Song: Bang Your Drum
Artist: Dead Man Fall, Scotland
Notes: A cracking self-released one-off single from last year - indeed there have been only four singles available to date from this alternative rock quartet from Glasgow. Although they have less than 1,000 likes on Facebook, they received a nice shot in the arm in December when late-night Scottish TV host, Craig Ferguson, chose to re-record this nugget for his final show on CBS and enlisted loads of celebs to bang on a drum in the star-studded video performance, including Matthew McConaughey, Betty White, Samuel L. Jackson, Larry King, Ted Danson, Jane Lynch, Lisa Kudrow, Quentin Tarantino, William Shatner and even Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Fellow Glaswegian Ferguson immediately loved the track after the band tweeted it to him last May - and decided to keep it in his back pocket for the multi-star finale broadcast. More at facebook.com/deadmanfall.
Song: Love - Building On Fire
Artist: Talking Heads, Scotland/Fort Campbell, KY/Coronado, CA/Milwaukee, WI
Notes: The song that inspired legendary record label boss Seymour Stein to sign the band to his Sire Records, first hearing it wafting out of the iconic new wave venue CGCB's while walking by the club in late 1976. It was issued as the group's first single in February the following year, though it wasn't included on their debut album 'Talking Heads: 77' until it was reissued many years later. This was the beginning of the Talking Heads story though never a hit, written by David Byrne and produced, astonishingly, by Jon Bon Jovi's cousin, Tony Bongiovi.
Song: On The Wire
Artist: Air Traffic Controller, Boston, MA
Album: Not available
Notes: An enchanting vocal bridge showcasing the haunting lead vocal of Casey Sullivan matched with ATC frontman, Dave Munro, and a nice preview of their upcoming third album. Munro actually was an air traffic controller in the US Navy and recorded some neat demos before delisting about five years ago. The group is Boston-based and has built a loyal regional following around New England. Do catch them live if you get the chance, they often perform with a complete string section to 'capture and recreate its brilliant, full sound'. They'll be at SXSW in March. More at airtrafficcontrollermusic.com. (Not to be confused with the legendary Canadian band Air Traffic Control.)
Song: Always Remember Me
Artist: Ry Cuming featuring Sara Bareilles, Australia/Eureka, CA
Album: Ry Cuming, 2010
Notes: From his eponymous 2010 freshman CD, a plaintive track graced by the guest vocal of Sara Bareilles. He grew up in New South Wales in Australia where he became an avid surfer. Much influenced by Jeff Buckley, he began writing songs at 16 and is now based in Los Angeles, where he goes under the performing name RY X and has released several worthwhile singles and EPs under that moniker. More at ry-x.com.
Song: Sister Rust
Artist: Damon Albarn, England
Album: Lucy [soundtrack], 2014
Notes: A pleasingly romantic departure by Blur's frontman tucked away on the soundtrack of the Scarlett Johansson-starring movie 'Lucy'. Aside from another cut by Crystal Method the entire soundtrack was otherwise composed by Eric Serra. The movie was a surprisingly interesting and provocative discourse by writer/director Luc Bresson positing what human beings could really achieve if we used more than the existing paltry 12% of our overall brain power. The ever-creatively restless Albarn, who also founded the Gorillaz virtual band and often wanders off to do worthwhile world music collaborations, is currently polishing off his first musical. More at damonalbarnmusic.com.
Song: Shelter You
Artist: Lily Allen & Louis Eliot, England
Album: Tarka & Friends: Life, 2014
Notes: A track from a rather intriguing tribute album to little-known English musician, writer and producer Tarka Cordell with some fine cover versions of his songs by the likes of Evan Dando, Citizen Cope and Lily Allen heard here with Louis Eliot. An ex-boyfriend of model Kate Moss, Tarka hanged himself in 2008 in his Notting Hill apartment in London a year before his documentary about swamp music called 'Promised Land: A Swamp Pop Journey' premiered at the SXSW festival in Austin. If you want to discover some of Tarka's music offerings, a website is still up: tarkamusic.com.
Artist: Acker Bilk, England
Notes: Cheesy perhaps, but a timeless classic from jazz legend and top clarinettist Acker Bilk with a signature instrumental and a big hit in the UK in 1976. Interestingly he was the first British artist to score a Number 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with his self-penned 'Stranger On The Shore' which took pole position in the US in 1962. Always dapper in his trademark waistcoat, bowler hat (and not very convincing toupee), Bilk enjoyed an illustrious and long career performing until the age of 84 before passing away last November. ('Acker' is slang for friend in the west country of England.)
Song: Last Great Song
Artist: Mikey Wax, Long Island, NY
Album: Mikey Wax, 2014
Notes: Another choice cut from his consistently strong pop-chopping eponymous album released last year. The Long Island native singer-songwriter, who took up piano at the age of eight and graduated from Vanderbilt in Nashville, has been recording for about six years. He has opened for dozens of similarly talented musicians including Howie Day, Tyler Hilton, Scars on 45, Andy Grammar, Parachute and Matt Wertz and last year teamed up recently with mobile app SMULE, which allows you to sing with him karaoke-style on your phone. More at mikeywax.com.
Song: She Believes In Me
Artist: Joe Cocker, England
Album: No Ordinary World, 2000
Notes: 22 studio albums over 45 years, so much lost treasure including this lovely pop-soul roller from his 17th long player. Always an interpreter and among the very best in that field Cocker was never one to write his own songs - why would you need to when blessed with such a heavenly gritty, bluesy voice. This was composed by Bryan Adams and the unsung Eliot Kennedy, whose songs have been recorded by the Spice Girls, Take That, The Wanted, S Club 7 and Delta Goodrem, who is - like Cocker - a native of the northern town of Sheffield. Legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb recently paid tribute with the comments, 'Time spent with him was always relaxed and enjoyable and to say he will be missed doesn't seem to carry the necessary sense of his importance in my life and in the world of music.'But 'he will be missed'.'
Song: Back For More
Artist: Misty Boyce, Las Cruces, NM
Album: The Life, 2014
Notes: A Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter who studied jazz piano at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music before joining the Naked Brothers Band as its keyboard player and then moving to New York, she formed the band (is)boy in 2012. Her debut EP 'Tough Love' was released the following year and she then joined Sara Bareilles on her Little Black Dress tour. Her debut album, from which this track comes, is a deft collection of earnest songs about loss, heartbreak, and betrayal. More at mistyboyce.com.
Song: Wishing On A Star
Artist: Rose Royce, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Greatest Hits, 2000
Notes: Although they scored two huge crossover disco/soul hits in the mid-70s with 'Car Wash' and 'I Wanna Get Next To You', this was the one that got away in the US - a simply outstanding slice of melodic pop-soul from an LA-based soul combo created by Norman Whitfield who were active through the '70s and boasted the sweet soul soprano of lead singer Gwen Dickey aka 'Rose'. Much of the credit for this lost gem, if not all of it, is down to Whitfield the group's writer and producer, part of the backbone of Motown during its glory years, particularly for his work with The Temptations.
Artist: Barr Brothers, Canada
Album: Sleeping Operator, 2014
Notes: Some fine north of the border folk Americana from a band fronted by the brothers Barr, Andrew and Brad. Based in Montreal, though they were originally from Boston, where they were in the band The Slip, they relocated to Quebec in 2005. They teamed up with Sarah Page and Andres Vial and have released just a pair of long-players to date, both well worth investigation. More on them at thebarrbrothers.com where you can check upcoming tour dates in England, Canada and the US through May.
Song: Devil or Angel
Artist: Lou Doillon, France
Album: Places, 2013
Notes: Madamoiselle Doillon is already an accomplished actress but has moved sideways over the past few years to try her hand at singer-songwriting, with some success. The photogenic 32-year old is the daughter of Francophile British actress/singer, the lovely Jane Birkin, she of 'Je T'Aime Moi Non Plus' notoriety. If you're looking to brush up on your French, check out her website - loudoillon.fr.
Song: All The Light I Need
Artist: Mike & The Mechanics, England
Album: M6, 1999
Notes: The unmistakable lead vocal of the most successful singer unknown around, Paul Carrack, who also graced the band's signature hit 'The Living Years'. Genesis guitarist Mike Rutherford formed his concurrent side-band in 1985 and they had a strong run for about a decade. He then revived the combo in 2010 with pop/soul singer Andrew Roachford added to the lineup. A fascinating Genesis documentary was produced by the BBC last year called 'Genesis: Together and Apart' featuring interviews with all members including Rutherford, Phil Collins and original vocalist Peter Gabriel and is well worth checking out on a Netflix near you.
Song: Too Late
Artist: Dinner and a Suit, Nashville, TN
Album: Since Our Departure, 2012
Notes: Infectious chorus on a fab alternative rock rumbler from a trio of cousins, Jonathan Capeci, Anthony Genca and Joey Beretta, and drummer Drew Scheuer, who hail from Moorestown, New Jersey. Formed about five years ago, they have released two albums. For more check out dinnerandasuit.com.
Song: Lampshades on Fire
Artist: Modest Mouse, Issaquah, WA
Album: Strangers To Ourselves, 2015
Notes: The first single from their upcoming new album - their first in eight years - by the Seattle-based indie band founded 20 years ago by Isaac Brock. Already into their third decade together, the band formed in Issaquah, Washington in 1993 taking their name from a passage in a Virginia Woolf short story, 'The Mark on the Wall'. You can reload this new tune on Vevo if it took your fancy - or spin it directly at modestmouse.com. They'll be topping the bill at the Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa in March.
Artist: Yael Meyer, Chile
Notes: Born and brought up in Santiago, Chile, the 33-year-old singer-songwriter relocated at 19 to Boston to attend the esteemed Berklee School of Music, where she recorded her first album, 'Common Ground'. A multi-instrumentalist, now resident in Los Angeles, she has written and recorded music for several Chilean movies and much of her pretty melodic fare has been used in more than a dozen US TV shows. Just two further full-length albums to date including 'Everything Will Be Alright' from 2011, on which this lost gem and recently played 'Shed Their Fear' is included, and 'Warrior Heart' from last year. More at yaelmeyermusic.com.
Song: See You Again
Artist: Elle King, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Love Stuff, 2015
Notes: The quietest extract and closing number from her much-anticipated maiden album which comes out next month. The first radio show to ever feature Elle's music was L&F some three years ago when we premiered her superb demo, 'Two Shots' (for some reason not included on her debut CD). Born Tanner Elle Schneider in Los Angeles, brought up in Ohio and now living in Brooklyn, she's just getting started on her career and has already opened for Of Monsters And Men, Train, Michael Kiwanuka, Dashboard Confessional and Ed Sheeran. More at elleking.com.
Song: No Secrets
Artist: Missy Higgins, Australia
Album: Oz, 2014
Notes: Few female singers possess a more earnest, authentic voice or better vocal intonation than L&F favorite Missy. This is another standout cut from her lovely new long-player - this track originally recorded by The Angels back in the 1970s. 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, a top vegan and due to give birth any day now to her first child, a boy. More at missyhiggins.com.
Song: The Green Pastures
Artist: William Tyler, Nashville, TN
Album: Behold The Spirit, 2010
Notes: A track from the Nashville native's debut album, which he followed with 'Impossible Truth' in 2013 and last year's EP 'Lost Colony'. He's also a member of the underrated Lambchop alternative country combo and a one-time member of the curiously named The Silver Jews out of New York. He also has a strong musical DNA, his father writing songs for the likes of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Oak Ridge Boys and LeAnn Rimes and he and his sister, Elise, co-own a charming music restaurant/bar in Nashville called The Stone Fox down there on 51st Avenue. He'll be performing on a bill with Jack White and Loretta Lynn in Nashville this week. More at williamtyler.net.
Song: Dance For Evermore
Artist: Si Cranstoun, England
Album: Modern Life, 2015
Notes: Unabashed fun, the hi-stepping vintage Latin/Soul-spiced sound of a longtime busker around London for two decades before being spotted by a Warner Bros. label executive in 2013 who signed him overnight. During his busking years, he graduated from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and formed a ska band called the Dualers with his brother Tyber in 1999. Ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair once gave him 30p - about 50 cents - when hearing him busk. Si even met his future wife while playing music on the street. More at sicranstoun.com.
Song: I Call Your Name
Artist: a-ha, Norway
Notes: Glossy synth-pop from another era, a modest hit around Europe though it never troubled the Hot 100 over here. Long hailed as Coldplay's favorite band who often play old a-ha gems in concert, they developed a bit of a cheesy reputation mostly down to their breakthrough global pop smash, the highly infectious but cartoonish 'Take On Me' - but they evolved into a rather more serious and worthwhile combo - they even recorded a Bond theme. The trio finally called it quits after their final concert in August 2011 after nearly 30 years together, but have just announced that they will be getting back together to perform at the Rock In Rio festival this September. More at a-ha.com.
Song: No Good in Goodbye
Artist: Script, Ireland
Notes: Top notch no-nonsense straight-ahead pop rock on a single released last October but passed by unnoticed. The Irish trio are fronted by co-lead vocalists Danny O'Donoghue and Mark Sheehan and have released four sterling albums since 2008. They'll be back in the US for an eight-date tour to promote their new album. More at thescriptmusic.com.
Artist: Shannon McNally, Hempstead, NY
Album: Geronimo, 2005
Notes: Top-drawer songwriting on a self-penned track from a singer, reminiscent of Sheryl Crow but with an Americana twist. She began performing while still at college, busked for a while on the streets of Paris before being signed by Capitol Records in 1997. Currently living in Oxford, Mississippi, where she frequently performs at the Rooster's Blues House, she released a terrific seven-track EP in 2013 with Amy Lavere called 'Chasing The Ghost - Rehearsal Sessions' and more recently issued 'Small Town Talk,' honoring the songs of legendary Louisiana songsmith, Bobby Charles. More at shannonmcnally.com.
Song: When You're Older
Artist: Kate Earl, Chugiak, AK
Album: Fate Is The Hunter, 2005
Notes: Of Welsh, Dutch and Filipino ancestry, but now based in the City of Angels, the singer-songwriter has been around for a decade. In that time, she's released three albums, her 2005 debut, 'Kate Earl' in 2009 and 'Stronger' in 2012, which saw her team up with Brett Dennen. There are 14 lost gems by Kate Earl tucked away in the L&F vault each of them just first rate, including this one. For more check out thekateearl.com.
Song: Let Me Go
Artist: Maverick Sabre, England
Album: Lonely Are The Brave, 2011
Notes: The performing name of Anglo-Irish singer/songwriter Michael Stafford with an explosive electro-pop soul track; a fabulous aggregation of sonic ideas, mixing R&B, folk, electronica, vintage soul, but it all comes together so well. The 24-year-old last year appeared in the role of Parson Nathanial on 'Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds - The New Generation,' a part created by Phil Lynott in the 1978 original, and which features him duetting with Joss Stone. More at mavericksabre.com.
Song: She Knows
Artist: James Griffin, Cincinnati, OH
Album: Breakin' Up Is Easy, 1974
Notes: Constantly living in the shadow of his more illustrious Bread cohort David Gates, much to his chagrin, Griffin recorded as a solo artist both before and after his time in the band, and was in two interesting post-Bread bands - Black Tie and The Remingtons. His most successful legacy was as co-writer of the gorgeous Carpenters hit ballad, 'For All We Know,' for which he won an Academy Award. There's also a splendid cover of this song by Ray Charles. He died too soon, age 61, in 2005.
Song: Give Me What I Cry For
Artist: Chris Rainbow, Scotland
Notes: A melodramatic, but extremely harmonic and rewarding, pop pearl from an underrated singer-songwriter, who never saw a melody he didn't like. He recorded dozens of ridiculously hook-filled pop nuggets during the 1970s, before he became a member of the now equally unfashionable Alan Parsons Project in the 1980s. The Scottish singer-songwriter, who managed to sing charmingly seamless songs, despite a stammer when speaking, now lives on the remote Isle of Skye.
Song: See Those Eyes
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, who formed the band with some ex-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 others. 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: Tomorrow Morning
Artist: Blue Nile, Scotland
Album: Peace At Last, 1996
Notes: So much largely unheralded superior music made by this group, showcasing the songwriting chops and distinctive vocal class of mainman Paul Buchanan. He's an enigmatic chap, happily flying under the radar. He formed Blue Nile in 1981 with childhood friend Robert Bell in his native Scotland, but seriously takes his time recording new material. He's only released four Blue Nile albums and one solo collection over more than three decades - though each of them worth their weight in platinum. Much loved among his contemporaries, notably Joni Mitchell, who's a big fan.
Artist: Bill Medley, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Not available
Notes: Arguably the finest interpretation of the iconic Righteous Brothers standard - reinterpreted with conversely understated then majestic soul by its original singer - Bill Medley. He re-visited the evergreen composition by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Phil Spector on a solo outing some seven years after he nailed the original with fellow Righteous partner Bobby Hatfield. Sadly his stunning 'A Song For You' LP has never found its way to either compact disc or any digital form despite being produced by Herb Alpert, featuring other equally excellent covers, including one of the best interpretations of 'The Long And Winding Road' and with some sublime arrangements by Michel Colombier. Medley's still going strong as a solo artist, now touring with his daughter McKenna. More at billmedley.com.
Song: It Gets Better
Artist: Preatures, Australia
Album: Blue Planet Eyes, 2014
Notes: Borrowing some crisp guitar licks from their countrymen forefathers INXS, this quintet has been setting the charts alight in their native Australia for a while now and radio over here is now getting behind the less worthy lead-off single 'Is This How You Feel', which was a huge smash on home turf picking up an ARIA Award nomination along the way. One of the best rock combos to emerge down under in recent years, they assembled in 2010, and are fronted by 'Izzi' Manfredi. More at thepreatures.com.
Song: Rescue Song
Artist: Mr. Little Jeans, Norway
Album: Rescue Me [EP], 2011
Notes: A curious but fabulous number, utterly original by design, from a young act by the name of Monica Birkenes, whose 5 feet frame gives her the name Mr. Little Jeans. She describes her music as 'death metal, K-Pop and show tunes' none of which are remotely evident on this catchy sunny pop number. She hails from Grimstad, a small seaside resort in Norway, won a singing competition at 14, moved to London at 18, and is now based in Los Angeles. Her maiden album titled 'Pocketknife' was released last July. More at mrlittlejeansmusic.com.
Song: Little Hitler
Artist: Everything But The Girl, England
Notes: Little Hitlers' is an expression given in England to heartless, small-minded control freak bureaucrats - though it can also be applied to traffic wardens (or meter maids as they're known over here). Such a clever contrast of sweet melodies with a bitter lyrical bent. Apart from the monster hit 'Missing' in 1995, this much-revered English duo has been largely ignored by American radio over the years, despite cutting 11 terrific albums. They are the husband and wife team of Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn who are still very much together, keeping their music alive with a steady flow of reissues of their entire catalog with extra tracks included - although they have no plans for any new EBTG recordings, Tracy issued a Christmas solo album two years ago and Ben mercifully re-emerged last year with 'Hendra', his first solo effort in more than 30 years.
Song: Kiss From A Rose
Artist: UGA Noteworthy, Athens, GA
Album: Hooked, 2014
Notes: Founded in 1988 in Athens, Georgia, UGA Noteworthy is the University of Georgia's revolving all-female a cappella group. This re-fashioning of Seal's 1995 worldwide smash is featured on their latest album, released last July, which also includes new versions of songs by Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert, Sara Bareilles and The Mamas and The Papas. They'll be competing in the Varsity Vocal's 2015 quarter finals for the International Championship of Collegiate a Cappella next weekend. More at uganoteworthy.com.
Song: Kiss From A Rose
Artist: Seal, England
Album: Seal, 1991
Notes: Seal's signature tune appeared on his second album and was also included on the 'Batman Forever' soundtrack. It topped the US charts and in 1997 nabbed Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards. He wrote the song while living in a squat in Kensal Green, London and is reputedly a trbute to Crosby, Stills & Nash. After a four-year recording hiatus, he'll be releasing a new album later this year. More at seal.com.