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: Bad Love
Artist: Battleme, Austin, TX
Album: Big Score [EP], 2010
Notes: An intriguing, charming two-minute acoustic ditty from a side project of Austin-based rock combo Lions' lead singer Matt Drenik. He relocated to Portland, Oregon in 2010, where he built a basement studio in his house and recorded his first album. If you're a fan of the popular FX series 'Sons of Anarchy' you may be familiar with this act's music: no less than nine of their tracks have appeared on the show over the years. More at battleme.tv.
Song: A Thousand Years
Artist: Sting, England
Album: Brand New Day, 1999
Notes: Astonishingly never released as a single despite its crescendo brilliance. Ever diverse in his solo output, the former Police-man always keeps it fresh and has a clever writing technique: he often composes rather melodically awkward, abstract verses followed by a hugely pleasing melodic simple chorus, made all the more harmonic and memorable by its juxtaposition against the rather difficult verses. In a career of almost constant success, his musical 'The Last Ship' sank on Broadway, despite his appearance in the show. He'll be hitting the road again with Paul Simon in March, an unmissable double act. For dates, see sting.com/tour/index/.
Song: Honey Are You Alright
Artist: Caitlin Harnett, Australia
Album: The River Runs North, 2014
Notes: A female Ray LaMontagne feel to some of her work and an overall old-school poetic Laurel Canyon sheen to her new album, which emerged last fall and 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. Caitlin hails from Sydney, Australia, recorded her maiden set in Canada and went down a storm at last year's NXNW Music Fest in Toronto. More at caitlinharnett.com.
Artist: Amanda Marshall, Canada
Album: Amanda Marshall, 1995
Notes: A tale of an abused woman planning her escape from her violent Jim Beam-drenched husband, the fictional Virgil Spencer, in the Alabaman city. The singer-songwriter, an alumnus of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, disappeared following her 2001 album 'Everybody's Got A Story', embroiled in a legal dispute over royalties which has prevented her from releasing new material. She moved to California for a while and then bought a house, bnut nothing new in too long.
Song: Do You
Artist: Spoon, Austin, TX
Album: They Want My Soul, 2014
Notes: Released as a single but remarkably not adopted by radio at large despite its obvious catchy modern rock chops. Another top act from the only city in Texas which seems to make any sense, Austin, they've been around for more than 20 years, formed by lead singer and guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno naming the combo after a song by German avant-garde rock pioneers Can. They'll be touring the US in May and June. More at spoontheband.com.
Song: Heaven's Door
Artist: Laurie Levine, South Africa
Album: Six Winters, 2011
Notes: The singer-songwriter surfaced in 2007 with a lovely maiden effort 'Unspoken,' becoming a critic's favorite in her South African homeland. Clearly influenced by the appalachian music of Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams, she deserves much wider notice internationally. She made many friends on her recent tour of the UK and is still working on a follow-up to her 2013 'Border Crossing' album. More at laurielevine.co.za.
Song: Martyr Heart
Artist: Rebecca Roubion, Nashville, TN
Album: Forests [EP], 2013
Notes: Blessed with an authentic musical spirit, she's a Mobile, Alabama native who studied public relations at Louisiana State University. She's been focusing on her music career since 2012 when she relocated to Nashville. Influenced by the music of Carole King and Eva Cassidy, 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. If only more artists had such a simple, clear philosophy. Having completed her successfull Christmas Lights tour, she'll be playing a couple of dates in New York next month. Unmissable. More at rebeccaroubion.
Song: Can't Get Enough
Artist: Rivvrs, San Francisco, CA
Album: Hold On [EP], 2014
Notes: Soulful folk pop and another cracking offering from last year's fab EP, Rivvrs is the performing name of folk-pop tunesmith Brandon Zahursky, who's based in San Francisco where he's developing a loyal following. Extracts from the EP already used on several tv shows including 'About A Boy' and Red Band Society'. Stream this cut again at rivvrs.com.
Song: Rollin' Home
Artist: Tyler Hilton, Palm Springs, CA
Notes: Such an underrated lyricist - is there another song inventive enough to have a rhyming couplet pairing 'vulture' with 'counter culture'? Tylere has an uncanny gift for crafting simple, memorable melodies and smart lyrics, delivered with a strong raspy voice. He released 'Indian Summer' last November - only his fifth album in 14 year, but all worth a gander. More at tylerhilton.com.
Song: Any Other Name
Artist: Thomas Newman, Los Angeles, CA
Notes: A faint, melodic pearl from the Sam Mendes-directed classic, 'American Beauty', starring Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening. A Yale graduate with a Masters degree in music composition, Newman is perhaps the greatest contemporary film and television composer and arranger out there, scoring dozens of peerless soundtracks since bowing in 1984 including 'Fried Green Tomatoes', 'The Shawshank Redemption', the brilliant 'Road To Perdition' the last James Bond movie, 'Skyfall' (both of which Mendes also directed) and another great one for last year's Robert Downey Jr. under-appreciated flop, 'The Judge'.
Song: Kiss and Tell
Artist: Bryan Ferry, England
Album: Bete Noire, 1987
Notes: His only solo Billboard Hot 100 chart-placing, though it never made the Top 30, the ever-dapper former Roxy Music frontman with a crisp belter that was also featured in the old Michael J. Fox movie, 'Bright Lights Big City'. Perhaps the most stylish gentleman in rock, he will astonishingly turn 70 come September. He issued his 15th solo album last year, the unfortunately rather routine 'Avonmore' which boasted a host of top guest musicians including Nile Rodgers, Johnny Marr from the Smiths and Mark Knopfler. All eight Roxy Music studio albums are being released in a vinyl box set in the UK next month. More at bryanferry.com.
Song: Change of Heart
Artist: Change, Italy/New York, NY
Album: Change Of Heart, 1984
Notes: Another cut by this group was played on last week's show. Change was the vision of French Italian entrepreneur, Jacques Fred Petrus and Italian songwriter and producer, Maura Malavasi, who formed the revolving R&B/post-disco studio band in Italy in 1979. Its first incarnation featured Luther Vandross on the epic 'The Glow of Love' before the pair enlisted super-producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in 1984 to revive the group's fortunes for their fifth LP.
Song: Water Under Bridges
Artist: Gregory Porter & Laura Mvula, San Diego, CA/England
Notes: So heartening that this kind of authentic old school soul is still being written and recorded. Described by the New York Times as 'a jazz singer of thrilling presence, a booming baritone with a gift for earthy refinement and soaring uplift', Porter is a relative latecomer to the recorded music scene, his first album only emerging in 2010 when he was 38. From Sacramento and never seen without his trademark flat cap, he was inked to the iconic Blue Note label in 2013 for his breakthrough set, Liquid Spirit. L&F alumnus Laura Mvula is an English soulstress who released a stunning and much overlooked debut set, 'Sing To The Moon' in 2013. He's playing a few dates in the north-east this coming week, before heading over to Europe, where he's highly revered. More at gregoryporter.com.
Song: Love in Me
Artist: Judah & The Lion, Nashville, TN
Album: Kids These Days, 2014
Notes: A banjo and mandolin infused dish of new Americana roots music by a rocking bluegrass trio fronted by Judah Akers and based in Nashville. They've been together for about three years, releasing the one EP, 'Sweet Tennessee', in 2013 and their 2014-issued first album. All the fresh numbers from the album can be streamed directly at judahandthelion.com. They begin a major US tour this week in Columbus, Ohio, through the middle of April.
Song: Live Without You
Artist: Cary Brothers, Nashville, TN
Album: Let Me Be [EP], 2013
Notes: Originally from Nashville, but long-based in Los Angeles, he first came to wide attention with his 'Blue Eyes' contribution to the 'Garden State' film soundtrack in 2004 - but the two albums and a slew of EPs he's issued over the past 10 years are simply first-rate and all worth checking out, but earns his bread and butter from the frequent use of his songs in film and on TV. He's currently opening for Joshua Radin on a US trek - all dates at carybrothers.com, where there's a free four-track music sampler.
Song: Your Soul
Artist: Rhodes, England
Album: Morning [EP], 2014
Notes: Unsurprisingly this chap opened for London Grammar on a UK tour last year. Born David Rhodes in Hertfordshire, just north of London, he has only been performing for a couple of years but has also already opened for the likes of Laura Marling and Rufus Wainwright and has been much praised for his first three EPs by the British music press. A highlight act at last year's Glastonbury, he deserves a wider berth over here. More at rhodesmusic.co.uk, where you can download a free track.
Artist: Dire Straits, England
Album: Communique, 1979
Notes: The inimitable Mark Knopfler fronting his mega million-selling band with the vintage lost tempo-teasing diamond from almost 35 years ago. As lovely as that song is it was in fact written by Knopfler about the serious topic of domestic abuse and possessive love. He disbanded his 'ber-successful combo in 1995 and hasn't looked back, merely assembling a peerless canon of solo work since then. His latest album, 'Tracker', will be released in March and he'll be on the road from May, wending his way to the US in September. For dates, see markknopfler.com.
Song: Slow Down
Artist: Angela McCluskey, Scotland
Notes: Such an engaging, ethereal vocal delivery on this ballad accompanied by an upright show-hall piano. Angela frequently graces recordings by French combo, Telepopmusik and her own Wild Colonials band. She recently contributed to Azealia Banks' 'Ice Princess', the most downloaded song from her latest album 'Broke WIth Expensive Taste'. More at angelamccluskey.com.
Song: I Was Only Joking
Artist: Rod Stewart, England
Album: Footloose & Fancy Free, 1977
Notes: A fab almost 'Layla'-ish guitar solo gracing this lost gem, recorded back in the days when he actually wrote his own songs rather than lazily plundering the great American Songbook. Originally released as a double A-side with his 'Hot Legs' hit. He wrote or co-wrote all of his biggest hits including 'Maggie May'. He did finally release some original new material in 2013 with the rather average 'Time' album, but nothing as good as that contained therein. Rod the former Mod turned 70 in January. More at rodstewart.com.
Artist: Judie Tzuke, England
Album: Sportscar, 1980
Notes: The polished soprano on a completely unknown pearl by the veteran songstress, who signed to Elton John's Rocket Records label in 1977. Her daughter, Bailey, who has toured with her mother for years, had a Top 10 UK hit in 2007 as the featured artist on the Freemason's 'Uninvited.' Mum is still going strong into the new century, recorded some choice cuts with Morcheeba in 2008. Her entire 24-strong album catalog is available for sale directly from her website, simply tzuke.com.
Song: Keep On Walking
Artist: Passenger, England
Album: All The Little Lights, 2012
Notes: Michael Rosenberg aka Passenger with another literate extract from his fabulous 2012 album. He opened on some US fall dates for another L&F preferred vendor, Ed Sheeran, last year. Passenger was formerly a five-piece band formed by Mike which recorded an album together in 2007 before he went solo keeping the group's moniker. More at passengermusic.com.
Artist: Marc Anthony, New York, NY
Album: Mended, 2002
Notes: Written by Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas for the former Mr. J-Lo, proving there are no musical rules here on L&F. The New York born singer was named Tropical/Salsa New Artist of the Year at the Billboard Latin Music Awards back in 1994. In the intervening twenty years, he has picked up a host of Grammy, Latin Grammy and American Music awards, a handful of platinum albums and had a successful parallel TV and movie career. More at marcanthonyonline.com.
Artist: James Morrison, England
Album: Undiscovered, 2007
Notes: First class blue-eyed soul from English singer-songwriter James Catchpole - who chooses to use his middle name as a surname when performing. None of his superb 15 singles to date has yet cracked the Billboard Hot 100. He made his American TV debut in 2007 on the 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' show, which remains one of the best broadcast platforms for new music. He's also cut some fine duets with the likes of Jason Mraz and Nelly Furtado. A big star around the rest of the world but still relatively undiscovered on these shores, he's one of the best pop-soul talents out there, currently working on his fourth long-player. More at jamesmorrisonmusic.com.
Song: Price To Pay
Artist: Melissa McClelland, Canada
Notes: Yet more terrific undiscovered music from Canada by a Toronto-based singer-songwriter, who is much in-demand as a singer for other artists, not least as a regular backing vocalist for fellow Canadian Sarah McLachlan. Once described as 'the female equivalent of Tom Waits', she's a sorely underrated talent outside the Canadian music scene. She's once again teamed up with Luke Doucet, releasing the album 'Leave No Bridge Unturned' as Whitehorse. They'll be coming south of the border next month to promote the album. More at whitehorsemusic.ca and facebook.com/MelissaMcClellandMusic.
Song: The Salt Wound Routine
Artist: Thirteen Senses, England
Album: The Invitation, 2004
Notes: Yet another cracking overlooked gem from the sterling catalog of an alternative rock English quartet from the lovely south western part of the country called Cornwall. Fronted by lead singer and pianist Will South, they have released four superb albums during their dozen years together, the most recent 'A Strange Encounter' coming out last year. In the tradition of Coldplay and Keane, so an enduring mystery as to why they haven't taken off in the US. More at thirteensenses.com.
Song: The Song I Wrote For You
Artist: Greg Holden, Scotland
Notes: A rather engaging winsome love song from a now deleted, self-titled EP released a couple of years ago. Originally from Scotland but based in New York since 2009, he may not be a household name but the singer-songwriter co-composed one of the biggest hits of the past five years, 'Home' by American Idol winner Phillip Phillips. He's opened for the likes of Ingrid Michaelson, A Great Big World and The Lone Bellow, and has two worthwhile long players under his belt to date. HIs latest 'Chase The Sun' is due imminently. More at gregholdenonline.com.
Song: Crazy Over You
Artist: Smooth Hound Smith, Chicago, IL/Fresno, CA
Album: Crazy Over You, 2013
Notes: Engaging uncomplicated harmonies traded by Zack Smith and Caitlin Doyle, the roots Americana duo of Smooth Hound Smith. Zack and Caitlin got together in 2012 in East Nashville and have already racked up more than 70,000 road miles playing more than 500 shows across 30 states - rarely does a month go by without them performing somewhere. Find out where they'll be next at smoothoundsmith.com. They've just finished a successful crowd-funding campaign to record a new album.
Song: Whisper Low
Artist: Adam Agin, Nashville, TN
Notes: Under-appreciated tunesmith with another melancholic delight, the second single from his 2012 album, showing strong shades of Ed Sheeran in his overall sound. Often referred to by critics and fans as Nashville's best kept secret, he released one EP and two lovely albums before teaming up with William T. Cook as Neulore. Their debut album, 'Animal Evolve', was released last September. More at neulore.com.
Song: Saddest Songs
Artist: Elenowen, Nashville, TN
Album: For The Taking, 2015
Notes: Arguably the best cut from their brand new sophomore set, Elenowen is the husband and wife team of Josh and Nicole Johnson who joined forces in 2009 after both pursuing solo music careers. The Nashville-based duo take their band name from Josh's mother and Nicole's father. 'For The Taking' was funded through Kickstarter and was produced by Music City staple Jeremy Bose and L&F stalwart Trent Dabbs. They're in the last couple of weeks of a tour to promote the album. More at elenowen.com.
Song: Please Don't Go
Artist: Barcelona, Seattle, WA
Album: Absolutes, 2009
Notes: Please don't go I want you so I can't let go for I lose control'. The story of a man driving himself to the edge of sanity, unable, unwilling to let go of his dearest love, pleading beyond reason for her to stay. The group, based in Seattle, has been around since 2005 - a tight trio of lead singer Brian Fennell, guitarist Chris Bristol and Rhett Stonelake on the skins. An exceptional ballad, haunting, uncluttered from a remarkable but underloved album. More at wearebarcelona.com.
Song: Never Stop Loving You
Artist: Graphite Man, Nashville, TN
Album: Not available
Notes: A deceptively simple but ace confection by the multi-faceted Music City tunesmith Kyle Rictor, who is one-half of the L&F-featured Rictor combo with Kelsey and also a leading light in General Ghost, now ghost-writing under the name Graphite Man. Keep up with all things Rictor at rictormusic.com.
Song: It's That Simple
Artist: Act As If, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Steady, 2014
Notes: The gorgeous closing track from their recently released sophomore album, featured on our best of 2014 show. The band is a tight Los Angeles-based indie-rock quintet fronted by singer-songwriter Peter Verdell and featuring Sara Lindsay on keyboards. Verdell worked in A&R for Drive-Thru Records during the mid 2000s, before setting out to create his own music. In May 2010, his debut 'There's A Light' was released and the song 'About Saying And Meaning Goodbye' was used by Apple for its OS X Lion demo video. More at actasifmusic.com.
Artist: Field Report, Milwaukee, WI
Album: Marigolden, 2014
Notes: From their sparsely elegant introspective sophomore long-player, which was one of last year's finest releases, adding some electronica flourishes to the otherwise rootsy Americana feel. They're a six-piece folk outfit from Milwaukee firmly led by a chap called Chris Porterfield, hence the group name - an anagram of his surname - they're wrapping up a US tour at the end of the week, before Porterfield sets out on a solo trek through the end of April. More at fieldreportmusic.com.
Song: Gimme All Your Lovin'
Artist: Long Winters, Seattle, WA
Album: Sweetheart, 2010
Notes: A rather clever, stripped down treatment of the ZZ Top rock classic by the rather obscure Long Winters, fronted by John Roderick, voted third 'Sexiest Man' in Seattle in 2006. The track was featured on an ongoing, excellent various artists collection of covers on Starbucks' record label. More at thelongwinters.com.
Song: Gimme All Your Lovin'
Artist: ZZ Top, Houston, TX
Album: Eliminator, 1983
Notes: A Top 40 hit for the legendary boogie-rock trio back in 1983. The line-up of Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard (all now aged 65) has been together since 1969 and has sold more than 25 million albums in the US alone. Still going strong - they just teamed up with Weezer to perform on Jimmy Kimmel's 'Mash Up Mondays' and hit the road next month through May 10th. More at zztop.com.