Song: All I Know
Artist: Washed Out, Perry, GA
Album: Paracosm, 2013
Notes: One step away from shoe-gazing trance pop, and certainly a pioneer of the chill wave genre, Ernest Greene, better known under his performing name Washed Out with a lost gem from his richly textured 2013 sophomore CD. Georgia born, and still based in that state's thriving music hub Athens, he earned a Masters Degree in Library and Information Science but couldn't get a job as a librarian and so turned his attention to creating music - and eventually got snapped up by the venerable Sub Pop label which has issued both of his albums to date. His self-described bedroom synth pop has gained a growing following. More at washedout.net.
Song: Don't Cry Sister
Artist: J.J. Cale, Oklahoma City, OK
Album: 5, 1979
Notes: Two minutes and change, the cool vibe of the late, great J.J. Cale. Truly Oklahoma's finest and most respected singer-songwriter, he began his music career as early as 1958 when he started off under his given name, Johnny Cale. His unique laid-back guitar style has been much copied over the years by the likes of Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler and Chris Rea, but he's the original. Clapton covered a couple of his compositions, 'Cocaine' and 'After Midnight' to great success but the master himself never had a hit single. Some 14 consistently remarkable albums during a still under-appreciated career, ended when he passed away a couple of summers ago at 74.
Song: Great Escape
Artist: Chew Lips, England
Album: Not available
Notes: The Chew Lips are a London-based boy/girl duo in the tradition of Eurythmics, showcasing their brash synth-pop-rock chops on this number, which they've only ever played live hence its unavailability. Multi-instrumentalist James Watkins creates the sonic soundscapes behind the exuberant vocals from a Blondiesque frontwoman who simply goes by the name Tigs - real name Alicia Huertas. There's a steady buzz on the other side of the Atlantic and they're a popular act on the European festival circuit. More at chew-lips.com, where you can stream some rather cool mixtapes by the duo.
Song: Mr. Writer
Artist: Stereophonics, Wales
Notes: The Welsh group, featuring the superb, growling whiskey-drenched lead vocals of Kelly Jones, has been together for more than 20 years and are one of indie-rock's more overlooked combos outside of the UK. British soccer star Wayne Rooney is a big fan, and even has the title of the album tattoed on his right arm. One of the best live rock acts around if you get the chance to see them: indeed they should be touring in the autumn to promote their upcoming ninth studio album, 'Keep The Village Alive' which arrives in September. More at stereophonics.com.
Song: Song For The Road
Artist: David Ford, England
Album: Songs For The Road, 2007
Notes: Missing his loved one while touring - a mostly tender troubadour offering from the English indie tunesmith. Now in his mid-thirties he's released four worthwhile, literate CDs since bowing in 2005. He's become a popular opening act over the past decade for the likes of Starsailor, Elvis Costello, Gomez and KT Tunstall. More at davidfordmusic.com.
Song: They Dance Alone
Artist: Sting, England
Album: Nothing Like The Sun, 1987
Notes: Sting in full mellifluous and thoughtful mode on an astonishing protest song - its arrangement and melody hint at a romantic love song but it was actually written about an all-too serious subject: the thousands of men who went missing under the brutal rule of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in the 1970s and 1980s. Used by Sting as an empathetic letter written to all the widows of their murdered husbands, it was buried on his 1987 opus 'Nothing Like The Sun', featured the lovely guitar work of Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler, won a Ivor Novello award for Best Song in 1989 and was never released as a single.
Song: Best Thing I Got
Artist: Aya, Denmark
Album: Not available
Notes: Fabulous playful retro soul-pop with a fantastic hook-filled chorus by Danish popster Yanni Friis, who uses the simpler name Aya. This delightful pop confection was Denmark's 2012 entry in the Eurovision Song Contest, one of the cheesiest and most ridiculous music competitions around. The number was co-written by Julie Frost who's co-inked smash recordings for the likes of Ed Sheeran, Tegan & Sara and Madonna.
Song: You Used To
Artist: Distant Cousins, England
Album: Not available
Notes: A languorous, sorrowful winner but sadly unavailable, an obscure track from their fine but long-deleted 1992 CD titled 'Warm Hatred'. The soul/pop trio was from the ever-fertile northern English city of Manchester, who cut just two long players albums and once toured with the fellow Mancunians the legendary Stone Roses. Recorded at the iconic Abbey Road studios in London, it boasts lead singer Doreen Edwards' blissful vocal stylings.
Song: She Is His Only Need
Artist: Wynonna, Ashland, KY
Album: Wynonna, 1992
Notes: Blue collar story-telling magic, written by the great Dave Loggins (who penned and performed the classic 'Please Come to Boston' many moons ago - indeed he can be heard singing backing vocals on this gem from Wynonna). It was her first ever solo single, a big country smash from her maiden self-titled solo set in 1992. As is often the case, a lot of great songs get stuck in their own genre-related radio station universe and don't crossover into other formats. She's on the road this summer. For dates go to: wynonna.com.
Artist: Matt White, Engelwood, NJ
Album: Best Days, 2007
Notes: An easy breezy affectionate pop ditty by a New Jersey lad, based in New York. He studied classical piano from an early age, composing an entire opera at the age of 11. After leaving college, he busked around Greenwich Village and has since forged a sturdy professional career over the past decade, touring alongside the likes of Counting Crows, OneRepublic and John Mayer. His infectious pop repertoire is also much in demand for TV shows and commercials. More at mattwhitemusic.com.
Artist: Weepies, Cambridge, MA
Album: Sirens, 2015
Notes: A third play on L&F for this beautiful and winsome title cut from their latest set, the ever tender and rewarding Weepies. So many delightful undiscovered acoustic numbers just lying in the vault from them. They're the married duo of Deb Talan and Steve Tannen originally from Cambridge, Massachusetts, where they were both solo artists until they met at one of Tannen's shows at Club Passim. Their debut album, 'Happiness', emerged a couple of years later, since when there have been a further four albums. Their music making was put on hold with the news that Deb had been diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2013, but she has been in remission since last June. More at theweepies.com.
Song: Come Around Son
Artist: Jon Nite, Amarillo, TX
Album: Not available
Notes: An engaging acoustic curiosity but regrettably not available anywhere by a little-known singer-songwriter who hails from the blue collar Texan suburbs of Amarillo. Working mostly as writer for other artists, he's only released one effort, an eponymous effort in 2007. This rather neat quote comes from him: 'Life is a photograph - I'm developing from the negatives'.
Song: Say After Me
Artist: Bic Runga, New Zealand
Album: Birds, 2005
Notes: A lovely string arrangement on a delightfully mellow musing from the wonderful and beautifully telegenic Bic Runga. She's of mixed heritage, part Chinese, part Maori, who grew up in New Zealand where she's carved out a very successful career as one of that country's leading musicians over the past 20 years. This lovely lilting number was tucked away on her third studio album. More at bicrunga.com.
Song: Take Me As I Am
Artist: Rumer, England
Album: Seasons Of My Soul, 2010
Notes: Obvious and rather delightful shades of Dusty Springfield on this easy-swaying mellow winner by underloved British-based chanteuse, Sarah Joyce. Born in Pakistan, and long-favored by the likes of Elton John, Burt Bacharach, Jimmy Webb and Jools Holland, her maiden album, 'Seasons Of My Soul' went Top 20 in more than ten countries - but not in the US, despite being invited to perform at the White House in 2012. More at rumer.co.uk.
Artist: Stealers Wheel, Scotland
Notes: From 1974, a mid-chart record from the Scottish duo of Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan. Rafferty died at the age of just 63 in 2011 - the same year we lost Jerry Leiber of the iconic Leiber and Stoller songwriting duo - who, astonishingly, produced - not wrote - this Stealers Wheel number (and also the band's biggest hit, the 'Stuck In The Middle With You'). The duo were at odds with each other most of the time and also feared that Leiber and Stoller might actually make them too successful.
Song: Mad World
Artist: Tears For Fears, England
Album: The Hurting, 1982
Notes: A pop-rock classic that never made the Billboard Hot 100 from the duo comprising Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith who initially split up in 1991 but reunited in 2010 and still pop up for the occasional gig or two (they justed played at the FreePressSummerFest in Houston). It was subsequently covered to great success by both the pairing of Gary Jules and Michael Andrews, and more recently by the consistently dreadful Adam Lambert. Orzabal wrote the song while looking out over the rather lovely city of Bath when living above a pizza restaurant at the beginning of the band's career. Smith, who released the album 'Deceptively Heavy' in 2013, and Orzabal both now live in Los Angeles, and are reported to be in the final stages of completing their first album of new material in more than a decade.
Song: I'll Carry You
Artist: Left, Canada
Album: Cellophane [EP], 2011
Notes: A quintet of brothers and cousins who grew up in Langley, British Columbia, but moved to Vancouver. They attended the same high school and played together for more than a decade. Their last recording, 'Cycles,' produced by GGGarth (the man behind Biffy Clyro and many others) and Ben Kaplan, came out in 2012 and featured a really nice female guest vocal turn on a soothing and sweetly melodic gem by band friend, Sheree Plett. Since then there has been nothing and their facebook and twitter accounts both ceased back in March 2013.
Song: You're The Kind of Girl
Artist: Lee Fields & The Expressions, Brooklyn, NY
Album: Faithful Man, 2012
Notes: Recorded in 2012 - but effortlessly feeling like it might have been 1972 - the utterly authentic old school soul sound of the grossly overlooked Lee Fields and his ace backing band the Expressions, who even provide a groovy Jimmy Smith-style organ break. Real throwback rhythm and blues by a top class singer who's gone unnoticed for four decades but is still going strong. He's a North Carolina native who blew the roof off the dump at SXSW a couple of years ago. He calls himself simply a 'true soul singer' and he's got a point. It's even available as a 7 vinyl single. More at leefieldsandtheexpressions.com.
Song: Letter Never Sent
Artist: Young Summer, Washington, DC
Album: Fever Dream [EP], 2013
Notes: The vagaries of destiny, the role that chance and fate play in every relationship - a woman and a man desperate to reconnect after a fleeting meeting, waiting to see if serendipity will come through for them. The young singer (Bobbie Allen) describes her music as floating somewhere between Florence Welch and Sarah McLachlan though, interestingly, she was most inspired by Karen Carpenter. Just a couple of singles to date, as well as a recent duet 'The Conversation' with Mat Kearney. Trent Dabbs, who provides the male vocal line on the song, described producing her as a 'creative calling.' More on her, confusingly, at bobbieallenmusic.com.
Song: New Age
Artist: Marlon Roudette, England
Album: Matter Fixed, 2011
Notes: A catchy piano refrain on an infectious confection which hit number 1 in Austria, Switzerland and Germany in 2012. The quirky but rather winning debut solo single from Roudette, who is the step-son of Neneh Cherry and the son of uber-talented Massive Attack producer, Cameron McVey. It's from his freshman album called 'Matter Fixed' which was never issued over here, nor was its 2014 follow up, 'Electric Soul'. His roots are London and the lovely island of St. Vincent in the the Grenadines. More at marlonroudette.columbiarecords.com.
Artist: Jillette Johnson, Pound Ridge, NY
Album: Water In A Whale, 2013
Notes: A 23-year-old newcomer based in New York who emerged three years ago, with a song about an alienated transvestite. She began playing piano at the age of 10, and turned down an offer to appear on 'The Voice' (good for her). She had an EP called 'Whiskey & Frosting' out in 2012 with her maiden album appearing the following year. More on her at jillettejohnson.com.
Song: So Beautiful
Artist: Pete Murray, Australia
Album: Feeler, 2003
Notes: The restrained mellow musings of a big star Down Under, where this song went to Number 1 while three of his five albums to date have topped the Aussie charts. Influenced by the likes of Neil Young, Dylan and Nick Drake, he's a much overlooked singer-songwriter and former top rugby player and, like rugby, remains an acquired taste by those who know better over here. More on him at petemurray.com.
Song: Many of Horror
Artist: Biffy Clyro, Scotland
Album: Only Revolutions, 2009
Notes: A Scottish rock trio from Kilmarnock comprising lead singer and guitarist Simon Neil and twins James and Ben Johnston, formed 20 years ago as Skrewfish. This song became an unexpected Christmas chart-topper in the UK in 2010, when X Factor winner Matt Cardle released it as 'When We Collide.' He subsequently apologised to the band's fans saying 'I'm sorry if I've ruined it for people.' Their last album 'Opposites,' like the previous was recorded in Los Angeles with producer GGGarth and released in 2013, since when there has been the compilation, 'Similarities'. More at biffyclyro.com.
Artist: SOAK, Ireland
Notes: Irish songstress Bridie Monds-Watson, aka SOAK, still just 18, with an ethereal treat off her maiden album, a delicate collection of quirky dreamy indie pop. Released on the ever-ready iconic British indie label, Rough Trade, it's well worth an aural visit. She has a smattering of US shows beginning on July 6th in Los Angeles - all dates at soakmusic.co.uk.
Artist: DJ Drez featuring Joey Lugassy, Los Angeles, CA
Notes: A fascinating sitar-infused dub update featuring the main music and lyric refrain from Buffalo Springfield's iconic signature song 'For What's It's Worth', reinterpreted to full effect. The original was written by Stephen Stills in November 1966 and mistakenly thought to be an anti-war protest song or about the Kent State Shootings - clearly not, they happened four years later - he actually wrote it about a 10:00 pm curfew imposed on the streets of Hollywood that month in 1966, which he and many others felt was an infringement on their civil rights. Subsequently co-opted by every anti-war movement around it's been widely used on countless film soundtracks and in documentaries. DJ Drez is a self-styled world music 'sound ambassador hip-hopper' from Los Angeles, 'blending yesterday's roots with the innovative urban beats of today'. A dreadlocked peace-loving character, he also moonlights as a yoga instructor.
Song: Christian Eyes
Artist: Max Jury, Des Moines, IA
Notes: A top-drawer ballad with a lovely Beatlesque 'White Album' era guitar solo in the bridge from a 21-year old tunesmith described as coming on like 'the missing link between Gram Parsons and George Harrison'. He began playing the piano at the age of six, wrote his first song at 13, before enrolling at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, but dropped out - twice. More at facebook.com/maxwelljury.
Artist: Woman's Hour, England
Album: Conversations, 2014
Notes: The intriguing closing cut on their fine, assured maiden album which emerged last summer - showcasing the vulnerable tender vocals of frontwoman Fiona Burgess. The group is an experimental indie-electro-pop combo from England also featuring Fiona's brother William on guitar and Nick Graves on bass and Josh Hunnisett on keyboards. They're based in London but hail from the beautiful Lake District town of Kendal and have been together for about four years. More on them at womanshourband.co.uk.
Song: Easy In The Summertime
Artist: Allison Moorer & Shelby Lynne, Monroeville, AL/Quantico, VA
Album: Not available
Notes: Only available commercially as a solo recording by Allison Moorer on her 2010 CD 'Crows' but heard here in an extremely rare live duet version with her sister Shelby Lynne, recorded in a tiny studio four years ago. A simple piano melody, reflective lyrics about a seemingly blissful childhood in the Deep South in 1981 written by Moorer to recall the simple rural pleasures of childhood summers in their native Alabama - though that dreamy time destroyed in real life in 1986 when the siblings' father murdered their mother and then took his own life.
Song: No More I Love You's
Artist: Lover Speaks, England
Album: Lover Speaks, 1986
Notes: A short-lived trio comprising David Freeman, Joseph Hughes and Barry Gilbert with the debut single from their sole album. Freeman and Hughes had been the driving force behind the punk band The Flys throughout the latter part of the 1970s before signing a publishing deal with Dave Stewart's Anxious Music. They opened for Eurythmics on their 1986 Revenge World Tour and later Annie Lennox covered this song for her first solo single. Gilbert left the band and the duo's follow-up 'The Big Lie' wasn't released by their label, after which they went their separate ways.
Song: All My Days
Artist: Alexi Murdoch, England
Notes: Much featured in TV shows such as 'Grey's Anatomy', 'The OC', 'Without A Trace' and 'Scrubs', but never a hit. Long tipped for the big time he remains a largely well-kept secret outside film and television circles. Born in London but brought up in Scotland from the age of 10, 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'. More at aleximurdoch.com.
Song: Trying To Love You
Artist: Beth Nielsen Chapman, Harlingen, TX
Album: Look, 2005
Notes: Watched myself get stuck, I've squandered all my luck. Almost given up - trying to love you I've screamed your name, I've slammed a thousand doors. And I've worn a million miles across the floor. Still I could not ignore - trying to love you. It's pulled the best from me, For all the world to see. I guess I'll always be, Trying to love you.' Too sad for words - A woman who's given it all, hung in there against every odd, poured her heart and soul into a loveless unrequited relationship - the pain of deep love's inherent imbalance, so deep she's lost herself in the effort and the obsession. Superior song craft by its sorely under-cherished writer, recorded to more commercial appeal by Trisha Yearwood, but nothing beats the original. More at bethnielsenchapman.com.
Artist: Echocell, Orange County, CA
Album: Babylon [Single], 2013
Notes: An ace rather hypnotic chorus by the fresh synth-pop duo of Turkish born singer Belinda Kazanci and electronic whiz/producer Adam Beltran, who came out of Orange County in 2000. They describe their music as 'a catalyst fusing the organic with electronic environment, combining darkness, light and everything in between'. More at echocell.com.
Song: Cowboys and Angels
Artist: George Michael, England
Notes: A beautifully constructed and executed song, the fifth single from the album and strongly influenced in its overall feel and production by the soundtrack to the original 'The Thomas Crown Affair' movie. Michael has mercifully recovered from a life-threatening bout of pneumonia in 2011 during his well-received 'Symphonica' tour and is now back in full voice. His rather nice 'Symphonica' live album came out last year, full of tasteful updates of his own hit catalog and covers. More at georgemichael.com.
Song: The Addict
Artist: Bo Saris, Holland
Album: The Addict [EP], 2013
Notes: Soulful retro grooves from one Boris Titulaer, a Dutchman now based in London. Inspired by meeting Bill Withers at a tribute show for the soul legend staged in Amsterdam in 2011, he's released three rather uneven albums over the past decade, but his newer material is a vast improvement, including last year's 'Gold album. More at bosaris.com or facebook.com/BoSaris.
Song: Take Me To Church
Artist: Ellie Goulding, England
Notes: A sensational slowed-down version of Hozier's smash hit single, who on hearing Goulding's version tweeted: 'Very, very flattered by the wonderful @elliegoulding covering Take Me To Church. Check it out https://m.soundcloud.com/elliegoulding/ellie-goulding-take-me-to-church'. The English singer has gone on to forge a highly successful synthpop/dance career after wisely dropping out of university to get a head start on her music career. A new album is in the works, while her latest single 'When Your Feet Don't Touch The Ground', written by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, is featured in the new Broadway musical 'Finding Neverland'. More at elliegoulding.com.
Song: Take Me To Church
Artist: Hozier, Ireland
Album: Hozier, 2014
Notes: A number one in 17 countries around the world, as well as reaching number two in both the US and UK, this song was one of the most played last year and nominated for the Grammy Award for Song of the Year, in fact Hozier performed the song with Annie Lennox at this year's awards ceremony. The Irish singer, born Andrew Hozier-Byrne 25 years ago, studied music at Trinity College in Dublin, dropping out during his first year to cut some demos for Universal Music, as well as being a member of choral group An'na from 2008 to 2012. He begins a tour of the US in September. For dates, go to hozier.com.