Song: If I Could
Artist: Blue Merle, Nashville, TN
Album: Burning In The Sun,
Notes: Bitter-sweet, literate Americana from the short-lived band led by Luke Reynolds, whose vocal style is a bit like a high-country-tinged Chris Martin. The band was regrettably only around for three years between 2003 and 2006, formed by the way-talented Reynolds in Nashville. They only released a smattering of quality EPs and one complete album which was stuffed with similar bluegrass-laced lost gems. Reynolds has done quite a bit of session work for the likes of Brett Dennen and Bela Fleck over the intervening years - and he joined that fab combo Guster as a multi-instrumentalist in 2010.
Artist: Fink, England
Album: Hard Believer, 2014
Notes: Simple and repetitive but so effective, a persistently haunting track from the creatively ever-restless singer-songwriter/guitarist Fin Greenall. He got together in 2006 with Tim Thornton and Guy Whittaker in the leafy north London outpost of Hampstead to initially form a trio called Fink and he switches between the solo and band name. John Legend enlisted his talents for a track called 'Move' which appeared on the superb '12 Years A Slave' film soundtrack issued last year. More at finkworld.co.uk.
Artist: Caitlin Harnett, Australia
Album: The River Runs North, 2014
Notes: A young lady from Sydney, Australia, who blew the roof off the place at this year's NXNE Music Festival in Toronto, with a current gem, offering a splash of Joni Mitchell and Judee Sill, which is no bad thing. A pleasing Laurel Canyon feel glosses her entire new album, her first, which also features a duet with L&F alumnus Kathleen Edwards. It's an outstanding collection and one of the best singer-songwriter sets of 2014. Emma Dallas of PAN Magazine said of Caitlin's music: 'Her sound is earnest and wonderfully simply, like a straight answer in a sea of bullshit'. More at caitlinharnett.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)'. More at thewarondrugs.net.
Song: Give It Away
Artist: Zero 7, England
Album: Simple Things, 2001
Notes: A soothing easy breezy instrumental cut by the British pairing of Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns, who were a couple of studio engineers who decided to form their own unit in 1997 - they previously engineered for the likes of Lenny Kravitz, Robert Plant and the Pet Shop Boys. This nugget was featured in an episode of 'CSI - Crime Scene Investigation' some years ago. So much smart, melodic electronica created by them. They've said they're heading back into the studio early next year to work on new material. More at facebook.com/Zero7.
Song: By Your Side
Artist: Ben Caver, Hoover, AL
Notes: The acoustic meanderings of a song released about four years ago only on his myspace page - where it still quietly resides. It obviously has a laid-back Jack Johnson-esque tinge to it from an Alabama born singer-songwriter now based in Nashville. After he graduated he teamed up with Rascal Flatts' Jay Demarcus to write his own material. He's been flying under the radar for 10 years and his rather infectious new single, 'You're The One For Me', has just been released on iTunes.
Artist: Todd Rundgren, Upper Darby, PA
Album: Anthology 1974-1985, 1990
Notes: Predictably expert melodic harmony from one of the most diverse and accomplished musicians around with the original version of his self-penned bonding gem, which remains a popular highlight of his live shows though it was never a hit. In addition to fronting his own Utopia band collective in the 1970s, he's recorded more than 20 solo albums and been the producer of scores of successful projects for other acts including The Band, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Meat Loaf, Patti Smith and XTC to name but a few. He's also a university professor who holds fascinating lectures and seminars. More at tr-i.com.
Song: Old Fitzroy
Artist: Missy Higgins, Australia
Album: Oz, 2014
Notes: Few female singers have a more earnest, authentic voice or better vocal intonation than L&F favourite Missy Higgins. Already Top 10 in her home country, her new album is an often lush, orchestral affair on which she tackles covers of songs by other fine Aussie tunesmiths - this track was originally recorded by Dan Sultan. In addition to being one of Australia's best singer-songwriters in her own right, she is also a strident animal rights and environment campaigner and a top vegan. More at missyhiggins.com.
Song: Start A War
Artist: National, Cincinnati, OH
Album: Boxer, 2007
Notes: Sturdy lost modern rock, featured to empathetic perfection in one of the best films of the year, 'St. Vincent', by 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 and played to strong notices at last year's Tribeca Film Festival. More at americanmary.com.
Song: Be The One
Artist: Haerts, Brooklyn, NY
Notes: A track from a bright self-titled, almost flawless, just released debut album from a New York-based combo fronted by German-Americans Nini Fabi and Ben Gebert with a multi-cultural transatlantic lineup, its five members variously hailing from the US, England and Germany. (The band name is pronounced 'Hertz' like the car rental company.) More at haertsmusic.com, where you can stream another three tracks from this superb album.
Song: You Were Born
Artist: Cloud Cult, Owatonna, MN
Album: Light Chasers, 2010
Notes: A gorgeous acoustic gem from the band's simply ebullient 2010 album. The ever-evolving music collective is firmly based around singer-songwriter Craig Minowa who unsurprisingly wrote that number about becoming a dad - all the more poignant given the tragic death of his first-born, two-year old son, Kaidin in 2002. Craig does his absolute best to be carbon neutral, tours in a biodiesel van and lives and works on his own organic farm powered by geothermal energy from where he runs his record label - flying under the radar for far too long. Keep up with Craig and his under-cherished catalog at cloudcult.com.
Artist: Simply Red, England
Album: Stars, 1991
Notes: A soul-pop lost classic of the highest order by blue-eyed soul maestro Mick Hucknall and his band Simply Red. Hucknall named is Simply Red band for three reasons - first after his abiding affection for the Manchester United soccer team, aka the Red Devils; the colour of his flaming red hair and his left-wing political views - red in England denotes a liberal position allied to the Labour Party. The band is currently on the road in Europe, despite having previously played its farewell concert five years ago. More at simplyred.com.
Song: No Ordinary Love
Artist: You + Me, Abington Township, PA/Canada
Album: Rose Ave., 2014
Notes: Bravo to pop diva Alecia Moore aka P!nk for taking a radical left turn musically, linking up with literate Canadian singer-songwriter Dallas Green (aka City & Colour) - heard here in unison on their restrained update of Sade's beautiful 'No Ordinary Love' from their just-released, modest indie-folk outing. The two friends recorded the intimate album over one week in Venice, California - in a studio located on Rose Avenue, hence its title. P!nk subsequently said of the sessions: 'The fact that there were no expectations ' I think that's what made it so freeing ... I just felt like I was doing it because I loved it.' More at youplusmeofficial.com.
Song: Lay Back Down
Artist: Eric Lindell, San Mateo, CA
Notes: A terrific light blues number that got a few spins back in 2008 and was licensed for use in the TV shows 'Friday Night Lights' and 'True Blood.' The New Orleans-based blue-eyed bluesman cut his musical teeth in San Francisco as a teenager before relocating to the Big Easy in 1999 and was signed for a while to the fab blues-revivalist Alligator Records label. He's currently on the road, details of which can be found at ericlindell.com. You can also find details of his most recent album 'Sunday Morning,' featuring Anson Funderburgh.
Song: Real Love
Artist: Tom Odell, England
Album: Real Love (single), 2014
Notes: UK retailer John Lewis has created a tradition of taking a well-known song and using it for their annual Christmas TV commercial campaign. This year's is Tom Odell's refined and stripped down cover of the 1979 John Lennon demo chestnut which was of course subsequently reworked by the remaining Beatles as a single in 1996 as part of their 'Anthology' series. Few may remember that Lennon's original version appeared in a 2007 TV commercial for J.C. Penney over here, so, mainly thanks to Yoko Ono, it's turned into a revenue stream for licensing to major department stores on both sides of the pond. Regina Spektor and, incongruously, Adam Sandler have both previously covered the song. Odell's version was odds-on favorite to be the Christmas Number One until Bob Geldof resurfaced with another reversioned 'Do They Know It's Christmas?'
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-'20s 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 came out in September. This track was released as a single back in January and received widespread exposure in a recent Subaru TV ad. She'll be hitting the road in February/March. More at facebook.com/thisisodessa.
Artist: Electric Light Orchestra, England
Album: Out Of The Blue, 1977
Notes: Less than 90 seconds of anthemic string-swirling magic followed by one of the strongest tracks from the band's classic album, which sold more than 8 million copies in the US alone. ELO was founded and steered by Jeff Lynne, who astonishingly wrote the hits 'Mr. Blue Sky,' 'Turn To Stone' and 'Sweet Talkin' Woman' in just three weeks while holed up in a chalet in the Swiss Alps in 1977. (Apparently not good enough to get him inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame yet.) He then went on to become one of the most in-demand producers in rock history working with everyone from George Harrison to Randy Newman as well as also being a Traveling Wilbury. Good news for long suffering ELO fans - a reunion tour is finally a real possibility following Lynne's triumphant return gig under the band's name at Hyde Park London in September to an ecstatic audience of 50,000 ELO fans: there's a great video on YouTube of the entire concert interspersed with Lynne's recollections about how he wrote each song at youtube.com/watch?v=ly1WIbASKE0.
Song: Fade Out Lines
Artist: Avener, France
Notes: A sexy, cool new vibe, deep house revision of a 2011 recording by Phoebe Killdeer & The Short Straws. Already a recent and big smash in France and Germany by the Avener, the performing name of French producer/electronica whiz, Tristan Casara. He uploaded this cut to Soundcloud in late 2013 and word of mouth took it to the clubs and radio stations of northern Europe. More at theavener.com.
Song: We Hate The Same Things
Artist: Elise LeGrow, Canada
Album: Not available
Notes: A delightful, but sadly still unavailable, track by an upcoming Canadian jazz stylist based in Toronto. Her publisher kindly sent this record to L&F a couple of years ago but regrettably it's not made it to iTunes yet. There's only one EP available by her to date, the recommended self-titled effort from 2012. She's influenced by the likes of Martha Reeves, Nina Simone, Dinah Washington and Bill Withers - indeed a lovely cover of Withers' 'Ain't No Sunshine' can be found front and center on a video at eliselegrow.com.
Song: Wait For Me
Artist: Kings of Leon, Nashville, TN
Album: Mechanical Bull, 2013
Notes: A smart, mellifluous chorus underwrites this largely under-cherished nugget which somehow never troubled the Billboard Hot 100. Comprising the three Followhill brothers - Caleb, Nathan, Jared and cousin Matthew, they've been together since 1999, releasing their first album, 'Youth And Young Manhood', in 2003, since when they've gone from strength to strength. Their last three albums have all been Top 5 records in the US and have topped charts around the world. More at kingsofleon.com.
Song: Going Back To My Roots
Artist: Odyssey, New York, NY
Notes: A terrific funky guitar refrain underpins this dance-soul cracker from 1981, a cover version of a song originally written and recorded by the legendary Lamont Dozier. Once again, somehow it was never a US hit - their biggest success here being 'Native New Yorker' in the late '70s. The R&B troupe, which started out as The Lopez Sisters, had a fairly fluid lineup in the 1970s and '80s, and although originally based in New York ended up having far more success around Europe and are still going strong but now based in the UK - indeed scored a chart-topper there with 'Use It Up And Wear It Out' in 1980.
Song: Crazy Dreams
Artist: Paul Brady, Ireland
Album: Not available
Notes: The underrated Irish singer-songwriter with one of his earliest singles from 1980 and unavailable in any format. He actually cut two versions of this dreamy roller - this original and a later recording which is now available online. If you're not familiar with his work you're really missing out - he's released a dozen top drawer, highly literate melodic offerings since bowing in 1978. A terrific anthology of his best work called 'Dancer In The Fire' came out a couple of years ago and is well worth checking out. More at paulbrady.com.
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 charts through 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. More at facebook.com/MrProbz.
Song: Miles On A Car
Artist: Rachel Yamagata, Arlington, VA
Album: Chesapeake, 2011
Notes: If you're a lover of great music, then you should have a copy of this 2011 album, truly one of the best lost albums of recent years, exemplified with this track. Easily her most mature and accessible collection to date, it was recorded at the home studio of the great producer John Alagia on the Chesapeake Bay. She is much in demand among her peers guesting alongside the likes of Ray Lamontage, Ryan Adams, Jason Mraz and Ben Arthur. More at rachaelyamagata.com.
Song: Let It Go
Artist: James Bay, England
Album: Let It Go [EP], 2014
Notes: Sporting long locks and a stylish black hat, a new young British singer-songwriter on a charming track with shades of both Ray LaMontagne and James Morrison, but with an already mature sound all his own. An alumnus of the Brighton Institute of Music on the south coast of England, the 24-year-old made his name performing regularly at Communion Records' monthly musical showcases at the uber-cool Notting Hill Arts Club before filling opening slots for Kodaline and John Newman and featured way down the bill of one of the British Summer Time festival days headlined by Neil Young & Crazy Horse, in London's Hyde Park. He's released just three EPs to date - the most recent, 'Hold Back The River', out this week. More at jamesbaymusic.com.
Artist: Perrin Lamb, Nashville, TN
Album: Back To You, 2012
Notes: After three EPs recorded over a period of five years, the Mississippi-born singer/songwriter - now living in Nashville - finally released an album, albeit with seven tracks, including this gentle guitar-backed ballad. As he says about himself, he doesn't live in 'an old, romantic run-down farmhouse by the abandoned train depot, or a stark, concrete loft where the model next door peers forlornly at him through the curtains'. He lives like the rest of us and jots down lyrics at the kitchen table while 'arguing with his toddler to finish her vegetables.' He recently tweeted 'I should tweet more, said nobody ever on their death bed. That said. Should I tweet more?' More at perrinlamb.com.
Song: Come Home
Artist: Chappo, Brooklyn, NY
Album: Moonwater, 2012
Notes: A sparkling modern rock collage about love, but also about the freedom of getting rid of all the junk we seem to amass. Chappo is a Brooklyn-based quartet that has been together for about six years, fronted by lead chappie, Alex Chappo, with Zac Colwell (drums), Chris Olson (keyboards) and Dave Feddock (guitar). They released their first album, 'Media Machine', in 2008, followed by 'Moonwater' in 2012. If you like The Klaxons, Interpol or The Flaming Lips you might get a buzz from their work. More at chappomusic.com.
Song: Wishing Well
Artist: Josh Osho, England
Album: L.I.F.E., 2012
Notes: A catchy chorus on a slice of delicious new school R&B from a fab new soul singer-songwriter talent not long out of his teens. The son of an Irish mother and Nigerian father, he left home at 16 but ended up becoming homeless and then got his act together a couple of years later determined on a career in music. He was quickly snapped up by the venerable Island Records label which issued his debut long-player. He's already toured with L&F favorite Emil' Sande and co-wrote some new songs last year with none other than Sir Tom Jones. More at joshosho.com.
Song: American Beauty
Artist: Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, Memphis, TN
Album: Medicine, 2015
Notes: The latest digital 45 prefacing Holcomb's upcoming fifth studio album, due in January. He has spent the better part of the past ten years as a professional musician ' recording, writing, and touring as a solo artist and with his band The Neighbors. Since releasing his first solo set in 2005, he has established himself as a formidable indie act touring alongside the likes of The Avett Brothers, Ryan Adams, Los Lobos and The North Mississippi Allstars. Tennessee-born, he collects first edition books and has a Masters degree in Divinity from Scotland's University of St. Andrews writing his finals dissertation on 'Bruce Springsteen and American Redemptive Imagination'. He's hitting the road next February. More at drewholcomb.com.
Song: Always Forever
Artist: Grace Mitchell, Australia
Album: Design [EP], 2014
Notes: All four tracks from her stunning maiden EP have now been spun on 'L&F'. 16-year old Grace Mitchell is a freshly minted Australian songstress blessed with authentic songwriting chops who also boasts a remarkably mature vocal sound. Originally from Queensland, Australia but now based in Portland, Oregon, her only previous release was a fun cover version of the Daryl Hall & John Oates' oldie 'Maneater', which was included on 'The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty' soundtrack last year. More at gracemitchell.com.
Artist: Charles Aznavour, France
Album: Greatest Golden Hits, 2003
Notes: Reflections on a life of pleasure and self-gratification but ultimately one of self-destruction and bitter regret, defining the timeless difference between temporary joy and the more desirable happiness derived from self-love. French crooning icon Charles Aznavour from 1972 with one of his greatest recordings, horribly overlooked over here by all and sundry. One of his country's most popular and enduring performers - a national treasure in France, who has written over 1,000 songs, sold more than 100 million records and been honored with every conceivable award. He turned 90 this year - two years older than Tony Bennett, and is astonishingly still performing live - he played a sold-out date at Madison Square Garden in September, part of his 'Farewell Tour' which he has been on since 2008. More at charlesaznavour.com.
Artist: Laleh, Iran
Album: Boom [EP], 2014
Notes: Born Laleh Pourkarim in Iran but relocated to Sweden with her family when she was 12 after she witnessed her father drown trying to rescue a women in a lake. Initially setting out on an acting career, she switched to music in 2003 and quickly became a chart-topping act in Sweden. Five Top 3 domestic albums and a slew of hit singles have established her as a household name on home turf, but this EP is her first release in the US. Abba's Bjorn Ulvaeus has just announced that all royalties from Abba's 'Chiquitita' will go to UNICEF from this point on and have chosen Laleh to record a cover. The track can be heard on Spotify. More at laleh.se.
Song: Can't Let Go
Artist: Landon Pigg, Nashville, TN
Album: LP, 2006
Notes: Perhaps best known for the Starbucks classic 'Falling In Love At A Coffee Shop' back in 2007, this fine singer-songwriter has been laying low for a while - one single in 2011, except for an occasional track as well as appearing in a couple of movies in recent years, notably Drew Barrymore's 'Whip It.' No new album from Mr. Pigg for five years, though he occasionally releases a one-off cut - including the just-released guest appearance on 'River', from the William Close and The Harp Collective Christmas collection 'Holidays'. No news whether he intends teaming up with Perrin Lamb as Lamb & Pigg. More at facebook.com/landonpigg.
Song: In The Sun
Artist: Andrew Judah, Canada
Album: Monster, 2014
Notes: A rather cunning and pleasing oddity from a singer-songwriter who describes himself as a 'one-man band who writes songs and composes music for film and television'. Few know that he provided the haunting music bed to the recent utterly pretentious Matthew McConaughey-starring Lincoln car TV commercials. He released a seven-track album, called 'Albino Black Bear,' in 2011 and followed it with the just released 'Monster'. More at andrewjudah.com.
Song: Give A Little Bit
Artist: Ashton Allen, Mount Dora, FL
Album: Not available
Notes: Not much is known about Mr. Allen - in fact this cover of the Supertramp classic came to L&F courtesy of his publishers. He played for more than a decade with Gainesville, Florida band Big Sky opening for the likes of Sheryl Crow, Matchbox 20, Paul Simon and The Wallflowers. HIs first solo release was 'Dewdrops' in 2005, followed by 'Wellspring' and 'The Christmas Songs', both exclusively for Barnes and Noble. More at myspace.com/ashtonallen.
Song: Give A Little Bit
Artist: Supertramp, England
Notes: Like ELO, time is ripe for a revival of Supertramp's excellent 1970s canon. Their two late '70s albums, 'Breakfast In America' and 'Even In The Quietest Moments'' were two of the finest examples of that era's rock music. Its writer, Roger Hodgson, told the story of the song: 'I think it's a great song. I didn't realize it was when I first wrote it. It actually took me six years before I even brought it to the band. But I wrote it I think around 1970.'