Artist: Rebecca Roubion, Nashville, TN
Notes: A Mobile, Alabama native who studied public relations at Louisiana State University, Rebecca's been focusing on her music career since relocating to Nashville in 2012. Influenced by the music of Carole King and Eva Cassidy, she's a gifted pianist and singer-songwriter who released a couple of EPS in 2012/2013 funded by a 164% crowdsourcing effort. She says of her song craft: 'Every composition is a child, born of (my) oversized heart and raised by (my) hands and voice with nothing but the best of intentions.' She's currently performing on a similarly modest 'Christmas Lights' tour around some southern states, indeed some of the gigs are even taking places in people's houses. All remaining dates at rebeccaroubion.com where you can also link to her superb new festive collection, 'Christmas Lights'.
Song: God Only Knows
Artist: Bryan Adams, Canada
Album: Tracks Of My Years, 2014
Notes: Unexpectedly superb, and wisely not trying to compete with the unbeatable vocal harmonies of the original but making full use of the husky tones which almost get lost in his throat, a sensational new cover of the Brian Wilson classic, completely reimagined by the veteran Canadian rocker. Slowed down, just the naked melody, a piano and the plaintive beauty of Wilson's masterwork in full evidence. The standout number on Adams' otherwise rather average new covers album. He recently said of the recording: 'You can't help but be in awe of that song. You can't think about topping the original, so we kept our simple and stripped down.' More at bryanadams.com.
Song: Words of Gold
Artist: Nejra, Sweden
Album: Hindsight, 2009
Notes: Gold from a Swedish-based singer-songwriter originally from Bosnia but who had to flee the country with her family because of the war when was just 13. She was discovered like so many new artists after she uploaded her first recording 'Headstrong' in 2007. Since then, three more singles - the most recent being 'Stay For A While' in 2011 and a second album, 'In Hindsight', in 2009. More at nejramusic.com.
Song: Chocolate Girl
Artist: Deacon Blue, Scotland
Album: Raintown, 1987
Notes: From the same musical genre and era as other fine British rock outfits Prefab Sprout and Aztec Camera. They took their band name from the Steely Dan song, 'Deacon Blues', and have been around on and off since the mid '80s, led by mainman and singer-songwriter, Ricky Ross. Celebrating 30 years together next year, they issued a worthwhile set, 'A New House in September', a couple of months ago, having performed at the closing ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in their native Glasgow the previous month and are currently in the midst of a major UK tour. The group's longtime drummer Dougie Vipond also tub-thumped for another band with the marvellous name, Swiss Family Orbison. More at deaconblue.com.
Song: See The Light
Artist: Matrimony, Charlotte, NC
Album: Montibello Memories, 2014
Notes: A Charlotte, North Carolina-based group they're a family affair, comprising lead singer Ashlee Hardee Brown and her husband Jimmy Brown accompanied by Ashlee's brothers, Jordan and C. J. The Irish-born Jimmy Brown was a member of the Northern Ireland youth tennis team, while also being proficient on trumpet and piano. He met Ashlee at a venue called The Evening Muse five years ago and they immediately begain writing together. Describing their sound as 'like a hillbilly Fleetwood Mac', expect to hear more from this band. More at matrimonync.com.
Artist: James Taylor, Boston, MA
Album: New Moon Shine, 1991
Notes: A lost diamond parked quietly on his 'New Moon Shine' album from 23 years ago. It was Paul McCartney who brought Taylor to The Beatles' Apple label way back in 1968 after legendary producer Peter Asher played him some of Taylor's demos. Taylor had relocated to London in 1967 and became the first non-British artist to sign to Apple. Sadly it's been twelve long years since an album of original compositions by Taylor. A constant road performer, he's finishing off a US tour before heading off to Europe in March. On his return he'll play a sellout date with Bonnie Raitt at Boston's Fenway Park next August. More at jamestaylor.com, where you can receive free guitar lessons from the maestro.
Song: The Things I Do
Artist: Teddy Thompson, England
Notes: Infectious A+ folk rock from the UK. He's collaborated with both Rufus and Martha Wainright, Brian Wilson, as well as Keane. The son of legendary British folk-rock pioneers, Richard and Linda Thompson, who brought him up in a Sufi Commune in the mid-'70s, he's released four albums over seven years, the most recent being 2011's 'Bella.' He continues to record and perform with both his mom and his dad, and just released the album 'Family' with his parents, brother Jack, sister Kami, her husband James Walbourne and nephew Zak Hobbs under the name Thompson. More at thompsonfamilyalbum.com and facebook.com/teddythompson.
Song: Bored In The USA
Artist: Father John Misty, Baltimore, MD
Album: I Love You, Honeybear, 2015
Notes: A top-notch satirical ballad and a preview cut from an album which is due in February. A fearless and provocative 30-something tunesmith originally from Baltimore but now a resident of New Orleans, the background audience noise you can hear in that recording was inserted in the studio to make his biting commentary all the more poignant. His real name is Joshua Tillman, he was a fleeting member as their drummer of the Fleet Foxes and was signed up to the venerable Sub Pop label in 2012 after several self-released albums under the name J. Tillman. He's hitting the road in January. More at fatherjohnmisty.com.
Artist: Foy Vance, Northern Ireland
Album: Watermelon Oranges, 2006
Notes: Charmingly flying under the radar for nearly a decade, Vance is from County Down in Northern Ireland and sports the snazziest of mustaches. Highly rated by top musicians including Ed Sheeran and Bonnie Raitt, who calls him 'one of the most soulful singers I've heard in a long while' and by Pete Townshend as a 'giant' indeed he performed a show alongside Townshend in New York. A few of his tunes have been licensed for TV shows and commercials, this number appearing on an episode of 'Grey's Anatomy'. More at foyvance.com.
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, the Avener is 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: Lippy Kids
Artist: Elbow, England
Album: Build A Rocket Boys, 2011
Notes: A track, from the band's 2011 long-player, described by The Guardian newspaper's excellent music critic Alexis Petridis as 'the album's emotional center' and 'a gorgeous meditation on adolescence that recognises both the gauche awfulness of it all'. Starting out 22 years ago as five teenagers from the north-western English town of Ramsbottom, they have released six sterling studio albums from 2001's 'Asleep In The Back' to their most recent, this year's 'The Take off And Landing Of Everything'. They've won a Mercury Music Prize, a BRIT Award and two Ivor Novello Awards. Their spiritual leader Guy Garvey is featured on Band Aid 30's current UK chart-topper. More at elbow.co.uk.
Artist: Mindy Smith, Long Island, NY
Album: One Moment More, 2004
Notes: Great lyrics, top-drawer folk-Americana melancholia by Mindy Smith who grew up in Long Island, eventually ending up, naturally, in Nashville. Her early career was strongly supported and nurtured by Dolly Parton., indeed Mindy's breakthrough recording was a cover version of Dolly's 'Jolene'. She's released five albums since 2004, and was instrumental in the release of last month's 'Shelter Me' compilation, bringing together the likes of Peter Bradley Adams, Matthew Perryman Jones, Trent Dabbs, Kate York and others, to contribute tracks to help animal shelters and pet adoption, highlighted in the PBS series of the same name. More at mindysmithmusic.com.
Song: Something In The Air
Artist: Max Jury, Des Moines, IA
Notes: A vintage sounding honky-tonk roller belying his tender 21 years and the title cut to his March 2014 three-track EP. He's an old-school inspired singer-songwriter from Des Moines, Iowa weaned on the music of Paul Simon, Dylan and Gram Parsons. He began playing the piano at the age of six and wrote his song at 13, before he enrolled at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, but dropped out - twice. He's opened for Lana Del Rey, toured Europe earlier this year and has just wrapped up a few US dates. More at facebook.com/maxwelljury.
Artist: Glen Campbell, Delight, AR
Album: Ghost On The Canvas, 2010
Notes: One of several absolute pearls from what was the final CD from the legendary singer-guitarist. Despite being diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, it was so reassuring to hear those superb golden vocal chords still intact on this reworking of the Jakob Dylan original. Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, Chris Isaak and Paul Westerberg of the Replacements all contributed to this his 61st studio effort over a peerless career stretching all the way back to 1962. The final three albums he recorded are essential listening for even a marginal music fan, all curated and produced with pure vision and class by Julian Reymond and Howard Willing. There's a terrific documentary about Campbell called 'I'll Be Me', which is currently showing in selected cinemas across the country and is also available on Netflix.
Song: Vintage Red
Artist: Jay Jay Pistolet, England
Album: Not available
Notes: A delightfully wacky vintage-styled curiosity from one Justin Hayward-Young, the leader of The Vaccines. Describing his unique sound as tropical, Jay Jay released a lovely little EP called 'Happy Birthday You' in 2008, and re-emerged in 2011 on the Mumford & Sons' Communion label in London with this delightful ditty.
Song: We Danced All Night
Artist: Lewis Baloue, Canada
Album: Romantic Times [EP], 2014
Notes: One of the more left-field, yet rewarding recordings ever featured on L&F: partly using the melody of Frank Sinatra's 'Strangers In The Night' and vocally quavering like a mix of Scott Walker and Charles Aznavour. The track was recorded in 1985 but has only just now been released digitally. Baloue's real name is Randall A. Wulff, a Canadian crooner who recorded two very obscure long-unavailable LPs in the 1980s both of which were only recently discovered at a flea market and re-issued by the adventurous Light In The Attic record label in Seattle. He has long faded from view and when finally tracked down expressed no interest in receiving any royalties, so much so that the label has revealed that when stock of the two albums runs out, it will not reprint them.
Song: Kicking Stone
Artist: Kate York, Nashville, TN
Album: Fly Away [EP], 2011
Notes: Such a pure unaffected vocal style, like a pure mountain stream, from another sterling non-country performer who makes her home in Nashville, where she's been since relocating from southern California in 1999. She initially got a job as a recording engineer on Music Row, before deciding she preferred writing songs to recording other people's. After being spotted at 12th & Porter, she recorded half a dozen songs in late 2003, followed by a further six in the summer of 2004. Her first album 'Sadlylove' was released in 2006, her second - 'For You' - came two years later. There's been nothing new since other than a few of her songs finding their way on to TV shows such as 'Grey's Anatomy' and a contribution to 'Cinnamon Girl', a compilation put together for the Women Artists cover Neil Young charity.
Song: Fascinating Rhythm
Artist: Bassomatic, England
Notes: Way ahead of its time brilliantly fusing funk, electronica beats, hip-hop, pop and rock and sampling Tommy Roe's 'Dizzy' and Jimi Hendrix's 'Fire' amongst others, this was one of the earliest efforts from British electronic whiz William Orbit, a remixer and producer who's worked with the likes of Madonna, Prince, the Cure and Sting. His Bassomatic studio project yielded just the one album with its Pink Floyd-nodding title.
Song: The Infidel
Artist: Republic Tigers, Kansas City, MO
Album: No Man's Land [EP], 2011
Notes: Lovely swaying melodies in the chorus on an engaging song from an indie band, creating a lovely meld of pop, psychedelic rock and folk. Only one album, 'Keep Color', to date and a couple of EPs, the group's founders Adam McGill and Kenn Jankowski have a sort of one-off commitment to the group so their catalog is a little sparse, although their new album 'Mind Over Matter' is expected shortly. More at facebook.com/TheRepublicTigers.
Song: Through Your Hands
Artist: Georgia Ruth, Wales
Album: In Luna [EP], 2012
Notes: The lead-off cut from her 2012 maiden four-track EP from a Welsh prize-winning nu-folkster who employs piano and the harp in her act. Highly unusual in contemporary music but the harp nicely complements her airy vocal style. Taking up the ancient instrument at the age of seven, she counts Joni Mitchell, Bon Iver, Leonard Cohen and UK folkie Sandy Denny among her musical influences. Singing in both English and Welsh, she first came to prominence performing at the Glastonbury Festival in 2008 and recently contributed vocals to the latest Manic Street Preachers' album 'Futurology'. More at georgiaruthmusic.co.uk.
Song: The Newsroom Theme
Artist: Thomas Newman, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Not available
Notes: This divine little number can't be bought for love nor money. If you're a fan of the superbly written and intense drama series 'The Newsroom' on HBO, it might strike a chord. Yet another instrumental master class from Mr. Newman with his suitably dramatic theme to the show starring Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer. He's arguably the greatest contemporary film and television composer and arranger out there (including his cousin Randy Newman). He's scored scores of soundtracks since bowing in 1984 including 'Fried Green Tomatoes', 'The Shawshank Redemption', the brilliant 'The Road To Perdition' and the last James Bond movie, 'Skyfall'.
Song: Thinking Big
Artist: Martin Gallop, Canada
Album: Most Beautiful Song, 2013
Notes: An A+ acoustic shuffler from a Canadian born singer-songriter, who at the age of 20 left his birthplace and travelled to Germany to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter. In 2000, he won the Canadian National Songwriting Contest and used his prize money to record his debut album 'How Much Is The World'. He's released four lovely albums to date, the most recent being last year's 'Most Beautiful Song'. He now lives full-time in Berlin. More at facebook.com/martingallopofficial.
Song: Feels Like Home
Artist: Bonnie Raitt, Burbank, CA
Album: Faust, 1995
Notes: Raitt's superb contribution to Randy Newman's mostly overlooked 'Faust' musical concept album in 1995, which also featured contributions from Don Henley, Elton John, James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. The 10-time Grammy winner, listed at number 50 in Rolling Stone's '100 Greatest Singers Of All Time', is now in her fifth decade of making music and can next be seen on stage in August 2015, opening for James Taylor at Fenway Park in Boston. More at bonnieraitt.com.
Song: Feels Like Home
Artist: Randy Newman, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Harps And Angels, 2008
Notes: The composer's own version of the song which he recorded for his predictably brilliant 2008 CD, 'Harps And Angels'. Last July he played The Devil, dressed in a red and black cape with devil's horns protruding out the top of his head, in a one-off performance of 'Faust' at New York City Center as part of the Encores! Off-Center series. The New York Post decribed the musical as 'completely bonkers'. More at randynewman.com.
Song: Shark Fin Blues
Artist: Missy Higgins, Australia
Album: Oz, 2014
Notes: The standout cut from her lovely new long-player - this track written by Gareth Liddiard who is lead singer for Australian rock outfit, The Drones and was recently voted Australia's greatest song in a poll of fellow musicians undertaken by the country's leading rock radio station. Already Top 10 in her home country, the album is an often lush, orchestral affair on which she tackles covers of songs by other fine Aussie tunesmiths. 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: Come On Get Higher
Artist: Matt Nathanson, Lexington, MA
Album: Some Mad Home, 2007
Notes: This track got a few spins from the more caring stations back in 2008, though it never cracked the Billboard Hot 100, but it still remains the commercial highlight from his woefully underrated catalog. Born in Lexington, Massachusetts but long based in San Francisco, Matt's a highly amusing even comical live performer if you get the chance to see him in concert. Like so many of the better tunesmiths around today, he supplements his income by licensing lots of his top-notch melodic fare to TV shows. He's currently touring. For details, check out mattnathanson.com.
Song: Fade Away
Artist: Rebelution, Santa Barbara, CA
Album: Count Me In, 2014
Notes: Stepping out of their familiar reggae rock brand, this is a folk pop treat housed on the band's recent fourth set. A Santa Barbara quartet who all graduated from the University of California in that lovely city, they have just celebrated 10 years together. Vocalist Eric Rachmany describes their songs as dealing with 'the notion of staying positive, looking on the bright side of things, feeling encouraged and motivated and just sort of uplifting people'. Their Winter Greens tour opens in January. For details, go to rebelutionmusic.com.
Song: First Light
Artist: Bob Carpenter, Canada
Album: Silent Passage, 2014
Notes: A Canadian country/folk tunesmith from the 1970s, his vocal style clearly an acquired taste - perhaps midway between a gruff Cat Stevens, Marianne Faithfull after two packs of smokes and even Levon Helm. The LP was recorded in 1974 but disagreements between the artist, label and management prevented its release until 1984 with 30,000 vinyl copies sitting idle in the Warner Bros. warehouse for ten years. An untapped talent, Carpenter coulda been a contender but just got dumped on by the record industry. He died in 1995 and reportedly became a Buddhist monk on his deathbed. The great Tom Rush and Emmylou Harris covered his songs, indeed Emmylou and fellow Canadian Anne Murray contributed backing vocals to the album and the studio band included members of Little Feat. Producer Brian Ahern said that 'Carpenter's affable simplicity belied his deep, poetic soul ... I threw Bob into the deep end of the pool knowing his great voice and aggressive, hypnotic acoustic guitar style would infect them with equally powerful performances'.
Song: Good Days Bad Days
Artist: Richard Butler, England
Album: Richard Butler, 2006
Notes: The lead singer of Psychedelic Furs with a superbly crafted song which he dedicated to his father and which was described by the great British newspaper, The Guardian as 'an unexpected triumph.' The band which also included his brother Tim on bass, started life in 1977 in London and still intermittently performs today after reuniting in 2000 - in fact they're starting another US jaunt in January. If you want to catch up with the Furs, head over to thepsychedelicfurs.com.
Artist: Kate Bush, England
Album: The Kick Inside, 1978
Notes: Bush was 13 when she wrote this little diamond and was soon discovered by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, who introduced her to EMI Records. The track came from her ground-breaking debut album, which also included the extraordinary 'Wuthering Heights'. Notoriously shy, the enigmatic Bush played a series of concerts earlier this year - her first since 1979. The concerts, under the banner 'Before The Dawn', took place at London's Hammersmith Apollo and were seen by close to 80,000 fans, selling out in a matter of minutes.
Song: No One Ever Loved
Artist: Lykke Li, Sweden
Album: The Fault In Our Stars, 2014
Notes: Another deft track from the blockbuster summer weepie 'The Fault In Our Stars' which took over $300 million at the global box-office. Born Li Lykke Timotej Svensson Zachrisson, (no wonder the name change) in Sweden 28 years ago, she's released three albums over the past six years, most recently 'I Never Learn'. She is the featured vocalist on 'The Troubles' the final track on U2's recent 'Songs Of Innocence' album which Apple tossed into everyone's library. More at lykkeli.com.
Artist: Oona, Oakland, CA
Album: Shhhout, 2010
Notes: Oona is a duo comprising Oona Garthwaite and Dave Tweedie. Flame-haired Garthwaite, described as having the energy of four Tina Turners, comes from a musical family - the daughter of David Garthwaite and niece of Terry Garthwaite, who were founding members of '70s band The Joy Of Cooking. Several of their infectious upbeat numbers have been used on the dire 'So You Think You Can Dance' TV series. More at oonamusic.com or facebook.com/oonamusic.
Artist: Alex Turner, England
Album: Submarine, 2011
Notes: A standout track from his lovely film soundtrack to the 2010 comedy drama film called 'Submarine' for which he contributed six songs. Turner, the lead singer and main songwriter for the Arctic Monkeys, is a prolific artist and has fronted five albums with the Arctic Monkeys, one with his side band the Last Shadow Puppets and one solo album - and he's still only 28.
Song: 7 Seconds
Artist: Neneh Cherry & Youssou N'Dour, Sweden/Senegal
Notes: The magnificent electronic and world music meld of these two artists, which was a huge hit all over the world, but regrettably not in the States. The Swedish songstress sings her lines in English, with the world music great delivering his in French and his native Senegalese 'Wolof' tribal tongue. When he performed this socially-conscience theme corker at Live 8 in 2005, Dido stepped in to sing Cherry's vocal.
Artist: AHI, Canada
Album: Not available
Notes: L&F played a track by this interesting new artist a month ago. Clearly reminiscent of L&F alumnus Robert Bradley and indeed Terence Trent D'Arby, AHI is a Canadian soulster who takes his performing name from his initials - his full name is Ahkinoah H. Izarh. He's originally from Brampton, Ontario but is now based in Toronto and is already causing a bit of a buzz in the UK. Engraving every song with a magically distinctive raw soul blues vocal style, he's a bit of a wandering spirit, quitting college studies to roam around rural Canada, the hillsides of Trinidad, and ancient cities and highlands of Ethiopia in a quest to find his soul. He was recently recording a video of this Bob Marley classic on a street near London's Oxford Circus, when his little daughter decided to join in. Check it out at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZaS4mGKbDro. More at ahimusic.com.
Song: No Woman No Cry (Live)
Artist: Bob Marley & The Wailers, Jamaica
Album: Live!, 1975
Notes: The folks at the official Bob Marley site took a shine to AHI's video too and have posted it there. Marley's original of the song first saw the light of day on the 1974 'Natty Dread' album, but became best known in its live version the following year. Although written by Marley, it was credited to Vincent Ford, who ran a soup kitchen in Trenchtown. The royalties he received enabled the survival of the kitchen. More at bobmarley.com.