sarah McLachlan. No website, but become a friend at facebook.com/IndianapolisJonesMusic.
Artist: Emily West & K.S. Rhoads, Waterloo, IA/Tucson, AZ
Album: North Star [EP], 2013
Notes: A cracking ballad laced with some splendid horns in the bridge from a one-off duo. West, born Emily Nemmers, comes from Waterloo, Iowa, but has been long-based, of course, in Nashville, where she's broadened her initial country bent and tried her hand at acting as well, appearing in a 2010 episode of ABC-TV's 'Body Of Proof'. Rhoads, a popular performer on the late night chat shows, began playing around with a four-track recorder at the age of 14 and began a career in music about a decade ago in Nashville, where he's become the longtime music director for L&F preferred artiste, Erin McCarley. In 2008, when his solo debut 'Dead Language' was released, he became the bandleader of the Ten Out Of Tenn tour. He's also a regular opening act for other musicians including David Gray and Chris Isaak. More on them at www.emilywestofficial.com and www.ksrhoads.com.
Song: Inside These Lines
Artist: Trent Dabbs, Jackson, MS
Album: Your Side Now, 2009
Notes: A piano-driven beauty from one of Nashville's finest non-country tunesmiths, who's released six quality albums and a bunch of worthwhile EPs over the past decade. He's also become a real musician's musician, co-founding (with his wife Kristen) the Ten out of Tenn collective whose current members include Erin McCarley, Katie Herzig, Gabe Dixon, Matthew Perryman-Jones and the brilliant Andrew Belle - all of whom are L&F regulars. He's out on the road next month with Amy Stroup on a short Sugar and the Hi-Lows tour. Find out more at www.trentdabbs.com.
Song: We Are Done
Artist: Madden Brothers, Waldorf, MD
Album: We Are Done [single], 2014
Notes: A nice retro vibe with some happy '60s inflections, a moorish guitar refrain and a fab chorus from the Madden siblings, Joel and Benji, the leading lights of alternative rockers Good Charlotte. They took a hiatus from the group in 2011, releasing a mixtape called 'The Madden Brothers - Before Volume 1', which featured new artists the brothers had faith in. After a long sabbatical and time spent in Australia, the most tattooed twins in showbiz worked on their first album, 'Greetings From California', which will be released next month. More at themaddenbrothers.com.
Song: It Must Be Love
Artist: Madness, England
Album: Total Madness, 1997
Notes: Known here for 'Our House' and not much else, Madness are a national treasure back in the UK. They came together in the Camden Town district of London in 1976 and put together a string of 22 consecutive hit singles over a seven-year span. They've broken up a couple of times but then reformed, but even now not all of the original members join in the fun. They were the opening act at the closing ceremony for the London Olympic Games in 2012 and are back on the road through the end of the year, playing sellout dates in massive venues. More at www.madness.co.uk.
Artist: Toni Braxton, Severn, MD
Album: Secrets, 1996
Notes: The fourth single (though never a hit) taken from her multi-platinum selling second album 'Secrets', it was co-written and produced by Babyface and featured Kenny G on saxophone - hopefully this will be the only time he'll ever be heard on 'L&F'. Releasing only four more albums in the intervening years, amid rumors of health issues, she returned earlier this year in top form with an album of duets with Babyface, titled 'Love, Marriage & Divorce'. More at www.tonibraxton.com.
Song: Fake Empire
Artist: National, Cincinnati, OH
Album: Boxer, 2007
Notes: A sturdy quintet comprising Matt Berninger and two pairs of brothers, the Dessners and the Devendorfs, who've been around for 15 years cutting six albums in all. A fascinating recent documentary about the group is currently making the rounds: 'Mistaken For Strangers' is a remarkably frank depiction of life on the road produced by Berninger's brother Tom, a film school dropout who was fired as the band's roadie during a 2011 tour but stayed with the tour regardless, simply filming all of its trials and tribulations and documenting his combustible relationship with his brother - it's very confessional, played to strong notices at last year's Tribeca Film Festival. They're playing a handful of North American dates at the end of the month.
Song: Poison In My Veins
Artist: Rebecca Roubion, Mobile, AL
Album: Forests [EP], 2013
Notes: An alumnus of LSU, born in Mobile, Alabama, Roubion released a couple of EPs in 2012 and 2013 funded by a 164% crowdsourcing effort. A gifted pianist and singer-songwriter, much influenced by the music of Carole King and the late Eva Cassidy among others, she says that she was 'born of an oversized heart, raised by her hands and voice, every composition is a child'. There's a limited edition CD of her maiden album 'The Old, The Young' now available at her website www.RebeccaRoubion.com, combining tracks from her two EPs and two singles to date.
Artist: Saint Johns, St. Augustine, FL
Album: Open Water [EP], 2013
Notes: Sweet, easy harmonies, a broken heart, a lovely string arrangement and deft execution, a lost gem from the debut release by the Americana duo of Jordan Meredith and Louis Johnson originally out of Florida, indeed naming themselves after the river which wends its way through their home state, but they've now migrated north to Nashville. This gorgeous number is one of five currently streaming on their website www.thesaintjohns.com.
Song: Love And Mercy
Artist: Brian Wilson, Hawthorne, CA
Album: Brian Wilson, 1988
Notes: This simply could not be anyone other than the harmonic genius of Brian Wilson - all of the multi-layered vocal parts on the song were recorded by him. 'Love And Mercy' is also the title of an upcoming biographical film about Wilson scheduled for theatrical release in October with actors Paul Dano and John Cusack playing the young and older Brians respectively - and look out for Paul Giamatti's portrayal of the manipulative Dr. Eugene Landy who allefedly exploited Wilson through the '70s and '80s. There's also a brand new album due from Wilson by year's end reportedly featuring collaborations with Beck, Kacey Musgraves, Nate Ruess of Fun - even a duet with Lana Del Rey on a new ballad 'Last Song', which documents the legend's dismay about the dissolution of the Beach Boys. WIlson will be playing three California dates soon joined by Al Jardine. More at www.brianwilson.com.
Song: O City Lights
Artist: Gregory Alan Isakov, South Africa
Album: The Weatherman, 2013
Notes: Johannesburg, South African-born, but long settled in rural Colorado, Isakov has produced five immensely tasteful indie-folk long-players since bowing in 2003, his latest effort being 'The Weatherman' of which he says, 'I think the songs I chose are about noticing the beauty in normal, everyday life. I wanted to make something that felt genuine. We recorded everything with analogue gear and mixed it on tape, which gives the songs a raw and vulnerable feeling.' He's playing at Bumbershoot at the end of the month and then the Americana Music Festival in Nashville in September. More at his splendid website www.gregoryalanisakov.com.
Song: Born Blind
Artist: Emily Wolfe, Austin, TX
Album: Night And Day [EP], 2013
Notes: A big hit at this year's SXSW, Emily is based in that festival's ever-vibrant music town of Austin, Texas, where she can often be found performing at the Saxon Pub. The multi-instrumentalist/singer-songwriter's musical taste includes the likes of The National, Radiohead and Leonard Cohen and she has so far released just one full-length album, a couple of delicious EPs and the 2014 single 'Swoon' to date. More at www.emilywolfemusic.com.
Song: Sad Machine
Artist: Porter Robinson, Chapel Hill, NC
Album: Worlds, 2014
Notes: Catchy stuff, already making its way around the dancefloors from the widely regarded electronic producer and DJ. Just 22, he has been mixing and producing since the age of 12. Still based in his hometown of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, he's already a veteran of major music festivals including Bonnaroo, Coachella and the Future Music Festival. More at www.porterrobinson.com.
Song: Battle Of The Heart
Artist: The Brevet, Irvine, CA
Album: Battle Of The Heart, 2012
Notes: Brash, anthemic Americana rock by The Brevet and the title cut from their self-produced freshman album. The plucky three-piece formed in 2012 in Irvine, California, describing themselves as producing 'cinematic sounds from Orange County - combining Americana rock, sweeping orchestral tracks, gang vocals, unforgettable choruses, and connective emotional lyrics'. One of their fans accurately describes their music a cross betweeen Kings of Leon and Mumford & Sons. More at www.thebrevet.com.
Artist: David Gray, England
Album: Life In Slow Motion, 2005
Notes: A simply stunning song from an album put together after a three-year hiatus from the business of making music. After a burst of creativity which saw six albums released over a decade, he only made three in the following ten years before returning with a brand new record, 'Mutineers', in June. After a long time away from these shores, he's in the midst of a lengthy US tour, ending on October 17th - dates at www.davidgray.com.
Artist: Gary Go, England
Album: Gary Go, 2009
Notes: This should have been a monster hit - a perfect pop/rock outing, screaming for airplay, but it sank like Robin Thicke's latest effort. Born Gary Baker in London, he's a multi-media maven, very much a tech whiz, top songwriter and also a visual artist who makes interesting short films - the only negative on his resume is that Lady Gaga named him as her 'favorite new artist this year' in 2009. More at www.garygo.tv.
Artist: Clubfeet, Australia/South Africa
Album: Gold On Gold, 2010
Notes: A top-drawer infectious dance pop/rock track from the five-piece Australian/South African combo which has been featured on 'L&F' before. Led by Sebastian Cohen from Cape Town, but based in Melbourne, they've released a couple of albums - this rolling cracker is on their debut album, but their 2013 sophomore set 'Heirs & Graces' is also well worth checking out. More details at www.helloclubfeet.com.
Song: Straight For The Knife
Artist: Sia, Australia
Album: 1000 Forms of Fear, 2014
Notes: Confessional anthemic pop/soul from her new opus, '1000 Forms of Fear', which is 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 www.siamusic.net.
Song: Heart Of Gold
Artist: Genevieve Toupin, Canada
Notes: A classically trained pianist and vocalist, Toupin grew up in the Canadian province of Manitoba. After spending time in Paris in her teens, she moved to Montreal in 2004, where she teamed up with Benoit Morier. He produced her self-titled 2009 debut as well as co-producing her 2012 'The Ocean Pictures Project' album. She also contributed 'Little Sparrow' to the wonderfully titled soundtrack 'The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom'. More at www.genevievetoupin.com.
Song: Heart Of Gold
Artist: Neil Young, Canada
Album: Harvest, 1972
Notes: In a career spanning six decades, Young has only managed to top the US charts singles once and it was with this classic, which has been covered by at least 30 different artists, including Willie Nelson, Matchbox Twenty and Dave Matthews. James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt helped Young out on backing vocals and years after its success, he described it thus: 'This song put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I saw more interesting people there'.