Song: Medicine Show
Artist: Big Audio Dynamite, England
Notes: An immense collage of musical invention - biting, aggressive socio-political-themed lyrics, an utterly original pumping modern rock sound from the much unheralded combo formed by Clash alumnus and guitarist Mick Jones in 1984. It features a liberal number of spoken word samples from the classic Clint Eastwood movies 'A Fistful of Dollars' and 'The Good The Bad and the Ugly' among others.
Artist: Ben Semmens, Wales
Album: Outside The Box, 2012
Notes: Another top track from an obscure but talented tunesmith from the same Welsh valley as Tom Jones, who's been strumming along in relative obscurity for about six years - his debut set, 'Western Lights' is a delightful collection if you can find it. His Twitter account reveals that he is a 'lover of music, such as Greg Laswell.' The man has good taste. More at facebook.com/Ben.Semmens.Music.
Song: Nothing More
Artist: Alternate Routes featuring Ingrid Michaelson, /Staten Island, NY
Album: Nobody Else,
Notes: The Alternate Routes are a quartet from Fairfield, Connecticut who have been around since 2002, firmly fronted by vocalist Tim Warren and guitarist Eric Donnelly. They've been writing songs, playing shows, and touring in their trusty Ford Econoline Van since teaming up at Fairfield University. Now mostly based in their home away from home, Nashville, they opened for Ingrid Michaelson on a US trek this past spring, who guests on this track. They're playing a handful of dates this summer. More at thealternateroutes.com.
Song: Stand By Me (Live)
Artist: Tracy Chapman, Cleveland, OH
Album: Not available
Notes: Among the myriad of first-rate music guests which hallmarked the final weeks of the 'Late Show with David Letterman', Tracy Chapman was perhaps the best with her tender treatment of the iconic 'Stand By Me' - made all the more latently ironic and poignant by the passing of its co-composer and original performer, Ben E. King on April 30th just two weeks after Tracy performed it. She's rarely performed live or on TV in recent years, so it was a real treat, not least for Letterman who appeared genuinely moved. More at tracychapman.com.
Artist: Bill Fay, England
Album: Life Is People, 2012
Notes: A British singer-songwriter who recorded two albums for the legendary Deram Records in 1970 and 1971, and was then dropped by the label. He went back into the studio in the late '70s, the material from which didn't see the light of day until 2005. Rediscovered by American producer Joshua Henry, this track is from his 2012 album, which featured the wonderful London Community Gospel Choir and another longtime fan, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, who have been playing one of Bill's songs, 'Be Not So Fearful', in their live sets for many years - it was a marvellous comeback album by any measure, highly recommended. His latest, 'Who Is The Sender', is another beautiful collection of restrained soulful expression.
Artist: Dugas, Canada
Album: Not available
Notes: Sarah and Christian, the Dugas siblings, better known simply as Dugas with a new chunky roots rock winner. They're from Winnipeg, Canada and are former members of another Winnipeg combo, the Grammy-nominated The Duhks. They've been doing their own thing for about five years and have opened for the likes of John Paul Jones, Zac Brown and the Blind Boys of Alabama, but are still flying too far under the radar south of the border. This new track not yet available for sale but you can stream it on the Soundcloud page which you can link to from dugasmusic.com.
Song: Walk My Way
Artist: Beth Nielsen Chapman, Harlingen, TX
Album: Beth Nielsen Chapman, 1990
Notes: Heavenly Spanish guitar, effortless hooks and vocals and crisp execution from one of the very best singer-songwriters out there today. Although she's never received the commercial success she clearly deserves as a recording artiste in her own right, she has become the go-to composer for many country musicians, penning hits for the likes of Faith Hill, Waylon Jennings and Trisha Yearwood - but do check out any of her sublime albums, now going back 35 years. More at bethnielsenchapman.com.
Song: Love Is Everything
Artist: k.d. lang, Canada
Notes: Extraordinary - still one of the finest female vocalists around, Canadian chanteuse, k.d. lang with an impeccable lost gem, written by another talented Canadian treasure Jane Siberry and buried as the final track on her brilliant 2004 album. Inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2013, she's been quiet on the recording front for four years and counting - nothing new since 2011, though she made a fun cameo in an episode of 'Portlandia' last year. More at kdlang.com.
Song: You Were Born
Artist: Cloud Cult, Owatonna, MN
Album: Light Chasers, 2010
Notes: A gorgeous acoustic gem from the band's simply ebullient 2010 album. The ever-evolving music collective is firmly based around singer-songwriter Craig Minowa who unsurprisingly wrote this number about becoming a dad - all the more poignant given the tragic death of his first-born, two-year old son, Kaidin in 2002. Craig does his absolute best to be carbon neutral, tours in a biodiesel van and lives and works on his own organic farm powered by geothermal energy from where he runs his record label - flying under the radar for far too long. Keep up with Craig and his under-cherished catalog at cloudcult.com, where there are also details of a handful of dates they're playing this summer.
Song: Ferris Wheel
Artist: Olivia, Canada
Album: Ferris Wheel [Single], 2015
Notes: So sweet, new feel-good cotton candy pop, light as a feather much influenced by Mariah Carey's 'Dreamlover' smash. Incoming songstress Olivia Penalva is just 15, and wrote and recorded her maiden set when she was just 13. She's currently polishing off a new EP which should feature this promising confection. More at oliviamusiclive.com and facebook.com/OliviaMusicLive. And check out her Music Mondays page at youtube.com/watch?v=2MycBg2mF4Q&list=PLNKsIZWNBq_m489B5aKjn-qPsbRxbyWWO.
Song: Sad Machine
Artist: Porter Robinson, Chapel Hill, NC
Album: Worlds, 2014
Notes: Catchy stuff, popular on a few dancefloors last year from the widely regarded electronic producer and DJ. Just 23, he has been mixing and producing since the age of 12. Still based in his hometown of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, he's already a veteran of major music festivals including Bonnaroo, Coachella and the Future Music Festival. He's currently in the midst of a US tour. More at porterrobinson.com or the online bible of EDM, Beatport.com.
Artist: Rickie Lee Jones, Chicago, IL
Album: Rickie Lee Jones, 1979
Notes: A tender ballad which has stood the test of time since its release 36 years ago on her maiden Grammy-winning debut LP. She's released fifteen albums since then, with her 16th due this coming week. It's called 'The Other Side of Desire', recorded in New Orleans, and features the first new music she's written in more than a decade. She'll be on the road through the summer promoting the record. More at rickieleejones.com.
Song: Monkey Lullaby
Artist: Kanute, England
Album: Standing Room Only, 2010
Notes: So inventive and enjoyable from a rather obscure pairing of British musicians, singer-songwriter Rachael Gray and producer Rob Overseer. Overseer, who's an extremely inventive and creative bloke, claims it was he, not Al Gore who invented the internet - with tongue firmly in cheek. This song features a well-used vocal sample of the just-played 'On Saturday Afternoons In 1963.' The duo released a new album, 'Ursa Minor' a year ago. More on them at their highly amusing website, kanute.co.uk.
Song: Caught In A Daze
Artist: Penguin Prison, New York, NY
Album: Lost In New York, 2015
Notes: A pleasing '70s retro dance cut from a new sleek disco-grooved long player by electro-pop whiz Chris Glover, a New York-based multi-instrumentalist, producer, singer and remixer - indeed he's remixed cuts for the likes of Ellie Goulding, Marina & The Diamonds and Imagine Dragons. He's hitting the road in July. More at penguinprison.com.
Song: Pretending The Stars
Artist: Mindy Smith, Long Island, NY
Album: Mindy Smith, 2012
Notes: Top-drawer folk-Americana from Mindy Smith who grew up in Long Island, eventually ending up, naturally, in Nashville. Her early career was strongly supported and nurtured by Dolly Parton, indeed Mindy's breakthrough recording was a cover version of Dolly's 'Jolene'. She's released five albums since 2004, and was instrumental in the release of the 'Shelter Me' compilation, bringing together the likes of Peter Bradley Adams, Matthew Perryman Jones, Trent Dabbs, Kate York and others, to contribute tracks to help animal shelters and pet adoption, highlighted in the PBS series of the same name. Nothing new since her 2012 self-titled album. More at mindysmithmusic.com.
Song: Spanish Stroll
Artist: Mink Deville, Stamford, CT
Album: Mink DeVille, 1977
Notes: Released just after the dawn of punk in 1977, the latin-laced rock sound of Mink DeVille from their fine eponymous debut album - which was subsequently hailed by American Hit Network trade paper as 'Under-promoted, under-appreciated and ultimately under-sold, a sleeper masterpiece that sounds as good today as it did in 1977'. Mink DeVille was led by Willy DeVille, a blue-collar singer-songwriter guitarist who was part of the legendary CBGB new wave scene in the mid-'70s in New York. He recorded six albums under the Mink DeVille moniker before flying strictly solo in 1986, releasing eight more albums before sadly passing away at the too young age of 58 in 2009. More at willydevillemusic.com.
Song: I Follow You
Artist: Melody's Echo Chamber, France
Album: Melody's Echo Chamber, 2012
Notes: First class fuzzed out psychedelic guitar solo on a dreamy, cosmic alternative nu-rock offering from Melody Prochet. She played viola in a classical conservatoire in Paris for 10 years, before cutting her maiden solo album in Perth, Australia and the south of France. Conversely beautiful and rough topped with a breathy vocal quality. Well recommended for those who like nu-pyschedelic rock. More at facebook.com/MelodyProchet.
Song: The Reason
Artist: Michael Castro, Rockwall, TX
Album: Fly Away [EP], 2012
Notes: A plaintive acoustic ballad about trying to make sense of another failed relationship and the reason behind it. The former 2009 'American Idol' contestant has had his music featured on TV shows 'Jane By Design' and 'The Bad Girls Club'. More at facebook.com/mcastromusic or michaelcastro.spinshop.com - more a retail store than a music website.
Song: Hearts Content
Artist: Brandi Carlile, Ravensdale, WA
Album: Bear Creek, 2012
Notes: A sweet chorus, a simple ditty, with some beautiful cello playing from Josh Neumann, from her most organic and rootsy outing to date on which she wisely restrained her otherwise phenomenal and powerful vocal style (if only Michael Bolton had got the same memo). Her fifth album, 'The Firewatcher's Daughter', hit the streets back in March and she'll no doubt be playing some of the songs at the various festivals she's performing at this summer. More at brandicarlile.com.
Song: Goodbye Yesterday
Artist: Nick Heyward, England
Album: Postcards From Heaven, 1986
Notes: A typically harmony-filled track from the former frontman of British popsters, Haircut 100. In their brief two-year period together they scored four UK Top 10 hit singles and a number one album with 'Pelican West'. His solo debut, 'North Of A Miracle', followed in 1983, since when he's released a further seven, interesting yet obscure albums. More at nickheyward.com, where he reveals that he 'appears when the sun comes out, writes and records music and takes lots of photographs'.
Artist: The 1975, England
Album: The 1975, 2013
Notes: Polished pop-rock from a group of alt-rockers who first got together as a punk combo at high school about ten years ago, but only performed and began recording together as The 1975 after having no success with the band names Talkhouse, The Slowdown, Bigsleep and Drive Like I Do. Lead singer Matthew Healy is the son of well-known UK caracter actor Tim Healy. Their full-length debut was produced by Mike Crossey, who also helms for the Arctic Monkeys and the Foals. More at the1975.com.
Song: Childhood Days
Artist: Barry Gibb, England
Album: Hawks Soundtrack, 1988
Notes: At any given time somewhere on planet earth, a song written by Barry Gibb is probably playing on a radio station. He's the second most successful composer of the rock era behind Paul McCartney. This is an extremely rare, typically top-drawer melodic solo outing that appeared on the soundtrack to a dreadful 1988 movie called 'Hawks' starring Timothy Dalton. The soundtrack album is now a $200 collector's item.
Song: Concrete Wall
Artist: Zee Avi, Malaysia
Album: Ghostbird, 2011
Notes: Quirky but winning music from a Malaysian singer-songwriter and guitarist, who also goes by the name KokoKaina. She has a big following around south east Asia, but is an acquired taste over here so far. Her second American CD, the pop-folkish 'Ghostbird' emerged in 2011 released on Jack Johnson's excellent Brushfire label. She followed it up last year with 'Zee Avi's Nightlight'. More at zeeavi.com.
Song: Shut Up
Artist: Black Eyed Peas, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Elephunk, 2003
Notes: Perhaps will.i.am's finest moment to date (though it never made the Billboard Hot 100) and maybe the best 'battle of the sexes' recording ever made - the pacing, clever hooks and the argumentative answer-back narrative is just sensational. will.i.am needed a female singer for the song and recruited Fergie, who subsequently became an integral member of the band. After a long lay-off, the band is back - celebrating its 20th anniversary - with a new song, 'Awesome', featured in a commercial for the NBA Playoffs and which they performed at Coachella back in April. More at blackeyedpeas.com.
Song: Break Your Heart
Artist: Natalie Merchant, Jamestown, NY
Album: Ophelia, 1998
Notes: The horns on this number are simply too delicious, so restrained and effective, with the underrated N'Dea Davenport lending a hand on guest vocals. Six solo albums from Natalie since splitting with 10,000 Maniacs in 1993. She's contributed a live version of 'Motherland' with The Felice Brothers to the just released compilation album 'Buy This Fracking Album', which also features Bonnie Raitt, Indigo Girls and Michael Franti. More at nataliemerchant.com.
Song: Hey My Love
Artist: Dion Roy, Namibia
Album: Into The Day, 2012
Notes: No-nonsense melodic pop-rock from singer-songwriter Dion Roy from his 2012 sophomore CD. Now based in New York, he opened for the likes of Eve 6, L&F alumnus Tyler Hilton and the Donnas and is also the lead singer of the band Fire and the Romance, who released three singles last year. More at dionroy.com and fireandtheromance.com.
Song: The Heart of the Matter
Artist: Rupert Hine, England
Album: Deep End, 1994
Notes: An unearthed gem from one of the great unknown talents of the music business over the past six decades. The English all-rounder has recorded more than a dozen long players over the years, but is better known in the industry as a go-to producer for the likes of Stevie Nicks, Duncan Sheik, the Fixx and Tina Turner over an illustrious career behind the mixing desk. If nothing else, he deserves to be remembered from his tenure in Quantum Jump, when he uttered the longest word on record for the track 'The Lone Ranger' - 'Taumata-whaka-tangi-hanga-kuayuwo-tamate-aturi-pukaku-piki-maunga-horonuku-pokaiawhen-uaka-tana-tahu-mataku-atanganu-akawa-miki-tora.' More on this fascinating character at rupert-hine.squarespace.com.
Song: All I Have
Artist: Eleanor McEvoy, Ireland
Album: Snapshots, 1999
Notes: A seamlessly constructed note perfect, lost sapphire, produced by the aforementioned Rupert Hine no less, from a grossly overlooked singer-songwriter and accomplished violinist from Ireland, now in her late-40s, virtually unknown over here. Since the mainstream release of this album, she's released more than a dozen albums on the Irish Mosco Disc label, the most recent, 'Stuff', from last year. More on her at eleanormcevoy.com.
Song: Grey Seal
Artist: Elton John, England
Notes: Once described by Elton as 'Procol Harum-ish absurd, like a Dali painting', this song was featured on his seventh album which has now sold more than 15 million copies worldwide. The song first appeaed on the B-side of Elton's non-charting 1970 single 'Rock'n'Roll Madonna', but was re-recorded for the album. Nice to know that Elton is still touring as well as still losing his temper. More at eltonjohn.com.
Song: Too Many Women
Artist: Rachael Sage, Port Chester, NY
Album: Public Record, 2003
Notes: Such a simple but clever piano refrain throughout this delicious number. Twelve erudite worthwhile albums since 1996 from a songstress and self-taught pianist from New York, who's opened for the likes of Marc Cohn, Shawn Colvin and Sarah McLachlan. More on her at rachaelsage.com and facebook.com/rachaelsagepage.
Song: Both of Us
Artist: Clifford T. Ward, England
Album: Both Of Us, 1984
Notes: Love has gone as surely as it came, Leaving me mistaken Leaving you no shame, If that's not enough A child will be forsaken, Thinking she was safe Now sharing all the pain. Thrown in my dreams, my hopes and expectations Believe me, I don't wanna make a fuss But I can't allow you these new found aspirations This little girl - needs both of us'. Yet another gem from the superb, ever-modest singer-songwriter and pianist from the bucolic English county of Worcestershire. He was an English and drama teacher at a British high school, where one of his students was Sting's wife, Trudie Styler. He was signed by legendary broadcaster John Peel's Dandelion label and then by Charisma Records, where he had a modicum of success, charting with the singles 'Gaye' and 'Scullery.' In all, he recorded 20 albums, but never achieved the popularity his talents warranted. He died from pneumonia in 2001 at the age of 57 after a nearly 20-year battle with multiple sclerosis. Glad to report that all of his mellifluous back catalog has been reissued by the marvellous British indie label, Cherry Red Records.
Song: There He Still Goes
Artist: Jan Akkerman & Kaz Lux, Holland
Album: Eli, 1976
Notes: Too funky for it's own good, trumped up top line funk rock from Jan Akkerman and Kaz Lux. Depending on when you born you might remember a big progressive rock hit single way back in 1973 by the Dutch group Focus called 'Hocus Pocus' led by Akkerman. Akkerman and Lux recorded a remarkable jazz-funk album called 'Eli' in 1976. Thirty six albums over six decades from the guitarist.
Song: True Romance
Artist: Arthur Dodge & The Horsefeathers, Lawrence, KS
Notes: I'm true romance, I ain't nothing but a fairytale' - a dose of un-romantic realism - a true-grit bittersweet authentic alternative country heart-buster from Arthur Dodge and his backing band. It was lost and now found on a 1997 self-titled CD. Arthur's from Lawrence, Kansas and has been recording since 1993 - he's also a prolific live performer - indeed about a dozen years ago he played 100 songs in one live performance. His gritty vocal style was honed from a steady diet of beer and cigarettes - five albums under their belts to date, but nothing since 2007's 'The Perfect Face'. More at facebook.com/pages/Arthur-Dodge/203466853354.
Song: Sunday Girl
Artist: Brandon & Leah, Malibu, CA
Album: Not available
Notes: Brand new, not yet available, the breezy beach-kissed sound of a new duo, comprising singer-songwriters Brandon Jenner and Leah Felder. They grew up in Malibu and have just polished off their freshman album called 'Life Happens'. The husband and wife are expecting their first baby. Jenner is the son of Caitlyn Jenner - which also means he's related to those pointless Kardashians - and Linda Thompson, who was formerly married to David Foster. Felder is the daughter of former Eagles guitarist Don Felder. More at brandonandleah.com.
Song: Walking On The Moon
Artist: Infamous Stringdusters, Nashville, TN
Album: Silver Sky, 2012
Notes: A wonderful version of The Police smash replete with fiddle, dobro and double bass by a quintet founded in 2005 by three students at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston before they relocated to Nashville. Their first album, 'Fork In The Road', emerged in 2007, since when there have been a further four. Known for their terrific live shows, they're currently on the road. For dates, go to thestringdusters.com/site/.
Song: Walking On The Moon
Artist: Police, England/Alexandria, VA
Album: Reggatta De Blanc, 1979
Notes: Written by Sting when he was drunk in a Munich hotel, it was the follow-up to the band's first UK number one hit 'Message In A Bottle', reaching the top itself in November 1979. The band released five studio albums, all of which went platinum in the US, snared six Grammy awards and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. Guitarist Andy Summers now fronts the band Circa Zero, drummer Stewart Copeland plays in Off The Score while Sting continues to have a stellar solo career.