Song: Burning In The Sun
Artist: Blue Merle, Nashville, TN
Album: Burning In The Sun, 2005
Notes: Kicking off this week's sun-themed L&F to celebrate Daylight Saving Time: fabulous fiddle work on this lost Americana gem from a decade ago by a band that was regrettably only around for three years, breaking up the year after this track was released. Fronted by the overly-talented Luke Reynolds who formed the band in Nashville though they only released one complete album and a few EPs. Reynolds has since done quite a bit of session work for the likes of Brett Dennen and Bela Fleck and joined Guster as a multi-instrumentalist in 2010. Last year his third solo album 'After The Flood' was released. More at lukereynoldsmusic.com.
Song: Brighter Than Sunshine
Artist: Aqualung, England
Album: Still Life, 2003
Notes: A track that got a bit of US airplay back in 2005 from the ridiculously talented singer-songwriter/keyboardist/producer Matt Hales whose 43 years belie his ever-youthful looks. A classically trained English pianist, in addition to his own six-album catalog, he's produced and composed for the likes of Birdy, Jason Mraz, The Fray, Lianne La Havas, Disclosure and Sara Bareilles among many others. This track was also featured in the Ashton Kutcher-starring movie 'A Lot Like Love'. A new Aqualung long-player, '10 Futures' has just come out, and can be found at aqualung.net. More at facebook.com/AqualungOfficial?fref=ts as well.
Song: Hello Sunshine
Artist: Mozella, Detroit, MI
Notes: A '60s-recalling peppy pleaser from long-time L&F favorite, Detroit born Maureen McDonald. Still in her 20s, she has recorded dozens of catchy, hook-filled gems across several genres. Despite the fact that her solo performing career still hasn't reached the dizzying heights it so obviously deserves, she did finally scored a huge hit as a composer as the co-writer of Miley Cyrus' 2013 monster smash 'Wrecking Ball'. She's also co-inked 'Dancing In The Dark', for Rihanna featured on the forthcoming 'Home' soundtrack album.
Song: Invisible Sun
Artist: Aswad & Sting, England
Album: Roots Revival, 1998
Notes: Sting's second stab at his own composition, first executed of course by the Police in 1981 for their album 'Ghost In The Machine' but nicely reversioned here by British reggae band Aswad with Sting guesting on lead vocal. The group is celebrating its 40th year together this year and have been regulars on the UK chart since 1984, becoming the second most popular British reggae act after UB40. In writing the tune for the Police, Sting explained: I actually wrote the song in Ireland, where I was living at the time. It was during the hunger strikes in Belfast. I wanted to write about that but I wanted to show some light at the end of the tunnel. I do think there has to be an 'invisible sun'. You can't always see it, but there has to be something radiating light into our lives.
Song: Always The Sun
Artist: Stranglers, England
Album: Dreamtime, 1986
Notes: This is one of many ace deep-catalog tracks recorded by the veteran punk band over its illustrious career. They surfaced as an angry but pioneering act at the dawn of the British punk scene in the mid-'70s in London, but subsequently smoothed out their musical style and made some remarkably tasteful tunes - very few of which got much love over here. Still going strong today, they celebrated 40 years together last year though without their original lead singer, the uncompromising muscular-voiced Hugh Cornwell who quit the band for a solo career in 1990. They've just begun a major UK tour. More at thestranglers.net.
Artist: Sleeping At Last, Wheaton, IL
Album: Space 1 [EP], 2013
Notes: Glorious and intriguing, and the lead-off cut from one of four extended plays released as part of the wider 'Atlas' project, and each of its six tracks named after a planet or a star. Sleeping At Last is the performing name of multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter Ryan O'Neal, the hard-working Wheaton, Illinois indie-rocker who has released no less than 23 EPs since bowing in 1999. He's just announced the forthcoming release of 'Atlas - Year Two'. Well worth checking out his entire melodic repertoire - more at sleepingatlast.com.
Song: Southern Sun
Artist: Boy & The Bear, Australia
Album: Harlequin Dream, 2013
Notes: Easy rolling indie-folk rock from Down Under featured on the quintet's 2013 sophomore release. The band formed six years ago in Sydney around frontman singer-songwriter Dave Hosking and this is the fourth winning track by them L&F has featured over the past few years. They completed a busy 2014 which included three international tours, a gig on home turf at the Lost Paradise festival in New South Wales and an ARIA nomination for Best Live Australian Act, where they lost out to Keith Urban. More at boyandbear.com.
Song: Center of the Sun
Artist: Conjure One featuring Poe, Canada/New York, NY
Album: Conjure One, 2002
Notes: Poptronica gloss by the occasional ambient electronic project begun by Canadian producer, Rhys Fulber in 1997. He also has two other day jobs as a member of both Front Line Assembly and the better known Delerium, a popular duo he formed with Bill Leeb. This exquisite number is one of several standout cuts from the first of three Conjure One albums, 2002's eponymous effort which also featured other female vocalists, Chemda, Marie-Claire D'Ubaldo, Sinead O'Connor and, on this track, Poe. His new Conjure One album, 'Holoscenic' is due out in June. More at conjureone.com.
Song: Hello Mr. Sun
Artist: Joe Brooks, England
Album: Constellation Me, 2010
Notes: 27 years old, but still looking like a teen, this up-and-coming English tunesmith has released just one album and four EPs so far. From the southern coastal town of Southampton, he began his career posting his music on MySpace back in 2005. In 2008, he became the 'Number 1 Unsigned Artist in the UK' on the site with a reported 11 million plays. He signed with Lava/Republic but was dropped soon after and is now unsigned and settled in Los Angeles. He teamed up with actress/singer Tammin Sursock last year to cut a great version of 'Say Something'. More at joebrooks.com.
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: Sun Don't Shine
Artist: Tigger Reunert, South Africa
Album: Not available
Notes: Rolling along like a breezy sunny day at Bantry Bay beach in Cape Town, a demo by an obscure musician from South Africa called Tigger Reunert. In the late '80s he studied at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, but since then has pursued his musical career in his native South Africa. He has performed in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II at a Royal Command Performance in Durban, and played at the first Freedom Day celebrations for President Nelson Mandela. a handful of other interesting tracks at reverbnation.com/tiggerreunert.
Song: My Friend The Sun
Artist: Linda Lewis, England
Album: Legends, 2005
Notes: The girlish high soprano of a British singer blessed with a remarkable five octave range who remains one of the greatest singers you've never heard. She is a solo artiste from London who recorded some beautifully pure LPs in the 1970s - and was also much in-demand as a backing singer, working with David Bowie, Al Kooper and Cat Stevens among many others. She still performs in the UK from time to time, and is in fact about to embark on a 40th anniversary UK tour. Originally housed on the 1977 vinyl LP 'Woman Overboard', it's now available on a British compilation boxed set called 'Legends'. More at lindalewis.co.uk.
Artist: Max & Simon, New York, NY/Los Angeles, CA
Album: Max & Simon, 2014
Notes: Hard to believe that despite having their music featured in a couple of commercials for JC Penney and TV shows like 'The Biggest Loser', they remain unsigned and horribly under-appreciated. They consistently deliver ultra-catchy nuggets like this two-minute bubbler. Interestingly they are neither a duo nor do any their members have the name Max or Simon - they're actually a trio of Blake Healy, Kevin Bard and Mark Rosas, alternately based in New York and Los Angeles, who describe their mission to 'make the world a better place one sunny day at a time?' Healy was a member of the short-lived Metro Station, while Bard still fronts Stereo Skyline. More at facebook.com/maxandsimon.
Song: Stop The Sun
Artist: Ross Copperman, Roanoke, VA
Notes: A true melodian with a knack for writing top-drawer catchy pop songs. He started playing piano at the age of three and was taken by his father to see the Rolling Stones on their 'Steel Wheels' tour when he was seven. He cut his second album, 'Welcome To Reality' in the UK, with assists from Guy Chambers and Graham Gouldman, since when there have been a further three long players. Despite ten years of music making and a canon worthy of anyone, he still remains a secret. He has recently become a go-to composer in Nashville, co-inking tunes for the likes of Kenny Chesney, Trisha Yearwood and Dierks Bentley, for whom he has produced his latest Hot 100 single - all the while releasing his own brand of sturdy pop-rock. More at facebook.com/rosscopperman.
Song: Honey In The Sun
Artist: Camera Obscura, Scotland
Album: My Maudlin Career, 2009
Notes: First class pop-rock from indie-popsters led by Tracyanne Campbell, with her enchanting crystal clear vocal sound. The Scottish band has been together since 1996, since when they have released five albums, the most recent 'Desire Lines' from 2013. More at camera-obscura.net.
Song: Higher Than The Sun
Artist: Keane, England
Album: The Best of Keane, 2013
Notes: Hard to believe that the band has been around for more than 15 years - indeed they issued their first best of collection in 2013 - which also featured two new songs including this lovely pop/rock anthem. The video clip for the number rather neatly animated the group's history - and marked a suitable pause in their story. The band is still on an extended hiatus to focus on solo projects - look for a solo album by lead singer Tom Chaplin later this year. More at keanemusic.com.
Song: To Try For The Sun
Artist: Lindsey Buckingham, Palo Alto, CA
Album: Under The Skin, 1997
Notes: The trademark, seemingly dissonant but extremely cunning double-speed acoustic guitar style which he achieves without using a pick, only his fingers and finger nails, is in evidence of this track. One of the driving forces behind Fleetwood Mac, he is incapable of making disinteresting mediocre music. Longtime colleague Christine McVie is back in the fold for the group's reunion world tour which is playing a few more US dates in the next couple of months before finally wrapping in Dublin, Ireland in July - and maybe the last chance to witness the magical chemistry between Lindsey and Stevie Nicks. More at lindseybuckingham.com.
Song: Sunshine Day
Artist: Osibisa, Ghana/Grenada/Trinidad/Antigua
Album: Welcome Home, 1975
Notes: Astonishingly this brassy Afropop delight never made the Hot 100 despite lighting up charts and dancefloors around Europe way back in 1975. The record was recently given new life by its inclusion in the critically-revered, Oscar-nominated film 'Boyhood'. The band was formed in London in 1969 by three musicians from Ghana and three from the Caribbean and they've been at the forefront of the World Music genre ever since and are still going strong today. Osibisa is a Ghanian word which translates as 'criss-cross rhythms that explode with happiness'. More at osibisa.co.uk.
Song: Pale Sun Rose
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: Thomas Dolby, England
Notes: Such evocative lyrics, always original, always surprising, one of several highlights on the last album by the always-interesting electro-pop pioneer. Surprisingly organic and un-electro for him, the album featured some top guests including Mark Knopfler, Imogen Heap, Natalie MacMaster and Regina Spektor among others. He had a big hit of course more than 30 years ago with 'She Blinded Me With Science' a far bigger success in the US than his native UK and has made a good living since then as a ringtone pioneer and top tech whiz in Silicon Valley. He also serves as the Music Director for those fascinating TED Conferences. More at thomasdolby.com.
Song: Summer Breeze
Artist: Isley Brothers, Cincinnati, OH
Album: 3 + 3, 1974
Notes: Originally a hit for its writers, folk-popsters Seals and Crofts in 1972, but magnificently reworked by the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, with great guitar work by brother Ernie and predictably outstanding vocal harmonizing by siblings O'Kelly, Rudolph and Ronald Isley. A far cry from 'Twist And Shout' indeed. With Ron and Ernie still going strong, they celebrated the 60th anniversary of the band's founding last year.
Song: Towards The Sun
Artist: Alexi Murdoch, England
Album: Towards The Sun, 2009
Notes: Long tipped for the big time, he remains a largely well-kept secret outside film and television circles. Alternately raised in Greece and Scotland (his mother was early '60s songstress Louise Cordet who toured with The Beatles in 1963), he relocated to the US to attend Duke University in the early '90s. His debut EP, 'Four Songs', sold more than 50,000 copies through CD Baby and he followed it with his 2006 debut LP, which received dozens of placements on TV and film. Now living in Berlin, Germany, he has only released one album since his debut - the 2011 'Towards The Sun'. Beautiful, restrained, erudite, serious shades of one of his formative influences, Nick Drake, this song also appeared in the film soundtrack for 'Away We Go', a comedy drama directed by the great Sam Mendes. His new album, 'Time Without Consequence', will be released on vinyl only next month. More at aleximurdoch.com.
Artist: Walker Brothers, Hamilton, OH/New York, NY/Glendale, CA
Notes: A Top 20 hit when first released but rarely heard on American radio since - this epic song was written by Four Seasons' hitmakers Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio as a solo single for Frankie Valli in 1965. Valli's version failed to impress, but the Walker Brothers version caught on big time, topping the survey in the UK. The trio of Scott Engel, John Maus and Gary Leeds recorded the unknown gem 'Love Her' with Jack NItzsche in Los Angeles, but at Leeds' suggestion moved to London in 1965. For a brief period they were one of the biggest acts in Britain, but went their separate ways, with Scott Walker pursuing a highly successful solo career. He continues to make challenging music, while John passed away in 2011.
Song: Moon and Sun
Artist: Gomez, England
Notes: A sorely underrated British alternative-rock outfit who've made much worthwhile music over the past 15 years - their last three albums all issued through Dave Matthews' ATO Records label. A big act all around the globe except in the US, fronted by co-vocalists Ian Ball and Ben Ottewell, who is just about to begin another US solo jaunt. For dates, go to gomeztheband.com.
Artist: Steve Azar, Greenville, MS
Album: Slide Over Here, 2009
Notes: Too sweet for primetime and a little bit country but none the worse for being so, with simple, heartwarming lyrics and a lovely rolling melody. Mississippi born and raised, he started playing music and writing songs as a ten-year old, was already recording in Nashvile at 14 and has recorded four albums since 1996. His song 'Fly' was the official song for last month's 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships and will be featured in the 'Paul Blart Mall Cop 2' movie starring Kevin James. He hits the road on March 18th. For dates, go to steveazar.com.
Song: I Make My Own Sunshine
Artist: Alyssa Bonagura, Franklin, TN
Album: Love Hard, 2012
Notes: With an impeccable musical background - she's the daughter of 1980s hitmaking country music duo Michael Bonagura and Kathie Baillie of the Baillie and the Boys and a graduate of the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, (she was even a temporary member of Pete Wylie's band Wah! while there) - at 26, she already has a couple of albums already under her belt. More on her at alyssabonagura.com. This irresistibly perky track, featuring the happiest of musical instruments, the ukulele, was featured on a Lowe's TV campaign back in 2012.
Artist: One AM Radio, Los Angeles, CA
Notes: The soothing ambient folkish vision of a talented electronic whiz kid called Hrishikesh Hirway - who's based in Los Angeles, but grew up in Massachusetts. He began recording while studying film and art at Yale University and is yet another artist making a living by licensing his literate, melodic repertoire to television shows and movies - including placements on the likes of 'One Tree Hill', 'Gossip Girl' and 'The End of Love' as well as being an in-demand remixer. More at theoneamradio.com.
Song: The Secret Sun
Artist: Jesse Harris & The Ferdinandos, New York, NY
Album: The Secret Sun, 2003
Notes: Still deeply unheralded in the mainstream as a solo artist in his own right, Jesse Harris backed here by his Ferdinandos on a lovely acoustic strummer buried on his 2003 CD of the same name issued on the esteemed Verve label. His greatest commercial success to date came as the sole composer of the Norah Jones breakthrough smash, 'Don't Know Why' more than a decade ago. The New York native has also collaborated with the likes of Lizz Wright, Bright Eyes, soul great Solomon Burke and the marvellous Madeleine Peyroux. More at jesseharrismusic.com.
Song: Sun's Gonna Shine
Artist: Steve Martin & Edie Brickell, Waco, TX/Oak Cliff, TX
Album: Love Has Come For You, 2013
Notes: First rate Americana from the banjo-playing icon of American comedy on a rootsy, organic collaboration with lyricist and singer, former leader of The New Bohemians and Mrs. Paul Simon. Martin first picked up the banjo fifty years ago, learning to play by ear by slowing down his 33 rpm vinyl banjo LPs to 16 rpm and is the only entertainer to hold a Grammy Award for both Best Comedy Album and Best Bluegrass Album.
Song: Walking In The Sun
Artist: Travis, Scotland
Album: Singles, 2004
Notes: Veteran indie combo from Glasgow, fronted by Fran Healy, still going strong now into its third decade - indeed their seventh album and first in five years, titled 'Where You Stand' came out in 2013 - and it follows Healy's sorely overlooked solo album, 'Wreckorder' from 2010. (Chris Martin has even referred to himself as 'a poor man's Fran Healy'.) More on them at travisonline.com.
Artist: Randy Newman, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Randy Newman, 1968
Notes: Broken windows and empty hallways, A pale dead moon in the sky streaked with gray... The sardonic genius of Newman with his deeply morose lyrics, profoundly bleak vocal style accompanied by a deft mournful strings arrangement - all combining to cast despair and gloom - showing that even back in the 1960s he was writing truly great material. Covered by more than 70 artists over the decades, including treatments by Peter Gabriel, Judy Collins, Norah Jones, David Gray, Bette Midler, Dusty Springfield etc. - even a reggae update by UB40 - but nothing matches the original.
Song: The Sun Rising
Artist: Beloved, England
Album: Happiness, 1990
Notes: Boasting a neat sample of a song called 'O Euchari' sung by Emily van Evera, a pioneering electro pop cut by the duo of John Marsh and Steve Waddington who got together as The Beloved in London in 1983. This was their first UK Top 40 success though it flew under the radar over here. Nothing new from the duo in more than a decade - but a cryptic note on their still active web site, thebeloved.com from last year read 'We get a lot of emails with the question will there be a new The Beloved album? and I think the answer is yes, but the hard question is when'.
Song: You Are My Sunshine
Artist: Bryan Ferry, England
Notes: Firmly lodged in the American Songbook and declared onE of the state songs of Louisiana. It ownership has been argued over for years, with many believing that Jimmie Davis bought the song and its rights from Paul Rice, but it seems a similar song written before Rice claimed it as his was credited to Oliver Hood. It seems the mystery will never be solved. It has been recorded over the years by the likes of Johnny Cash, Brian Wilson, Ray Charles, Aretha, even Frank Turner and The Civil Wars and this version interpreted there by the always dapper Bryan Ferry and housed on his second solo album.
Song: Sunshine on My Shoulders
Artist: Carly Rae Jepsen, Canada
Album: Tug of War, 2008
Notes: Her very first single from 2008, the 'Call Me Maybe' hit pop princess with a breezy, summery update of the evergreen John Denver classic, which failed to chart anywhere despite remaining one of her most appealing recordings. Carly, who cites Van Morrison and James Taylor among her influences, normally writes all of her own material and after a long period of silence has just returned with a peppy new single 'I Really Like You' . More at carlyraemusic.com.
Song: Here Comes The Sun
Artist: Colbie Caillat, Malibu, CA
Notes: A faithful rendition of the Beatles' classic by the daughter of noted producer Ken Caillat (he co-helmed both 'Rumours' and 'Tusk' for Fleetwood Mac) who always produces tuneful, clever pop that is reliably melodic. This cut was one of twelve Beatles songs featured in the Eddie Murphy-starring movie 'Imagine That'. She's playing a series of dates through to the end of the month. More at colbiecaillat.com.
Song: Here Comes The Sun
Artist: Beatles, England
Album: Abbey Road, 1969
Notes: Written by George Harrison in the garden of Eric Clapton's estate Hurtwood Edge back in April 1969 and recorded by The Beatles that July, although without John Lennon who was recuperating from a car crash he'd had in Scotland the previous week. Although considerably less prolific than Lennon and McCartney, at his best he was as a good a songwriter, and this song and 'Something' would be standouts in anyone's canon.