Song: This Is The Last Time
Artist: Keane, England
Album: Hopes And Fears, 2004
Notes: Despite its note-perfect radio-ready beats and melodies and four different promotional videos, this corker was never a hit in the US. After four albums, five world tours and a greatest hits package released last year, the English band is on an extended hiatus, taking a well-deserved breather, while there is a rumor that lead singer Tom Chaplin has been toying around with a solo album. More at keanemusic.com.
Song: How About I Be Me
Artist: Sinead O'Connor, Ireland
Notes: A new version of a track she originally recorded in a completely different reggae style as a 2011 single, but now the lead-off track on her most recent album. She claims that the cut is the only autobiograpical tune on the new collection, which is her tenth studio release. Yet another tour de force, multi-genre winner by the now 47-year old songstress who gets satirically all dolled up in a wig, full make-up and a tight black latex dress on the cover. More at sineadoconnor.com.
Song: On a Day Just Like Today
Artist: Gabe Dixon, Augusta, GA
Album: My Favorite [EP], 2011
Notes: Some lovely banjo plucking way back in the mix on yet another brilliant melodic lost nugget from an 'L&F' favorite. It's been a couple of years now since he liberated himself from his former backing band with whom he recorded a brace of exceptional albums and EPs over some ten years. Gabe is a ridiculously talented old school tunesmith, singer and pianist, much in demand as a musician for other artists - he's played in Paul McCartney's backing band and is even a sometime touring member of Supertramp. He's got some dates coming up next month. More at gabedixon.com, where you can also download an mp3 from his new album.
Song: Radio City Serenade
Artist: Mark Knopfler, England
Album: Privateering, 2012
Notes: Such modest, deft class on another beautifully crafted Celtic-laced tale from the recipient of the 2012 Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement Award - the most prestigious British songwriters' award. He somehow continues to mature and refine his art while others of his generation fall away in the other direction. 'Privateering', which took a mystifying 18 months to make it to the US market after its European release, is his first double album and his seventh solo effort following his disbanding of Dire Straits in 1995. More at markknopfler.com.
Artist: Jeremy Messersmith, Charleston, SC
Album: Heart Murmurs, 2014
Notes: Tasty, lovely melodic sensibilities matched with neat lyrics on the standout cut from the Minneapolis-based singer/songwriter's fourth long-player. Politically active, he did some opening gigs at election rallies for both President Obama and Vice-Election Joe Biden. Named as Time magazine's One of 14 Artists to Watch in 2014, he appeared on the 'Late Show With David Letterman' back in August and has a one-off date in Minneapolis next month. More at jeremymessersmith.com.
Song: Get Here
Artist: Brenda Russell, Brooklyn, NY
Album: Get Here, 1988
Notes: The original version of Oleta Adams' 1991 smash, written and originally recorded three years earlier by underrated songstress Brenda Russell, inspired to do so while watching hot air balloons floating over the city of Stockholm where she was staying. She is an A-list pianist singer-songwriter, both Grammy and Tony nominated, now in her 60s, her fabulous repertoire and vocal pipes have been used by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell and Donna Summer. Both her parents were singers (her father was once a member of the Ink Spots), she's recorded only eight albums over the past 35 years, the last coming in 2004. More at brendarussell.com.
Song: David Livingstone
Artist: Jon Bryant, Canada
Album: What Takes You, 2012
Notes: Sweet pensive notes, titled after the famous Scottish explorer David Livingstone conceived by a Canadian singer-songwriter/guitarist from Nova Scotia. Musically influenced by the likes of Jeff Buckley, Neil Young, Thom Yorke and Elliott Smith, he is currently polishing off his third long-player. This fall he embarked on his 'Ask Me About Playing In Your House' tour, which was exactly what it says it was. More at jonbryant.ca.
Artist: The Wind & The Wave, Austin, TX
Album: From The Wreckage, 2014
Notes: In-tune creative duo and best friends, Patricia Lynn and Dwight Baker (apparently Baker is the Wind and Lynn the Wave) hail from Austin, Texas. They met in 2009, when music veteran Baker (his song 'Hole' appeared on Kelly Clarkson's 'My December' album) was persuaded to go and see a friend's band - the opening act featured Lynn. Knee-deep in rootsy, rustic golden tunes, their outstanding freshman longplayer is highly recommended - one of the best organic albums of the year, hailed by the New York Times as 'an eclectic, radio friendly cycle that ranges from dreamy pop to foot-stomping Americana'. They're currently on the road with Bob Schenider. For details, go to thewindandthewave.com.
Song: Gypsy Lady
Artist: Peter Bradley Adams, Birmingham, AL
Album: The Mighty Storm, 2014
Notes: From his consistently literate last offering, the every reliable L&F show regular, who hails from Birmingham, Alabama but is now based in New York. Such an understated, modest and thoughtful melody maker, Adams was formerly in the terrific duo Eastmountainsouth with Kat Maslich-Bode, releasing one perfect eponymous album in 2003 - it's a true masterpiece. (After they split, Maslich-Bode took a break from music, but has a solo EP 'The Road Of Six', which is well worth checking out.) Adams has cut five delicious solo sets since 2006, each one of them simply packed with precious lost Americana gems, and he's wrapping up a short tour this week. More at peterbradleyadams.com.
Artist: Patti Austin, Harlem, NY
Album: End Of A Rainbow, 1976
Notes: A forgiving lost diamond from the singer's maiden LP released 38 years ago. The R&B great began her recording career on CTI Records, a superb mostly jazz-leaning label founded by producer Creed Taylor whose roster also included George Benson, Bob James, Hubert Laws and Nina Simone. She has just turned 64 and is currently working on a new album of duets with James Ingram which should emerge next year. She still tours every year and is always a popular addition to many a vintage jazz/soul revue. More at pattiaustin.com.
Artist: Jump Little Children, Winston Salem, NC
Notes: So much unrewarded but first-rate fare from its 15 years together by a band who sadly called it quits back in 2005, with former members now scattered across the country. They formed at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem in 1991, naming themselves after an old Brownie McGhee blues number. A tight, melodic brand of indie-rock yielding six albums in all. Former leader Jay Clifford, who released a solo album called 'Silver Tomb For The Kingfisher' three years ago, now devotes most of his time to his own Hello Telescope recording studios in Charleston, where he produced L&F alumnus William Fitzsimmons' 2011 album 'Gold In The Shadow'.
Song: Wish I Was Here
Artist: Cat Power & Coldplay, England
Album: Wish I Was Here, 2014
Notes: Charlyn Marie Marshall, better known as Cat Power, duetting with Coldplay on the title theme to last summer's movie of the same name - the followup to Zach Braff's seminal 'Garden State' film which set a new standard for artist compilation soundtracks. The new one boasts choice cuts by The Shins, Gary Jules, Bon Iver and Badly Drawn Boy among others. More on Ms. Power, who took part in an Elliott Smith tribute concert in Brooklyn, New York last year, at catpowermusic.com.
Song: To Mention Her
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'. This track features the lovely Angie Hart, fellow Aussie and former leader of Frente! No website, but more can be found at facebook.com/jaelaffermusic.
Song: Love Like Blood
Artist: Killing Joke, England
Album: Night Time, 1985
Notes: A full-on post-punk chugger from Killing Joke, regarded as their signature song and one which paved the way for a lot of industrial and grunge rock which has followed in its wake. The group formed in Notting Hill London in 1978 around frontman Jaz Coleman and also featured Martin Glover, who went on to great success as producer Youth and is still going strong after 14 uncompromising albums. 'The Death And Destruction Show', a rather interesting documentary chronicling their career, is expected in cinemas soon and includes tributes from the likes of Jimmy Page, Dave Grohl and New Order's Peter Hook.
Song: That's Who I Am
Artist: Neko Case, Alexandria, VA
Notes: Born in Virginia and brought up in Tacoma, Washington, she has lived up in Canada for a while and became very much a part of the folk-rock Canadian music scene; she is also a long time collaborator with The New Pornographers band, subsequently flitting around to Seattle and Chicago. Now in her 40s, she recorded this song for last year's John Mellencamp/Stephen King music play, 'Ghost Brothers Of Darkland County', which was a rich, rootsy, backwoods collection of new songs written by Mellencamp as the haunting soundtrack to author Stephen King's supernatural musical play - a sort an old-school radio drama featuring a slew of luminaries including Kris Kristofferson, Ryan Bingham and Elvis Costello. She's currently on the road with The New Pornogaphers. More at nekocase.com.
Song: Hello Old Friend
Artist: Kim Richey, Kettering, OH
Album: Glimmer, 1999
Notes: So well crafted, rich simplicity, the subtle acoustic meanderings of a highly literate country singer-songwriter originally from Ohio who has been in the music business for nearly 20 years. A successful composer for other artists including Trisha Yearwood, The Dixie Chicks and Patty Loveless among many others, the two-time Grammy-nominated artist has a loyal following but has been largely ignored by the mainstream. She has three dates in Texas coming up before heading over to the UK before Christmas. More at kimrichey.com.
Song: You Got Me
Artist: Magnet, Norway
Album: The Simple Life, 2007
Notes: The smart, clever folk-tronica textures of Even Johansen, who likes to go under the performing alias of Magnet. Sorely underrated, few people outside of Scandinavia know him, but he's recorded five intriguing albums over the past ten years or so, solely composed, performed and produced by him, although there's been nothing from him since 2011. Likened by UK music paper the NME to Tim Buckley and Coldplay, you can find more on him at magnetmusic.no or facebook.com/pages/Magnet/126072640763543.
Artist: Procol Harum, England
Album: Procol Harum, 1967
Notes: The followup to their iconic 'A Whiter Shade Of Pale' - indeed both songs were not a million miles away from each other and both all the better for the rich Hammond keyboard sound supplied by Matthew Fisher, who in 2009 finally won a lawsuit on the grounds that his organ solo on 'Whiter Shade' constituted part of the song's composition. The group was founded by Gary Brooker in 1967 and is still going strong - Brooker being its only original member - and played several gigs in the US over the summer.
Song: Getting Away With It
Artist: Electronic, England
Album: Electronic, 1991
Notes: The very first single by the English supergroup featuring ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys and New Order's Bernard Sumner, who collectively wrote, recorded and produced this much overlooked modern rock lost gem. It got a few spins when it first came out in the 1989, and was written as an acerbic poke at Marr's former Smiths co-founder, Morrissey. (Heaven knows how miserable he is now.) The little orchestral coda was supplied by composer Anne Dudley and one-time member of the Art of Noise.
Song: Hear Me Out
Artist: Frou Frou, England
Album: Details, 2002
Notes: An electronic lost diamond from the pairing of vocalist Imogen Heap and producer Guy Sigsworth. They only recorded the one album together, and it's somewhat of a lost classic, stuffed with similarly imaginative cuts. Heap subsequently launched a successful solo career and has recently released a brand spanking new album - her fourth, titled 'Sparks', while Sigsworth returned to much in-demand production duties for the likes of Alanis Morissette and Britney Spears. More on Heap at imogenheap.co.uk.
Artist: David Bowie, England
Notes: An iconic and cosmic highlight from the early part of Bowie's career, it very nearly didn't make the cut for his 'Ziggy Stardust' LP and somehow stalled at #65 on the Billboard Hot 100. The great British DJ John Peel regarded the song as an instant classic and was largely responsible for airing it in the UK. It's been much covered over the years by other acts including Culture Club and 10,000 Maniacs and was included in Q Magazine's 100 Greatest Singles of All-Time list in 1999.
Song: History Repeating
Artist: Propellerheads featuring Shirley Bassey, England/Wales
Notes: The production chops on this number are too cool for their own good. It's got such an authentic old big beat band feel and has been used in a few US TV commercials over the years but was never a hit on these shores. Featuring the unmistakable female vocal gloss of Dame Shirley Bassey, the veteran Welsh singer perhaps best known for her James Bond theme work, the song was written by Propellerhead Alex Gifford who was one half of the trip-hoppers with Will White. They released their first single in 1996 and their last in 1999 after which the pair dropped off the radar.
Song: All This Time
Artist: Boom Circuits, Los Angeles, CA
Album: The Boom Circuits [EP], 2010
Notes: Describing themselves as an electro/indie/rock pop combo, they comprise the duo of former Casteneda singer Vega Schenk and Black Lab guitarist/programmer producer Andy Ellis and are based in Los Angeles. Like many artists these days they're doing things they're own way - trying to make it happen without a record label. Their song 'Everything And Nothing' made its way on to 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Pt. 2' soundtrack album. After a couple of sparkling EPS, their freshman album, 'If and Or' finally dropped back in May. Check them out at theboomcircuits.com or on facebook - just add theboomcircuits.
Song: A Thousand Words
Artist: Styrofoam, Belgium
Album: A Thousand Words, 2008
Notes: Styrofoam is the performing name of Belgian musician Arne Van Petegem, who pioneered the rather odd 'glitch electronica' genre in the mid-'90s. He talks of the title track from his sixth album, which features guest appearances from Josh Rouse and Jimmy Eat World's Jim Adkins, and Josh Rouse by saying, 'I'm very interested in presenting all these weird sounds, bleeps etc., in a package that is quite accessible overall. But when you listen a little deeper, there is still a lot more there to discover.' More at myspace.com/styrofoam, although in November 2012, he announced 'Styrofoam will be taking a break for now or for ever and ever. Don't worry though, things will be happening over here www.facebook.com/COHOLIPS' - a new collaboration with vocalist Chantal Acda.
Song: Ask Me To
Artist: Andrea Davidson, Louisville, KY
Album: Inspirit [EP], 2013
Notes: An outstanding ballad with a top-notch upright piano bridge from a 20-something singer-songwriter/guitarist from Louisville, Kentucky who recently made Nashville her home. If you like her, book her for one of her house concerts. She'll come to your home and perform - barefoot as always, with your guests making a donation on arrival. More at andreadavidson.net, where it reads: 'An Andrea Davidson song, once heard, will be stuck in your head, while you're lying in bed. Come wired or tired, she promises you will leave inspired.' Ever a true word.
Artist: Sarah Slean, Canada
Album: Day One, 2004
Notes: A mellifluous rolling winner and yet more marvellous music from Canada from an Ontario-born singer-songwriter, pianist, poet and actress. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in philosophy and music and has produced six long-players since bowing in 1998. Details at sarahslean.com, where you can also peruse her art gallery - yes she paints as well.
Song: A Lovestory
Artist: Thomas Dybdahl, Norway
Notes: Channelling the great folk pioneer Nick Drake, Norwegian singer/songwriter Thomas Dybdahl, who's been making terrific music since quitting The Quadraphonics as its lead guitarist in 2000. It was originally on his highly acclaimed third album but was also included on Dybdahl's debut collection in the US simply called 'Songs' in 2011 - which was merely a compilation of his best work to date over the previous ten years and the first release on the Strange Cargo label founded by producer Larry Klein.
Song: Down With You
Artist: Ellie Lawson, England
Album: Philosophy Tree, 2005
Notes: The pleasing percolating sound of an English folk-pop singer-songwriter from London who flits with ease from acoustic pop to full-on EDM. Ellen DeGeneres is a big fan of hers, saying in 2008 'I play her music over and over again in my house ' I predict she will be the hugest, hugest star'. Regrettably that hasn't happened yet. Since her recording debut in 2005, she has released a series of EPs and albums, most recently this year's 'Hidden Treasures'. More at ellielawson.com.
Song: The Getaway
Artist: Athlete, England
Album: Black Swan, 2009
Notes: Since signing to the Parlophone label a decade ago and then seeing their brilliant debut album being Mercury Music prize-nominated, they have taken the less commercial route and musically the better for it. This is one of several fine cuts showcasing the songwriting and vocals chops of their ridiculously talented frontman, Joel Pott. There have been four grossly under-appreciated albums since, as well as a website download only of 'Vehicles & Animals Live', a live recording of their debut album, which came out last year. They've had a few songs featured in American TV series and movies including the Oscar-winning 'The Hurt Locker', but they're still searching for that elusive US breakthrough. More at athlete.mu.
Artist: Pretenders, Akron, OH/England
Album: The Isle Of View, 1995
Notes: The confessional lost classic by the Chrissie Hynde-led band, heard in its beautifully unplugged form, with a string quartet tastefully replacing the rock backdrop of the original recording from 1979. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the band released new material in 2008 with the album 'Break Up The Concrete,' and then re-formed for a one-off appearance at the 2012 Singapore Grand Prix (as musicians rather than racing drivers). Hynde recently issued her first solo set called 'Stockholm', which, sad to say, doesn't come close to matching her work with The Pretenders. She began a US tour in New York last week and will be playing across the country through December 6th. More at chrissiehynde.com.
Song: A Long Time Ago
Artist: First Aid Kit, Sweden
Album: Stay Gold, 2014
Notes: Yet another corker from their first-rate latest long-player, the Swedish sister act of Johanna and Klara Soderberg, who became critics' darlings a couple of years ago and good to see that Columbia Records has snapped them up for their third album. Their erudite lyrics are all the more remarkable for their being Swedish. They have just recorded a cover of R.E.M's 'Walk Unafraid' to be featured in the new Reese Witherspoon movie 'Wild'. Their world tour to promote the album is in mid-stream - well worth seeing live if you like your Americana served up sweet but Nordic - dates at thisisfirstaidkit.com.
Song: I Could Be Happy
Artist: Altered Images, Scotland
Album: Pinky Blue, 1982
Notes: Defined by a typically naive mid-'80s British new wave rhythmic backdrop and the cute pixie vocals of Clare Grogan, a group formed by a bunch of high school chums in Glasgow, Scotland in 1979. Discovered and mentored by Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie & The Banshees, they scored a handful of hits on home turf. Produced by the legendary British new-wave helmer Martin Rushent, the man behind The Human League, The Stranglers and The Buzzcocks among many ohers, and who died too young at age 62 in 2011. Grogan went on to become an actress and popular TV presenter in Britain while bassist Johnny McEhlone ended up in another Scottish combo, Texas.
Song: Memories & Dust
Artist: Josh Pyke, Australia
Album: Memories And Dust, 2007
Notes: A Top 10 success in his native Australia in 2007 from a Sydney-based singer/songwriter, who's developed niche followings in both the UK, where he's performed at the Glastonbury Festival and the US, including a couple of appearances at SXSW. He's also opened for the likes of Passenger and Ben Kweller and deserves a wider berth. Over the past five years, he has helped raise over $43,000 for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation through his annual Busking for Change charity event. He was hoping that this year's show would put the charitable contributions over the $50,000 mark. The pennies are still being counted. More at joshpyke.com.
Artist: Vusi Mahlasela, South Africa
Album: Miyela Africa, 2000
Notes: Singing in his native Zulu, the outstanding South African musician with the beautiful world music outing, 'Amdokwe', which is Zulu for 'corn'. He's been quietly recording superb African folk music for more than 20 years. He made his first album, 'When You Come Back', in 1992 and two years later performed at Nelson Mandela's presidential inauguration as well as at the closing of the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. Signed for some years now to Dave Matthews' discerning ATO Records label, he will be embarking on the 20 Years of Freedom tour next February with Hugh Masekela. More at vusimahlasela.com.
Song: Hold Me Now
Artist: Lazlo Bane, Santa Monica, CA
Notes: Santa Monica-based alt-rockers with their faithful take on The Thompson Twins' 1983 worldwide smash. The band was formed in 1995 by frontman Chad Fischer who has since struck up a close musical relationship with Men at Work's Colin Hay, not least producing tracks for him and playing in his backing band over many years. The group is perhaps best known for its song 'Superman', which has been the theme tune to the 'Scrubs' TV show, when it kicked off in 2001 - though actually used a year earlier in the movie 'The Tao Of Steve'. (They took their name from the main character in the novel 'Theme Park Roadkill'.) More at myspace.com/lazlobaneofficial.
Song: Hold Me Now
Artist: Thompson Twins, England/New Zealand
Album: Into The Gap, 1983
Notes: The Thompson Twins, who were neither Thompsons nor twins but named after the bumbling detectives in Herge's 'The Adventures of Tintin', with their biggest pop hit and one of the band's three #1 US Hot Dance Club Play smashes. Revolving around the core group of Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway, they racked up a string of hits in the late '70s/'80s before disbanding in 1993. Bailey is still out there doing his thing, having just finished the Retro Futura Tour along with Howard Jones, Midge Ure, China Crisis and Katrina.