Artist: Matt Simons, New York, NY
Album: Catch & Release, 2014
Notes: Sweet and simple lost gem from last year by a singer-songwriter who grew up in Palo Alto before settling in New York. Currently more popular in the Netherlands where an earlier tune 'With You' became one of the Top 30 best-selling singles of 2013. Conversant on both the piano and sax, he's a big drawer in parts of Europe but still consigned to playing small clubs and bars in the Big Apple. Two long-players to date, both revealing a keen sense of songwriting and melody. More at mattsimonsmusic.com.
Artist: Boxer Rebellion, Maryville, TN/Australia/England
Album: Promises, 2013
Notes: Still the high mark in the 14-year career of a band that arrived on the UK scene at the tail-end of BritRock in 2001, comprising an American lead singer, Nathan Nicholson, an Australian, Todd Howe and two Englishmen, Adam Harrison and Piers Hewitt. The high performing point of their career so far may be an opening slot for the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park in London in 2013. Things have been quiet from the group since Howe, the musician behind the fluid guitar lead on this number, regrettably left the group last year. A limited edition all-vinyl boxed set was released in January. Details at theboxerrebellion.com.
Artist: Pretenders, Akron, OH/England
Album: The Isle Of View, 1995
Notes: The confessional lost classic by the Chrissie Hynde-led band, heard in its beautifully unplugged form, with a string quartet tastefully replacing the rock backdrop of the original recording from 1979. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the band released new material in 2008 with the album 'Break Up The Concrete,' and then re-formed for a one-off appearance at the 2012 Singapore Grand Prix (as musicians rather than racing drivers). Hynde issued her first solo set called 'Stockholm' last summer, which, sad to say, doesn't come close to matching her work with The Pretenders. More at chrissiehynde.com
Song: This Ain't Goodbye
Artist: Train, San Francisco, CA
Album: Save Me, San Francisco, 2009
Notes: Written off after their first two hits, 'Hey Virginia' in 1999 and 'Drops of Jupiter' in 2001, Train came back big time with their monster smash, 'Hey Soul Sister' eight years later, followed by 'Drive By' - but all the while recording some of the best overlooked pop rock around. The reason they keep coming back so strongly is largely down to the songwriting chops of lead singer Pat Monahan, who composed this melodic gem with Ryan Tedder, the ubiquitous hit-meister and frontman for OneRepublic. They'll be hitting the road for a lengthy tour at the end of May. For details, go to savemesanfrancisco.com/tour.
Song: Over The Hill (live)
Artist: Communion Records Jam, England
Album: Not available
Notes: A delightfully breezy rootsy jam from Michael Kiwanuka, Ben Howard, Ben Lovett, The Staves and Johannes from Bear's Den collectively and deftly swooning to John Martyn's 'Over The Hill' - a live recording made at the Cacophony Recorders studio in Austin during the SXSW festival in the spring of 2012. The impromptu session was organized by Communion Records, a London-based label to which many of those artists are signed and which was co-founded in 2006 by Mumford & Sons' musician Lovett with Bear's Den's bassist Kevin Jones and producer Ian Grimble. You can see the video to this performance on youtube at youtube.com/watch?v=XEOPKpTyd4w.
Song: Find The River
Artist: R.E.M., Athens, GA
Notes: Hard to believe that this didn't even make the Billboard Hot 100. The easily flowing, highly accessible track was the sixth and final single released from their 1992 album, which is knee deep in melodic lost treasures and also features Michael Stipe at his most obtuse lyrically. If you want to know what Mr. Stipe is up to these days, head to michaelstipe.com, notable as perhaps being the only musician web site which has an '18 years or older' warning on the front page alerting users to the nudity content contained therein.
Song: The Day Before You Came
Artist: Abba, Sweden/Norway
Notes: A highly inventive, superb melody with curious, well-written lyrics based on a woman's diary entries documenting her mundane, habitual single life on the before finding the man of her dreams. Only the Beatles have been offered more hard cash to reunite than Abba, but it never happened and never will (they recently admitted they had turned $1 billion to do a comeback tour). As they were the second biggest industry in Sweden behind car makers Volvo, they probably don't need to. A new solo album from the otherwise extremely engimatic co-vocalist Faltskog emerged in 2013 simply called 'A.'
Song: This Could Kill Me
Artist: Amy Stroup, Boston, MA
Notes: One of five bonus cuts on the recently issued deluxe version of 'Tunnel', from the Boston-born, Nashville-based songstress who is also a member of Sugar & The Hi-Los with another L&F preferred artist, Trent Dabbs who also produced the album. The Ten Out Of Tenn collective, of which she is part, is playing a one off date at the Ryman Auditorium this Friday. More at amystroup.com.
Song: New Worlds
Artist: King Baby James, Nashville, TN
Album: Not available
Notes: Another track by an obscure new act from Nashville which goes by the name of King Baby James. They are the duo of producer Jon Howard and vocalist Armon Jay - both of whom we've played on the show before - releasing a sole EP last year - the excellent 'Golden Casket', and one single from earlier this year. Only a twitter thing if you want to follow them at, oddly, @mrkingbabyjames.
Song: Third World Man
Artist: Steely Dan, Passaic, NJ/Queens, NY
Album: Gaucho, 1980
Notes: Technical and musical perfectionists Donald Fagen and Walter Becker took nearly two years to record the opus from which this track came, enlisting the help of some 42 studio musicians - and things weren't made any easier by Becker suffering serious leg injuries after being hit by a car while walking at night on the Upper West Side in New York. Only seven tracks on the album, but each of them endure as modern classics which you rarely hear on the radio. They're hitting the road in July with Elvis Costello and The Imposters as their guests. For details, go to steelydan.com.
Song: Just Kids
Artist: Mat Kearney, Eugene, OR
Album: Just Kids, 2015
Notes: A restrained hip-hop laced electro-folk-pop blend from an L&F regular, from his new set which he recorded at his Nashville home, on his tour bus and in Sweden. A talented soccer player in his youth, he earned an athletic soccer scholarship to Cal State in Chico, but a career in music eventually called as did a move from his hometown of Eugene, Oregon to Nashville. He'll be on the road with Judah and The Lion in May. For dates, go to matkearney.com.
Artist: Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, Concord, MA
Notes: Big-time radio pop chops replete with the still in-vogue Bastille-like chorus chants and written for his daughter by Andrew McMahon - and an equally uplifting video for this number now streaming on Vevo. He is a leukemia survivor and founded the Dear Jack Foundation to help those fighting cancer and blood disorders. He's raised over $720,000 for the cause and on his band's previous headlining tour he helped register over 1,000 people for the bone marrow list. Formerly the leading light of both Something Corporate and Jack's Mannequin, he's back on the road next month. More at andrewmcmahon.com.
Artist: Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, England
Album: Rattlenakes, 1984
Notes: Backed by the Scottish Commotions who were by his side for five years in the mid '80s, the English tunesmith/guitarist went fully solo in 1990 and has cut ten fine literate long-players since then - also a rather good golfer with way too much time on his hands. In 2008, he was ranked at number 14 on Golf Digest's Top 100 golfing musicians list, though a couple of years ago he auctioned off his clubs. On the musical front, he released a CD in Germany in 2013 with Hans-Joachim Roedelius, an electronic experimental work titled 'Selected Stories Vol. 1.
Song: Wild Eyes
Artist: Matthew Mayfield, Birmingham, AL
Album: Wild Eyes, 2015
Notes: The Birmingham, Alabama-based songsmith describes his sound as 'a bipolar musical disorder', which seems to fuel his fire for the creative process. His latest album, which dropped in January, was recorded in a small studio in the heart of Los Angeles' Koreatown and is a significant departure from his last, 2012's 'A Banquet For Ghosts'. More at matthewmayfield.com.
Artist: Erin McCarley featuring Gabe Dixon, Garland, TX/Augusta, GA
Notes: Firm L&F favorites, Erin McCarley in harmony with Gabe Dixon on a little pearl tucked away on the superb 'Nashville Indie Spotlight 2015' various artists collection, which was released last December. Both Erin and Gabe are unofficial members of the Other Nashville movement also spearheaded by the likes of Amy Stroup and Mat Kearney, also played on this week's show. Originally from Garland, Texas, she hasn't quite lived up to the promise of her truly outstanding maiden effort, 'Love, Save The Empty', which is a must-have album for any serious music lover. She'll also be performing at the Ryman on Friday. More at erinmccarley.com.
Song: You Are Mine
Artist: Secret Nation, Nashville, TN
Album: Secret Nation [EP], 2015
Notes: Secret Nation is Nashville tunesmith, Spencer Combs, who was urged to record and release his songs by his wife, the results of which appear on his just issued self-titled debut EP - indeed he wrote and recorded his first ever original song for her. He began playing music at the age of eight, joined high school cover bands, but gave up music completely for six years after college before gaining to confidence to find his own voice. More at secretnationmusic.com.
Song: Lights of Toarmina
Artist: Mark Knopfler, England
Album: Tracker, 2015
Notes: The shuffling, understated but superior talent of Mark Knopfler on one of several choice cuts from his eighth and latest solo offering, which is also available as a double vinyl release. The former Dire Straits founder and frontman will be arriving in the US in September for a major tour. All dates at markknopfler.com.
Artist: Bluebells, Scotland
Album: The Singles Collection, 1998
Notes: The long overlooked hillbilly bluegrass folk-rock quintet led by Robert Hodgens, aka Bobby Bluebell. The group were part of the smart, literate jangly guitar aggregation of bands which emerged from Scotland in the early 1980s which also spawned Aztec Camera and Lloyd Cole and the Commmotions. They only released one proper album, called 'Sisters' in 1984, and then a singles collection, which is finally available in the US. The band split up in the mid-'80s and then briefly reformed in 2008. One-time bassist Lawrence Donegan was also a member of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions and for a while was the golf correspondent for The Guardian newspaper.
Song: Cost of Running Away
Artist: Trent Dabbs, Jackson, MS
Album: Not available
Notes: An unreleased cracker from an L&F favorite who never disappoints. Recorded during sessions for his latest album 'Believer' but sadly not included on the set. After a busy year celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the Ten Out Of Tenn songwriting collective he co-founded in Nashville, and touring on-and-off with Amy Stroup in their fab Sugar & The Hi Lows act, his ninth studio album is his most organic offering to date and comes highly recommended. More at trentdabbs.com.
Song: Wake Up Everybody
Artist: Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, Philadelphia, PA
Album: Wake Up Everybody, 1975
Notes: Truly the sound of Philadelphia from the mid '70s, an old-school slice of impeccable soul with a fine message for society at large. Although Melvin was the original band founder and leader, it was the voice of the mighty Teddy Pendergrass, originally their drummer, who was the sound of this band. Pendergrass went on to have a successful solo career, but suffered a serious car accident in 1982 which left him paralyzed. He sadly died too young in 2010 at the age of 59. Melvin himself was a year younger when he passed away in 1997.
Song: How Could You Babe
Artist: Tobias Jesso Jr., Canada
Album: Goon, 2015
Notes: The focus cut on a recently-issued freshman set which is unashamedly lodged firmly in mid-'70s AC piano man territory. A 29-year-old balladeer from Vancouver, Jesso switched from guitar to piano after early success proved elusive when based in Los Angeles. He recently made his late-night US TV debut on Jimmy Kimmel. More at tobiasjessojr.com.
Artist: Saint Johns, St. Augustine, FL
Album: Open Water [EP], 2014
Notes: Sweet, easy harmonies, a broken heart, a lovely string arrangement and deft execution, a lost gem from the debut release by the Americana duo of Jordan Meredith and Louis Johnson originally out of Florida, indeed naming themselves after the river which wends its way through their home state, but they've now migrated north to Nashville. This gorgeous number is one of five currently streaming on their website: thesaintjohns.com.
Song: Oh Diane
Artist: Fleetwood Mac, England/Palo, CA/Phoenix, AZ
Album: Mirage, 1982
Notes: Uncomplicated but so effective and harking back to the simplicity of the Buddy Holly era of the late '50s on a track showcasing Lindsey Buckingham at his very best. It was the fourth single released from their marvellous 'Mirage' LP, but the single somehow failed to chart on home turf. Their final world tour in their iconic five-piece lineup ended in the US this weekend but continues around the world until October. More at fleetwoodmac.com.
Artist: First Aid Kit, Sweden
Album: The Lion's Roar, 2012
Notes: The lyric 'I'll be your Emmylou and I'll be your June, if you'll be my Gram and my Johnny too' affectionately recalls the great relationships between Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons and June Carter and Johnny Cash. Rolling Stone named the song one of the 50 Best of 2012. Despite the tune's authentic country chops, the singers are the Swedish duo of sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg. After a highly successful US tour last fall, they be back for more dates in July. More at thisisfirstaidkit.com.
Song: Swimming In Your Ocean
Artist: Crash Test Dummies, Canada
Album: God Shuffled His Feet, 1994
Notes: The band featuring the bizarre and utterly original deep bass-baritone lead vocal of Brad Roberts and best remembered for the big hit 'Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm' in 1994. Roberts now resides in Manhattan, and has a fun tumblr page with some wacky photos taken from outside his apartment in Soho - crashtestdummies.tumblr.com. The band is still going strong after 25 years, albeit with only Roberts and Ellen Reid from its original line-up, releasing a new studio album, 'Oooh La! La!,' in 2010 and a compilation of unreleased demos, 'Demo-litions,' in 2011.
Song: Love At First Sight
Artist: Gist, England
Album: Embrace The Herd, 1983
Notes: A completely unknown little gem from a short-lived indie combo from England formed by Stuart Moxham who previously fronted the rather cool Young Marble Giants. The group was around just long enough to record one album and to see this song become a French hit for 'tienne Daho translated as 'Paris, Le Flore'.
Song: Mad About You
Artist: Hooverphonic, Belgium
Album: The Magnificent Tree, 2000
Notes: A grand cinematic feel to this sensational slice of tripped out electronica pop from the Belgian combo, Hooverphonic. They're a relatively unknown trio originally fronted by the translucent vocals of lead singer Geike Arnaert, who quit the combo in 2008. As you might imagine their songs are occasionally picked up for TV shows like 'Cold Case' and for TV commercials. More at hooverphonic.com.
Song: New Punching Bag
Artist: Tristen, Chicago, IL
Notes: Another worthwhile extract from a collection released last December, a '60s-twang tinged treat from a Chicago-raised songstress now based in Music City. She has three well-received long-players under her belt and is much loved by critics: the Boston Globe calling her 'Nashville's best-kept secret this single-named chanteuse is poised for bigger and better things with her sprightly baroque folk-pop which glimmers with traces of Neko Case, the Shangri-Las, and maybe just a touch of Loretta Lynn'. More at tristen.com.
Song: Song 6
Artist: Freak Power, England
Album: Not available
Notes: Anyone who knows their electronica history will know a chap called Norman Cook, who was originally in a top band called the Housemartins, then Beats International - indeed he's recorded or performed under more than 30 different names to date. Perhaps best known as Fatboy Slim, Freak Power was a trio he founded in 1993 with Jesse Graham and Ashley Slater, cutting two albums over a three-year period. Until recently he went by the moniker the Brighton Port Authority, indeed he makes the southern coastal English city of Brighton his home and was honored with an Alumnus Award from the University of Brighton this past February.
Artist: Clientele, England
Album: Strange Geometry, 2005
Notes: A lovely lilting groove, '60s-inspired, sun kissed, blissed out track by one of a handful of bands which has a stronger following in America than they do in their native UK - indeed they spend more time touring over here. They're from London and have been around for about a decade led by Alaisdair MacLean. More at theclientele.co.uk.
Song: You Won't Let Me
Artist: Rachael Yamagata, Arlington, VA
Album: Chesapeake, 2011
Notes: The unimpeachable genius of 'the troubadour of heartbreak' with the pleading let-me-in-your-heart lost gem. The work evident on her three albums to date is simply peerless and she's incapable of making sub-standard music. Co-written with Mike Viola, the song was a top five hit in Australia in 2012 for 'The Voice' winner Karise Eden. She'll be hitting the road in mid-June, supporting David Gray and Amos Lee. More at rachaelyamagata.com.
Song: Middle of Nowhere
Artist: Hot Hot Heat, Canada
Album: Elevator, 2005
Notes: Yet another sterling but underrated act from Canada on a lost rocker from 2005. The indie band are a quartet fronted by Steve Bays - much influenced by British new wave acts of the 1970s icluding XTC and Elvis Costello - their music has occasionally been featured in TV shows such as 'Raising Hope' and 'One Tree Hill'. More at hothotheat.com.
Song: Strange Overtones
Artist: David Byrne & Brian Eno, Scotland/England
Notes: An engaging collaboration by top art-rockers from their sorely overlooked album named after Amos Tutuola's 1954 novel of the same name. It was another 27 years before they worked together again on the album 'Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.' As Eno continues a career as an in-demand producer as well as creating always interesting solo work, Byrne teamed up with St. Vincent, formerly of Polyphonic Spree, for the album 'Love This Giant' in 2012.
Song: Sweet Music Man
Artist: Millie Jackson, Thomson, GA
Album: Get It Out'cha System, 1978
Notes: A brilliant song about moving on from a broken relationship with a fellow musician from a greatly underrated artist after all these years - she's like an X-rated version of Gladys Knight, indeed often sounding a lot like her. Born in rural Georgia in 1944 but raised in New Jersey and Brooklyn, she began performing in Harlem way back in 1964 and developed a self-empowering, often comic, expletive filled story-telling side to her live act. She's recorded dozens of fascinating and worthwhile albums since 1972 - and there's a fine documentary about her called 'Unsung - The Story of Mildred Millie Jackson' which is worth tracking down. More at weirdwreckuds.com.
Song: At Last
Artist: Jeff Lynne, England
Album: Long Wave, 2012
Notes: One of several terrific versions of old favorites on the ELO man's second solo album - twenty-two years after the first. The eclectic choice of material included songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Don Everly, Charlie Chaplin, Chuck Berry and Roy Orbison. Last summer he performed live in London's Hyde Park, reprising many of ELO's greatest hits with talk of recording new material.
Song: At Last
Artist: Etta James, Los Angeles, CA
Album: At Last!, 1961
Notes: The signature tune of blues legend Etta James, made so famous in her interpretation that many think of it as an original, but it was written way back in 1941 by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren for the film 'Orchestra Wives'. Glenn Miller recorded a version the following year. James' version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and sung by Christina Aguilera at James' funeral in 2012.