Song: Kick The Can
Artist: Cary Brothers, Nashville, TN
Album: Lovin' On You [EP], 2015
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. The two albums and a slew of EPs he's issued over the past decade are simply first-rate and all worth checking out, but he earns his bread and butter from the frequent use of his songs in film and on TV. He's also the co-founder of the Hotel Caf' Tour and has opened for the likes of Sara Bareilles, Imogen Heap and The Fray and is currently on the road opening for Joshua Radin: check dates at carybrothers.com, where there's also a free four-track music sampler. A nice quote from Cary which accompanies his latest EP: 'Maybe the most subversive thing you can do in 2015 is to be hopeful. I'll leave the cool songs to the cool kids this time because sunshine, puppies, hugs, and kindness need their own time in the sun, too.'
Song: Heartache Avenue
Artist: Maisonettes, England
Notes: An infectious three minutes of fun retro-pop from an English duo comprising Lol Mason and Mark Tibenham, who were around for about three minutes in the mid-'80s. They had this one hit single in the UK in 1982, made one album also titled 'Heartache Avenue' and then disappeared. Mason had previously founded City Boy in the 1970s, scoring hits with '18.104.22.168' and 'The Day The Earth Caught Fire', as well as releasing five Robert John 'Mutt' Lange-produced albums. Both Mason and Tibenham still live in the Birmingham area of England, Mason working as a scriptwriter and lyricist, Tibenham as a music producer.
Song: Hotel Lights
Artist: Amy Cook, San Jose, CA
Album: Let The Light In, 2010
Notes: A top-notch ethereal love song about meeting a worthwhile new love and one of the best overlooked ballads of 2010. Now based in the Texan music hub of Austin, Cook is a low-fi folk/pop songstress who's opened for the likes of Shawn Colvin, Chris Isaak and Lucinda Williams. She issued another fine collection titled 'Summer Skin' in 2012, which included Patty Griffin, Ben Kweller and even Robert Plant among its guests, and last year contributed a neat cover of Gerry & the Pacemakers' 'Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying' to the compilation album 'All ATX: British Invasion'. She recently received a $10,000 Black Fret grant that will fund the recording of new material. More at amycook.com.
Song: Windows Are Rolled Down
Artist: Amos Lee, Philadelphia, PA
Album: Mission Bell, 2011
Notes: Neo-soul-tinged folk of the highest order from an artist who seems to get better with each new release. The album from which this nugget is housed was chock-full of similar lost gems and numbered Willie Nelson and Lucinda Williams among its guests .When he performs Lee donates money from every ticket sold to the Musicians on Call non-profit that delivers live and recorded music to the bedsides of patients to help in their recovery - more on this worthwhile initiative at musiciansoncall.org. Also a side note to mention that he is signed to the iconic Blue Note label, one of the oldest and most venerable labels in music history. All Sonos owners can now experience the music of Blue Note Records via two Sonos-exclusive channels you can find on Sonos Radio.'Simply go to 'Radio by TuneIn' and you'll see Blue Note as a main menu. More on him at amoslee.com.
Artist: Diana Krall featuring Blake Mills, Canada/Santa Monica, CA
Album: Wallflower, 2015
Notes: A beautifully modest cover of a 1971 Bob Dylan composition and one of 15 tasteful updates of some of her favorite songs on her latest offering, produced by David Foster. Other compositions given the Krall treatment include Randy Newman's 'Feels Like Home', Elton John's 'Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word', the Eagles' 'Desperado', 10cc's 'I'm Not In Love' - even veteran Irish tunesmith Gilbert O'Sullivan's 'Alone Again (Naturally)' is tackled, with a guest vocal by Michael Bubl' - but nothing by her husband Elvis Costello. She's currently on the road promoting the album. For dates, go to dianakrall.com.
Song: Summer Guest
Artist: Asgeir, Iceland
Album: In The Silence
Notes: One of several treasures from an album by 22-year old Icelandic folktronica tunesmith Asgeir Trausti Einarsson who goes by the single moniker, Asgeir. One in 10 citizens of Iceland now owns this album which came out on home soil in 2012 - fellow singer-songwriter John Grant from Colorado translated the original Icelandic lyrics into English for the international edition which emerged last year - and these original lyrics were co-written by a team of scribes which included Asgeir's 72-year old father. More at asgeirmusic.com.
Song: Nature of the Beast
Artist: Trent Dabbs, Jackson, MS
Album: Believer, 2015
Notes: One of a half-dozen melters from a terrific new stripped down album by one of L&F's favorite artists. After a busy year celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the Ten Out Of Tenn songwriting collective he co-founded in Nashville, and touring with Amy Stroup in their fab Sugar & The Hi Lows act, Trent's ninth studio album emerges as his most organic offering to date, about which he says: 'I went to a show late last year at the Ryman (Auditorium) for a folk singer. There were no fancy lights, just a couple microphones and this incredible, raw, intimate sound. The folk singers and their music spoke more volume than the traditional high-production concerts. I wanted this project to emanate that same feeling I felt the night at the Ryman'. He has some upcoming dates in April, including a show with Stroup at the Ryman. More at trentdabbs.com.
Artist: O.V. Wright & The Keys, Lenow, TN
Notes: Subsequently a hit for Otis Redding and much covered by the likes of the Rolling Stones, the Hollies even Bryan Ferry, but this is the first recording of the Roosevelt Jamison-penned song, which largely flew under the radar when issued in 1964. Overton Vertis Wright went on to have a string of R&B hits, including 'You're Gonna Make Me Cry', 'Ace Of Spades' and 'A Nickel And A Nail'. His career was sidelined after he was imprisoned for narcotics offenses in the 1970s and a long-standing drug problem led to his early death from a heart attack at the age of just 41. Much of his superb R&B repertoire has been co-opted by modern rappers like the Wu-Tang Clan. More at ovwright.org.
Song: Hold On Tight
Artist: Verit' Music, Brooklyn, NY
Album: Not available
Notes: A beautiful little melodic ditty custom-created for exclusive use in a recently over-exposed Vistaprint TV commercial called The Postcard. Kudos to Vistaprint and its ad agency for commissioning and signing off on an original tune which is so tasteful. Created by Verit' Music, a production company based in Sherborn, Massachusetts and run by Sheldon Mirowitz, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music. He has been scoring for film, TV and commercials for the past decade and this song he composed features Matthew Koma on vocals.
Song: The Moon and I
Artist: Linda Lewis, England
Album: Legends, 2005
Notes: After playing 'My Friend The Sun' last week, here's another splendid track by the singer who recorded a series of excellent LPs in the 1970s - and was also much in-demand as a backing singer for the likes of David Bowie, Al Kooper and Cat Stevens among many others. This divine lost pearl, produced by her then husband Jim Cregan, comes from Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera 'The Mikado' written in 1884. 'I do not want a saint, I want a man, And such a one, I'll love until I die' - Arthur Sullivan's great lyrics always matched perfectly with W.S. Gilbert's music. Lewis 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.
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 recent 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: Get A Life
Artist: Soul II Soul, England
Notes: Elevate your mind, free your soul' - some great lyrics with a delightful children's backing chorus, blistering horns and a timeless dance groove, on a top-drawer R&B corker, which never made the Billboard Top 50 despite being the follow-up single to the Top 5 smash 'Back To Life', and the lead off cut on the British soul collective's 1990 unheralded opus. The group has always revolved around DJ, producer, songwriter and general funk-meister, Trevor Beresford Romeo - better known as Jazzie B. A new 16-track collection titled 'Back To Life' has just been released. More at soul2soul.co.uk.
Artist: Mos Def, Brooklyn, NY
Album: Not available
Notes: A regrettably unavailable instrumental from an otherwise inferior rap cut of the same name, which has been used to great effect over the past year or so in a TV commercial for the Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas. Nice to hear the glockenspiel mixed in amidst the bold brassy horn runs which were apparently borrowed from a 2003 recording by Outkast called 'Ghettomusick'. A former child actor who went by the stage name Dante Beze, Mos Def has successfully juggled a popular music and acting career though more emphasis on the latter, with just four albums over the past 16 years.
Song: The Last Laugh
Artist: Mark Knopfler featuring Van Morrison, England/Northern Ireland
Notes: One of several sterling tracks featured on the former Dire Straits' front man's second solo album, which also included contributions from Gillian Welch, Squeeze's Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook and particularly a superb duet of the title cut with James Taylor. Knopfler continues to make music even better than from his Dire Straits days, with a brand new offering, 'Tracker', released this week. He'll be arriving on these shores, most likely driving from Canada, for a major US tour in September. More at markknopfler.com.
Song: Never Stop Loving You
Artist: Graphite Man, Nashville, TN
Album: Not available
Notes: This delightful confection was featured on 'L&F' about a month ago - but is clearly too good for one spin. It's a deceptively simple but ace offering by the multi-faceted Music City tunesmith Kyle Rictor, who is one-half of the L&F-featured Rictor combo with his wife Kelsey and also a leading light in General Ghost, now ghost-writing under the name Graphite Man. You can stream this exquisite gem again on his Soundcloud page (https://soundcloud.com/graphite-man/never-stop-loving-you) - and keep up with all things Rictor at rictormusic.com.
Song: Letter From America
Artist: Proclaimers, Scotland
Album: This Is The Story, 1987
Notes: In the deepest possible Scottish accent, sounding like a kilt-wearing haggis drowning in whiskey, it doesn't get much more tartan than this. Best known of course for their 'I'm Gonna Be 500 Miles' hit in 1993, which is still a popular staple on radio, but this is one of several lost Proclaimers corkers which slipped through the cracks over here, a song about the long tradition of Scottish emigres turning their back on their Scottish homeland to seek a better life in North America. The number was written by the now 52-year old, wacky, bespectacled Reid twins, Charlie and Craig, who are the Proclaimers. More at proclaimers.co.uk.
Song: Welcome Home
Artist: Radical Face, Jacksonville, FL
Album: Ghost, 2007
Notes: Naming his band Radical Face after seeing a plastic surgery flyer which said 'Radical Face-Lift' but wisely leaving off the 'lift' bit, Ben Cooper is also a member of several other acts including Electric President, Iron Orchestra, Patients and Clone - all is revealed in greater detail at radicalface.com where you can stream much of his fine repertoire.
Song: Love You Strongly
Artist: Amy Stroup, Boston, MA
Notes: Such a shame that music this good gets lost in the relentless modern day rush for mediocrity. Boston-born, Nashville-based Amy is also a member of Sugar & The Hi-Los with Trent Dabbs, who also produced her exceptional 'Tunnel' opus last year. A deluxe edition of the album, featuring remixes by DJ Dahi and Super Duper as well as three new tracks is released this week. She'll be on the road next month, including playing a date at the Ryman Auditorium with Dabbs. For more, go to amystroup.com.
Song: Sail Away
Artist: Randy Newman, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Sail Away, 1972
Notes: Maybe the most sardonic understated but biting social commentator in popular music history - certainly the most acerbic. Who else would dare match the lyrical notion of an American slave trader trying to persuade potential slaves in Africa to get onboard a ship and set sail for a new life a world away, and yet place those lyrics in a such a beautiful piano and orchestral musical setting? No one captures America's political and social conscience with more finesse or economy and all with such cunning simplicity - one of his signature songs and a lost classic from way back when.
Song: Sweet Love
Artist: Commodores, Tuskegee, AL
Album: Movin' On, 1976
Notes: The venerable mid-'70s soul sapphire, just one of so many classic soul ballads that became crossover hits for the Lionel Richie-led Commodores, The sextet from Tuskegee, Alabama got together in 1968 from two earlier units, The Mystics and The Jays, but didn't break through until 1974 with 'Machine Gun'. They followed it with several funk classics before the ballad writing skills of Richie came to the fore, with this track being the first of seven Top 10 hits in four years. The band is still out playing live, featuring William King and Walter Orange, from their glory days, and J.D. Nicholas, who joined the band in 1984. More at commodoreslive.com.
Song: I'm Good
Artist: Mowgli's, Calabasas, CA
Album: Kids in Love, 2015
Notes: All the right radio-ready ingredients from the southern Californian band, previewing their upcoming third album. Best known for their 2013 alternative hit 'San Francisco', the band has slimmed down from its initial 10-member lineup to a mere septet, naming themselves - not after Rudyard Kipling's 'man cub' in his iconic 1894 story, 'The Jungle Book', but after a former band member's dog. They're currently on the road promoting the album. More at themowglis.net.
Song: This Woman's Work (live)
Artist: Maxwell, England
Album: MTV Unplugged, 1997
Notes: The Grammy Award winning neo-soul pioneer with an unimpeachable live update of the Kate Bush classic from his magical 1997 MTV Unplugged performance. It's been six long years since his last new studio album although he continues to work on the followup to his 2009 release 'BLACKsummers'night' which should emerge by the end of this year. He's performing at the 10th annual Jazz in the Gardens festival in Miami next week. More at musze.com.
Artist: Alex Winston, Bloomfield Hills, MI
Album: Careless [single], 2014
Notes: A hint of Joanna Newsom, and perhaps PJ Harvey, but most definitely Kate Bush in her vocal style, from a singer originally from the suburbs of Detroit but has been based in the Big Apple for the past five years and started releasing songs around the same time. She's got a burgeoning following in Europe and has opened for the likes of Gotye and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. More at iamalexwinston.com or facebook.com/AlexWinstonOfficial.
Song: Anyway The Wind Blows
Artist: J.J. Cale & Eric Clapton, Oklahoma City, OK/England
Album: The Road To Escondido, 2006
Notes: Eric Clapton combining with one of his personal musical heroes on a fabulous blues shuffler from a fine collaborative effort they recorded in 2006. He did of course cut two Cale compositions years earlier and made them extremely well-known - 'Cocaine' and 'After Midnight'. This album also contained the last ever recordings of keyboard legend Billy Preston - to whom the album was dedicated. Cale himself passed away a couple of summers ago from heart failure at the age of 74, leaving an influential legacy as the architect of the Tulsa Sound out of Oklahoma, fusing soft shuffling blues, country, jazz and a splash of rockabilly, a style much revered by many. Last year Clapton issued a tribute album to his old friend: 'The Breeze - An Appreciation of J.J. Cale', with 16 Cale tunes reimagined with all-star backing from the likes of John Mayer, Tom Petty, Willie Nelson, and Mark Knopfler.
Artist: Sky Sailing, Owatonna, MN
Notes: Nifty finger-picking acoustic guitar work throughout on a simple, melodic, easy-flowing track from Adam Young, better known as Owl City. Written and recorded in his parents' basement while he was employed as a metalworker at a warehouse in his home town in 2007, but not released until three years later. He describes this early music thus: 'As the saying goes, one can truly glimpse the artist through his/her art, and that expression certainly proves faithful in my case. This music is my heart and soul. This is who I am.' He has just announced on his ayoungmusic.com website that there will be a new Owl City album imminently.
Song: I Drink
Artist: Mary Gauthier, New Orleans, LA
Album: Mercy Now, 2005
Notes: A sadly autobiographical whiskey-soaked lost country classic - an alcoholic who has been successfully taking it one day at a time since achieving sobriety in 1990. Now in her 50s, she's had a rough road from day one, left at St. Vincent's Women and Infants Asylum when born in 1962 by a mother she never knew, she was already in rehab as a teenager and didn't find her calling in music until she sobered up at the age of 35 when she wrote her first song. Highly regarded in alternative country and Americana circles, she's also a noted author of popular short stories - and her fans include Bob Dylan and Tom Waits. More at marygauthier.com.
Song: Coming Home
Artist: Gabe Dixon, Augusta, GA
Album: Not available
Notes: Just a piano man alone at the keyboard working his way through a new song - this is typically first-rate, but little more than a one-take demo recorded in January in a downtown building in Nashville. Currently streaming on Vimeo, you can check it out at vimeo.com/57332007. The Georgian singer-songwriter continues to write and record some of the most melodic gems in modern music, very much in the tradition of 1970s singer-songwriters. In the last couple of years he's also been a touring member of Supertramp in between his own solo treks. Please go to his website - gabedixon.com - and help fund his brand new album through Pledge Music.
Song: Come Back Down
Artist: J. Viewz, Israel
Album: Rivers And Homes, 2012
Notes: A superb rolling electronic/acoustic meld from one Jonathan Dagan working out of Brooklyn as a one-man band/producer. Buried on a 2011 album called 'Work In Progress,' a project whereby he released each new song on the internet the moment it was ready. Once the complete album was finished he rounded them all up as 'Rivers and Homes.', which went on to receive a Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package. He's also remixed tracks by Dido, Depeche Mode, the Kings of Leon and Moby. He's currently working on 'The DNA Project', courtesy of Kickstarter. More at jviewz.com.
Artist: Peter Broderick, Carlton, OR
Album: Home, 2010
Notes: A Oregonian singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist who paid his dues as an in-demand session musician for the likes of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward and as a touring band member of the groovy Danish combo Efterklang with his sister, Heather. He's released a boatload of subtle, well-crafted folkish offerings since bowing in 2007. His new album, 'Colours Of The Night', is due April 27th. More at peterbroderick.net.
Song: Oceans Apart
Artist: Secret Nation, Nashville, TN
Album: Secret Nation [EP], 2015
Notes: Tell me why you try to hide it if you've got something to say, what's going on inside your mind, feels like your miles away, but it's like we're oceans apart'. A story of a couple still notionally in each others arms, going through the motions, but their love miles apart, her mind, her thoughts, her feelings locked away, his efforts to reach inside met only with emotional distance and silence. Nashville tunesmith Spencer Combs is the voice and heart behind Secret Nation, urged to record and release his songs by his wife, this delicate diamond the standout number on his just issued self-titled debut EP. (Mathematicians have recently confirmed that English language song lyrics are one of the most depressing forms of writing on earth.) More at secretnationmusic.com.
Artist: Jessie Baylin, Gillette, NJ
Album: Little Spark, 2012
Notes: Intriguing retro-tinged loungy folk jazz by a New Jersey native, now based in Nashville, where she lives with her husband, the Kings of Leon's Nathan Followill, and influenced by the vintage sirens of song such as Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald. Her maiden album 'You' was produced by Norah Jones a few years ago and this number is on her third effort, which boasted a slew of top veteran session musicians including the likes of the great Jim Keltner and Waddy Wachtel. (For those interested in knowing more about the backroom boys who've helped make the soundtrack to our lives, check out the just released movie 'The Wrecking Crew'.) Her new album, 'Dark Place', is due on April 7th. More at jessiebaylin.com.
Song: She's a Natural
Artist: Rob Crosby, Sumter, SC
Album: Solid Ground, 1991
Notes: Sweet and simple, with plenty of sentimental sugar and a dollop of syrup, but what a track - a lost country corker that somehow sidestepped the Billboard Hot 100 during the heyday of adult contemporary music back in early 1990s. Rob started writing songs at the tender age of 9 and formed his first band when just 11 - born in Sumter, South Carolina but unsurprisingly a longtime native of Nashville - his country compositions have been covered by the likes of Paul Simon, Restless Heart and Martina McBride. More at robcrosby.com.
Song: Bell Jar
Artist: Louise and the Pins, England
Album: Bell Jar, 2012
Notes: A sensational, highly original ballad, showcasing smart lyrical dexterity from the all-female trio of Sara Templeman, Bethan Gorman and stunning frontgirl, Louise Hull going under the collective name Louise and the Pins. They're based in the UK, mostly a '50s-styled retro rockabilly combo and have been together only three years. They're still unsigned and doing their own thing, though closely connected to the wonderful Communion Records community in London founded by Mumford & Sons. If you want to dig deeper they have a nascent Facebook page, just add Louiseandthepins.
Artist: Zucchero featuring Vanessa Carlton & Haylie Ecker, Italy/Milford, PA/Australia
Album: Zu & Co., 2004
Notes: For some reason redited as 'Indaco Dagli Occhi Del Cielo' even though it's sung in English and featured on the collaborative album, which also featured Miles Davis, Sting, John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton, Tom Jones and B.B. King. A massive star in his native Italy, Zucchero's popularity has spread to a handful of other European countries, but his name means nothing beyond that.
Artist: Korgis, England
Album: Dumb Waiters, 1980
Notes: Formed from the ashes of early '70s rock band Stackridge, James Warren and Andy Davis teamed up in 1978, coming to the attention of publishers Nick and Tim Heath. Convinced of the hit potential of their song 'If I Had You' but finding no takers in the record business, they set up their own Rialto Records label to release the song. After three albums, they split up with Davis touring as a member of Tears For Fears while Warren stayed closer to home playing in a pub band. In 2007, they hit the road again in a new Stackridge line-up, while 2015 sees the first Korgis' shows ever. More at thekorgis.com.