Song: World War
Artist: Tim Myers, Orange, CA
Album: Revolution [EP], 2007
Notes: A more substantial track than his usually more fluffy almost jingle-like peppiness - a socially conscience-themed peace offering from a singer-songwriter who served his apprenticeship as the bass player for One Republic between 2004 and 2007, since when he's pursued a successful solo career. He's released three albums since then and his songs are highly prized by ad agencies and TV shows for their inherent melodic chops. More at myspace.com/timmyersmusic.
Artist: Eric Clapton, England
Album: Pilgrim, 1998
Notes: The rumbling ruby title cut from the most tender and vulnerable album in his staggering canon of work, which when first issued was received with mixed feelings, some finding it too bland - but it is an intensely personal and profoundly sad soulful effort, co-produced and largely co-written by British popster, Simon Climie of the Climie Fisher duo - a daring choice by Clapton but it paid off handsomely. He's recorded 22 solo studio albums since 1970, most recently 'The Breeze (An Appreciation Of J.J. Cale)'. More at ericclapton.com.
Song: I'll Prove My Love
Artist: Gordon Lightfoot, Canada
Album: Waiting For You, 1993
Notes: Understated, brimming with erudite lyrics and a typically soothing melody - an absolute masterclass from one of the very best. Both Robbie Robertson of The Band and Bob Dylan count Lightfoot among their favorite tunesmiths, who turned 76 in November and still performs live and works out at the gym six days a week after nearly dying in 2002 when he was in a coma for six weeks, and then suffering a minor stroke four years later. One of the few legends in contemporary music who refuses to have a website, the Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee does have two excellently-run fan sites - gordonlightfoot.com and lightfoot.ca.
Song: Soul Checked
Artist: AHI, Canada
Album: India Soul [EP], 2014
Notes: Clearly reminiscent of L&F alumnus Robert Bradley and indeed Terence Trent D'Arby, 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. More at ahimusic.com.
Artist: Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise, Detroit, MI
Album: New Ground, 2002
Notes: Dripping with authentic soul, power and melody in perfect harmony from a blind singer, making music this good, from his soul, just like Ray Charles. An immensely underrated blues roots singer originally from Alabama, he was discovered by the quartet who subsequently became his backing band while busking on the streets of Detroit in 1994. They released five first-rate studio albums between 1996 and 2008. More at robertbradleysblackwatersurprise.com.
Song: Small Blue Thing
Artist: Suzanne Vega, Santa Monica, CA
Album: Suzanne Vega, 1985
Notes: Only two hits on the Billboard Hot 100 by Suzanne Vega, 'Tom's Diner' and the classic 'Luka' over a long and distinguished career which leaves bucket-loads of superb lost gems lurking in her catalog - including this one. Between 2010 and 2012 the NY-based singer-songwriter issued four fascinating albums all under the project name 'Close Up', each one reworking her past glories under different moods and themes. She's back on the road this month. For details, check out suzannevega.com/tour.
Song: Wild Wood
Artist: Brynn Elliott, Atlanta, GA
Album: Notions Of Youth [EP], 2014
Notes: A superbly crafted nugget from an Atlanta-based singer/songwriter who is just starting out at Harvard University. She was taught to sing from the age of three by her grandfather and picked up the guitar and piano as a teenager - but it wasn't until the tragic death of a close friend just a couple of years ago that she was inspired to pour her soul into music even though she was still attending high school. She only recently made her performing debut, describing it thus: 'From studio to stage, something shifted'. More on young Brynn at brynnelliott.com.
Song: With Your Two Hands
Artist: The Wind & The Wave, Austin, TX
Album: From The Wreckage, 2014
Notes: A rollicking extract from one of L&F's favorite albums of the year. The freshman longplayer which houses this nugget (and six further cuts we've played) was recently hailed by the New York Times as 'an eclectic, radio friendly cycle that ranges from dreamy pop to foot-stomping Americana.' The whole set is just knee-deep in rootsy, rustic golden tunes and comes highly recommended. The Wind & The Wave are the harmony-dipped creative duo of Patricia Lynn and Dwight Baker a couple of best friends who hail from Austin, Texas. They're hitting the road this month with Saints of Valory. More at thewindandthewave.com.
Song: To The North
Artist: Matthew & The Atlas, England
Album: Other Rivers, 2014
Notes: One of the more recent signings to the always worthwhile Communion Records label co-founded by Mumford & Sons member, Ben Lovett in London's fashionable Notting Hill, the band is led by Matthew Hegarty. The Independent newspaper describes their music as 'absolutely spellbinding', while Baeblemusic describes the record as 'possessing a beautiful sense of desolation with faintly alarming string and synth arrangements, all of which are held together by Hegarty's shakily hesitant howls'. More on them at matthewandtheatlas.com.
Artist: Grace Mitchell, Portland, OR
Album: Design [EP], 2014
Notes: Clearly circling Lorde and Lana Del Rey, Grace is a 16-year-old newcomer armed with authentic songwriting chops and boasting a remarkably mature vocal range: this is a spanking new exuberant pop pleaser from her maiden offering. Originally from Queensland, Australia, her only previous outing was a crafty cover version of Daryl Hall & John Oates' chestnut, 'Maneater', which emerged on 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' soundtrack last year. Being groomed by Universal Records as a major new talent, her EP is certainly a promising start. More at gracemitchell.com.
Artist: The Dear Hunter, Providence, RI
Album: The Color Spectrum, 2011
Notes: Earnest, anthemic no-nonsense indie-rock from the progressive rock/folk group led by singer/writer/producer/multi-instrumentalist Casey Crescenzo and his brother Nick on drums. They've released five albums since 2006, the most recent being 'Mirage' in 2013, while Casey issued a four movement symphony solo work called 'Amour & Attrition' last June. More at thedearhunter.com.
Artist: Emmylou Harris, Birmingham, AL
Album: Wrecking Ball, 1995
Notes: A Steve Earle-penned song from a career-changing album, produced by Daniel Lanois, which featured covers of songs by Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, Anna McGarrigle and Gillian Welch. In addition to her heartbreaking, crackled vocals and first-rate lyrics, it's Lanois' impeccable and haunting instrumentation which he wrapped around this tune that makes it so very sad and bleak. Recording over six decades, Emmylou is still making great music and was honored a couple of weeks ago with a tribute concert at the D.A.R. Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. More at emmylouharris.com.
Song: The First Picture of You
Artist: Lotus Eaters, England
Album: No Sense Of Sin, 1984
Notes: Yet another band championed by legendary British DJ BBC Radio 1's John Peel back in the UK - he truly was Britain's ultimate music tastemaker over four decades before dying suddenly from a heart attack in 2004. When the band first played this song on Peel's show as an unsigned band, a bidding war erupted between several record labels, won by Clive Davis' Arista Records. The group was around for only four years in the early '80s, part of a creative pool of bands which were emerging out of Liverpool at the time. Lead singer Peter Coyle, who went on to record a couple of solo albums, had a real way with album titles - his first was called 'A Slap In The Face for Public Taste' and its followup - 'I'd Sacrifice Eight Orgasms With Shirley MacLaine Just To Be There'.
Song: Finders Keepers
Artist: Miriam Bryant, Sweden
Notes: With a voice right up there with Adele, the 22-year-old singer, from Gothenburg, Sweden, the daughter of a British father and Finnish mother, released her debut album 'Raised In Rain' in 2013. More on her at miriambryantmusic.com where you can also catch a rather stylish b&w video clip of the number, which was included on her only multi-track released to date in the US, the 5-song 'Push Play' EP from 2013. As guest vocalist on Zedd's 'Find You', she topped the US Dance chart last year and released a new single, 'Dragon', in the fall.
Song: Down On Rodeo
Artist: Lindsey Buckingham, Palo Alto, CA
Album: Under The Skin, 2006
Notes: The wonderful tremulous vocal could only be one performer, the great Lindsey Buckingham. He wrote the song back in 1990, but didn't record until more than a decade later. Currently reunited on their rescheduled Fleetwood Mac reunion tour of course - and with Christine McVie finally back in the fold an unmissable opportunity to see them in all their former five-star glory - their 'On With The Show' trek running from now right through until the end of March All dates at fleetwoodmac.com.
Song: One of These Mornings
Artist: Moby featuring Patti LaBelle, Harlem, NY/Philadelphia, PA
Album: 18 & 18 B-Sides, 2008
Notes: Recorded especially for the 'Miami Vice' movie remake in 2006 by the surprising creative pairing of electronica whiz Moby with R&B legend Patti LaBelle - proving once again, there should never be any rules in making worthwhile music. There's a first class 31-track Moby compilation available of rare tracks including this one called '18 & 18 B-Sides', which is worth a listen. It also includes other collaborations with the likes of Sinead O'Connor and Angie Stone. More at moby.com and pattilabelle.com, which has details of forthcoming dates and her 'signature line of sauces'.
Song: Mourning Dove
Artist: Green Pitch, Denmark
Album: Awake [EP], 2011
Notes: A soft acoustic diamond by a tasteful and tuneful acoustic duo from Denmark, comprising the ethereal vocals of Rex Garfield and her partner Ste Rasch, who once spent time in the delightfully-named band, The River Phoenix. They released three albums ('Ace Of Hearts', 'La Jolla' and 'Awake' and two EPS between 2007 and 2011). There's an uber-cute video of this number lurking on YouTube (youtube.com/watch?v=Cdo1IhdZI3E) which has only had about 4,000 views to date.
Artist: MoZella, Detroit, MI
Album: Belle Isle, 2010
Notes: 33-year-old, Detroit-born Maureen McDonald, has recorded dozens of catchy, hook-filled gems in all kinds of genres and she should be a household name. Although her solo performing career still hasn't reached the dizzying heights it so obviously deserves, despite having scores of placements in movies and TV seres, she finally scored a huge hit as a composer, co-writing last year's monster smash 'Wrecking Ball' for Miley Cyrus.
Song: I'll Fight
Artist: Wilco, Chicago, IL
Album: Wilco (The Album), 2009
Notes: Not entirely sure why this wasn't released as a single; it rolls along rather lovingly, arguably from the band's most consistent long-player, which of course also houses one of their signature hits, 'You and I'. Originally formed from the ashes of alternative country band Uncle Tupelo, the Chicago-based group led by Jeff Tweedy, who recently issued his first solo set titled 'Sukierae', has been reliably moving forward since 1994. To celebrate the band's 20th anniversary, two new compilations ('Alpha Mike Foxtrot' and 'What's Your 20') were released in November and they'll be back on the road in April More at wilcoworld.net/#!/news/.
Artist: Autumn Defense, New Orleans, LA/Meridian, MS
Album: Fifth, 2014
Notes: Wilco members Pat Sansone and John Stirratt moonlight as The Autumn Defense with a neat Beatlesque gem from their most recent album issued in January. The rest of the set has a lovely retro Laurel Canyon folk-pop rock feel to it - altogether extremely engaging. They've been together fifteen years in their side band and a parallel longterm membership of Wilco. The pair has just contributed the track 'Oh Fernanda Why' to the recently released 'Master Mix - Red Hot + Arthur Russell' compilation and appeared at the Todos Santos Music Festival in Mexico a couple of weeks ago.
Artist: Linda Ronstadt, Tucson, AZ
Notes: We never really made it baby, but we came pretty close, Adios' - yet another perfect lyric by the great Jimmy Webb, produced by Peter Asher with vocals arranged and sang by Brian Wilson - a combination that's hard to beat. This stunning lost love song was tucked away on her 1989, 'Cry Like A Rainstorm, Howl Like The Wind', which also included some stunning duets with Aaron Neville. Her riveting autobiography 'Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir' was published earlier this year and is well worth a read. In it she documents the sad onset of Parkinson's Disease which has left her unable to sing. More at ronstadt-linda.com.
Song: Are You Living
Artist: General Ghost, Philadelphia, PA/Mechanicsburg, PA
Album: Not available
Notes: A crisp, hook-laden rhythm track from a Nashville band fronted by Kyle Rictor and Jon Howard, with their respective wives Kelsey Rictor and Natalie Taylor adding sweet vocals. They got together two years ago and have released two EPs in that time. Howard also plays guitar for Paramore, while Rictor and his wife perform as Rictor. More at generalghost.com. Regrettably this cut still isn't yet available for commercial consumption.
Song: Blame It On Me
Artist: George Ezra, England
Album: Wanted On Voyage, 2014
Notes: The lead-off cut from his recently issued blues/folk-dipped freshman set, currently topping the UK chart. It's hard to believe that, with his mature blue-eyed vocal style, this British newcomer was born in 1993. Musically influenced most by Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, he arrived on the scene at last year's Glastonbury Festival and is currently on his first US tour. More at georgeezra.com/#live.
Song: Pull Up To The Bumper
Artist: Grace Jones, Jamaica
Album: Nightclubbing, 1981
Notes: Bearing a similar rhythm vibe to the Tom Tom Club's 'Genius of Love', a self-penned soul-rock shuffler which missed the Hot 100 by a whisker. Born Beverly Jones in Jamaica some 66 years ago, she pushed the boundaries of fashion and dance music, generally being wonderfully provocative when Lady Gaga was still in a stroller - she was actually a muse for Andy Warhol back in the Studio 54 days in New York in the 1970s. She's also taken more than a dozen film roles over the years including a memorable turn as May Day in the James Bond movie 'A View To A Kill' and had a new song 'Original Beast' included on the soundtrack of 'The Hunger Games - Mockingjay, Pt. 1'. No website for Ms. Jones, but plenty to find out at facebook.com/GraceJonesOfficial.
Song: Us Against The World
Artist: Coldplay, England
Album: Mylo Xyloto, 2011
Notes: Never released as a single, except in South Korea, Chris Martin performed the song with Michael Stipe at the Concert for Sandy Relief in December 2013. A favorite live staple, it's the most performed non-single on their past two tours. The band is hoping for success at both the Grammys and BRITS, where they have snared several nominations. More at coldplay.com.
Song: Orphan Girl
Artist: Gillian Welch, Manhattan, NY
Album: Revival, 1996
Notes: Across her remarkable five albums, all of which are soaked in backwoods Appalachian bluegrass folk, this track from her debut release remains one of her best. Despite her authentic high country stylings, she was born in New York, adopted from birth by Ken and Mitzie Welch and raised in California where her parents wrote music for TV series such as 'The Carol Burnett Show'. She graduated at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston where she first met her subsequent longtime musical partner, singer/guitarist Dave Rawlings. More at gillianwelch.com.
Song: Running With The Boys
Artist: Lights, Canada
Album: Running With The Boys, 2014
Notes: She's resisted the temptation to go fully-blown EDM on this number even though she's long pioneered that latest wave in the electro-pop genre. Born Valerie Poindexter, the Canadian synth-pop, singer-songwriter has been long inspired by Kate Bush and Bjork and was snapped up at just 15 as a songwriter by Sony Music. A first-time mum last year, naming her child Rocket Wild, she's about to hit the road on a month-long tour. Details at music.iamlights.com.
Song: My Oh My
Artist: Leonard Cohen, Canada
Album: Popular Problems, 2014
Notes: An intriguing highlight from his latest album, a nine-track blues, country-dipped affair, which remarkably has already topped the chart in more than 10 countries around the world. Quite remarkable for an 80-year old performer - only he, Willie Nelson and Tony Bennett are still enjoying that kind of success as octogenarians - and Cohen by far the biggest box-office draw among them, pulling in tens of millions of dollars at sold-out shows around the globe for the past six years. The album has been greeted with the usual 5-star reviews everywhere, with The Daily Telegraph in the UK calling it simply 'a masterpiece'. More at leonardcohen.com.
Song: Why Oh Why Oh Why
Artist: Gilbert O'Sullivan, Ireland
Notes: Despite its glorious melody and execution - though proudly sappy - this is one of so many A+ self- piteous saccharin ballads by the singer/songwriter which failed to chart in the US. Best known of course for another of his uniquely reflective ballads 'Alone Again Naturally', he's released 20+ superior albums since bowing in 1971 and remains quite possibly the most modest, mild-mannered man to ever score a #1 record. His newest album is due in March. More at gilbertosullivan.net.
Song: Place de la Republique
Artist: Coeur de Pirate, Canada
Album: Blonde, 2012
Notes: Coeur de Pirate (Pirate Heart), is the performing name of Canadian songstress, Beatrice Martin, who's from Quebec and writes most of her songs in French. She began learning the piano as a three-year old, played in post-hardcore band December Strikes First when she was 15 before releasing her self-titled debut in 2008. She also contributed to 2013's soundtrack to season five of the Canadian drama series, 'Trauma', with her unique take on Bill Withers' 'Ain't No Sunshine', and composed the score for the video game 'Child Of Light'. More at coeurdepirate.com/en/.
Song: The End (Creasy Dies)
Artist: Lisa Gerrard, Australia
Notes: This track was performed over the climactic final death scene of the Denzel Washington-starring film 'Man On Fire' by its co-writer Lisa Gerrard, with extraordinary 'idioglossia' lyrics: an idiosynchratic language invented by one person's imagination. Gerrard is an Australian who started out as one half of Dead Can Dance with Brendan Perry and included among her other film contributions are 'Gladiator', 'Mission Impossible II', 'Black Hawk Down' and 'Whalerider'. Her collaborator on this project was Harry Gregson-Williams, who has an impressive list of film scores to his credit, most notably perhaps, 'Valerie Guerin'.
Artist: Genesis, England
Album: Genesis, 1983
Notes: A track from the group's 12th long player which somehow never made the Top 50 even though it was released bang in the middle of their most popular years. Drummer Phil Collins, the second wealthiest drummer in the world behind Ringo Starr with a reported fortune of more than '100 million, has been unable to drum for some five years and counting, with a serious nerve problem making it difficult for him to, as he puts it, 'grip the sticks'. He recently donated his Alamo collection - the most extensive anywhere - to the State of Texas, so it could be exhibited at The Alamo.
Song: Leading Me Now
Artist: The Tallest Man On Earth, Sweden
Album: There's No Leaving Now, 2012
Notes: Measuring about 5' 9' in height, but calling himself The Tallest Man On Earth, Kristian Matsson sounds mid-way between Dylan and last year's young pretender Jake Bugg, though astonishingly he's Swedish. He has an ever-growing, but still sadly niche following over here, with three long players and a couple of EPs since bowing in 2006. More at thetallestmanonearth.com. (The actual tallest man on earth is Sultan Kosen from Turkey, who dwarfs Matsson at 8' 3.)
Song: In Anyway
Artist: Vusi Mahlasela featuring Taj Mahal, South Africa
Album: Say Africa, 2010
Notes: South Africa's foremost folk musician, in its truest meaning, trading guitar runs and vocals with blues legend Taj Mahal on an enchanting World Music outing. Mahlasela 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. He will be embarking on the 20 Years of Freedom tour with Hugh Masekela later this month. More at vusimahlasela.com.
Artist: Julie Fowlis, Scotland
Album: Cuilich [Import], 2008
Notes: The winner of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Folk Singer of the Year in 2008, Fowlis grew up in the Outer Hebrides on the island of North Uist off the west coast of Scotland, in a predominantly Gaelic-speaking community. Her first album, 'Mar a Tha Mo Chridhe' appeared in 2005, since when there have been four further records, the latest being this year's 'Gach Sgeul', while two of her songs, 'Touch The Sky' and 'Into The Open Air', appeared on the Disney soundtrack 'Brave'. More at juliefowlis.com.
Artist: Beatles, England
Album: The Beatles, 1968
Notes: Recorded on June 11th, 1968 at Abbey Road by a solo Paul McCartney and included on the group's eponymous album, better known as 'The White Album'. McCartney, who wrote the song while he was in Scotland, said that the guitar part was based on J. S. Bach's 'Bourree In E Minor', which he and George tried to learn in their teens to 'show off'.