Artist: Saint Johns, St. Augustine, FL
Album: Open Water [EP], 2014
Notes: Sweet, easy harmonies, a lovely string arrangement and deft execution, a broken hearted 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 now migrated north to Nashville. This gorgeous number is one of five currently streaming on their website: thesaintjohns.com, which also has details of a handful of dates out west next month.
Song: I Might Drop By
Artist: Greg Laswell, San Diego, CA
Album: Landline, 2012
Notes: Despite being one of America's foremost singer-songwriters Laswell has never charted on the Billboard Hot 100. This is one of more than a dozen of lost pearls featured by him on 'L&F' over the years and one of six absolute diamonds on his sorely under-loved 'Landline' opus which featured Sara Bareilles, Sia, Elizabeth Ziman and Ingrid Michaelson, and was recorded at a converted church in Maine. Born in Long Beach but long based in San Diego, singer-songwriter multi-instrumentalist Greg's been knocking it out of the park with six fine albums since bowing in 2003. Sad to report that he and his wife Michaelson separated a few months ago. More at greglaswell.com.
Artist: Haerts, New York, NY
Album: Haerts, 2014
Notes: A sensational synth-pop rhythm track underwriting a modern rock corker from a New York-based combo with a multi-cultural transatlantic lineup; led by Nina Fabi and Ben Gebert, its five members variously hail from the US, England and Germany. This is one of several top tracks from their debut album released last year. Issued as a single in both 2013 and 2014, but no dice on the airwaves. More at haertsmusic.com or facebook.com/haertsmusic.
Artist: Dougie MacLean, Scotland
Album: Caledonia, 1978
Notes: Simply beautiful. Under-appreciated away from home turf, Scottish singer-songwriter with a perfect balladic ode to his beloved home country and the title cut from his sophomore LP in 1978 - a song he wrote in just 10 minutes while feeling homesick sitting on a beach in Brittany, France. A national treasure in Scotland, each one of his 23 albums contains at least one diamond of a song - do seek out his art and craft. More at dougiemaclean.com.
Song: Troubled Mind
Artist: Everything But The Girl, England
Album: Amplified Heart, 1994
Notes: Apart from the monster US hit 'Missing' in 1995, this much-revered English duo have been largely ignored by American radio over the years, despite cutting 11 terrific albums. They are the husband and wife team of Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn - still very much together but they haven't released any material together for more than a decade, though Tracey's carefully crafted solo career continues, often with contributions from Ben. He's suffered some health setbacks with an auto-immune disease which he documented in a superb autobiography titled 'Patient' which was published in 1996. More at ebtg.com.
Song: Cathedral Song
Artist: Tanita Tikaram, England
Album: Ancient Heart, 1988
Notes: A German born, UK-based husky pop/folkster with a divine track from her superb maiden CD which she wrote and recorded when she was just 19 and which featured Paul Brady, Mark Isham and Rod Argent among its musical guests. Born in Munster, Germany, and raised by an Indo-Fijian father and Malaysian mother, her family relocated to Britain when she was a teenager and she left university before graduating to begin a professional career in music. Even less prolific than Sade - only two albums over the past 17 years - you can find out more about her at tanita-tikaram.com.
Song: Fly To Me
Artist: Keane, England
Notes: Pleased to report that the deluxe edition of 'The Best Of Keane' finally included this previously ultra-rare anthemic corker, little more than a demo originally available on the flipside of an old UK-only single. As with all their work, it's hallmarked by the gifted keyboard fluency of the band's main songwriter, Tim Rice-Oxley, who formed the band with lead singer Tom Chaplin in 1998 - though just one year earlier, Rice-Oxley turned down an invitation to become the keyboard player for another newly formed UK group: Coldplay. The band is still on an extended hiatus with Chaplin still ironing out his long-awaited solo debut.
Song: Louis Louis
Artist: Teitur, Faroe Islands
Album: Stay Under The Stars, 2007
Notes: Achieving without striving - a hallmark of the better artists out there - on a tribute to the late, great Louis Armstrong, from perhaps the only professional singer-songwriter from the Faroe Islands in the Norwegian Sea and part of the kingdom of Denmark. So literate and smart with a great sense of melody, Teitur was invited to perform at the 70th birthday celebrations for the Queen of Denmark in 2010. Six highly recommended albums have followed since bowing about 10 years ago. Last year he was awarded an honorary diploma by Henrik, Prince Consort of Denmark. More at teitur.com.
Artist: Sting, England
Album: Nada Como el Sol, 1988
Notes: Called 'They Dance Alone' in its English iteration, this Spanish version appeared on the singer's five-track mini-album, 'Nada Como el Sol'. This astonishing protest song - its arrangement and melody might 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. Using as an empathetic letter written to all the widows of their murdered husbands, the original English version was buried on his 1987 opus 'Nothing Like The Sun', and featured the lovely guitar work of Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler. It was never released as a single and won a Ivor Novello award for Best Song in 1989 only after two eagle-eyed consultants noticed it hadn't even been nominated.
Song: I Surrender
Artist: Clare Maguire, England
Album: Light After Dark, 2011
Notes: A track that should have been a smash, channeling a bit of Adele and a splash of Annie Lennox, from a promising singer-songwriter from London. Just 27 years old, she has been recording for the past five years after being discovered on myspace. This middle pop-dance belter was co-written and produced by Fraser T. Smith, who was also behind several gleaming tracks on the mighty '21' opus by Adele, including 'Set Fire To The Rain'. More on Clare at claremaguire.com.
Song: Leave The Lights On
Artist: Meiko, Roberta, GA
Album: The Bright Side, 2012
Notes: She possesses such an engagingly breathy vocal style, the always pleasing Meiko with her percolating winner, the lead-off cut from her brilliant sophomore album which was issued in 2012, some five years after her splendid maiden long-player. Both are stuffed with first-rate melodic singer-songwriter confections showcasing her engaging vocals and clever way with words. One-quarter Japanese, she grew up in Roberta, a small hamlet in Georgia. More on her at meikomusic.com, where there are details of her summer tour.
Song: The Heart of Life
Artist: John Mayer, Bridgeport, CT
Album: Continuum, 2006
Notes: Great music need not be any more complicated than this - the sweetest simplicity of melody married with heartwarming lyrics at their very best. One of the most successful alumni from the esteemed Berklee College of Music in Boston, the seven-time Grammy winner has released six studio albums, but nothing since 2013's 'Paradise Valley' . More at johnmayer.com.
Song: Someone To Someone
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, and ha s scored 2015 Hot 100 success for Keith Urban, Brett Eldredge, BIlly Currington, Jake Own and A Thousand Horses - all the while releasing his own brand of sturdy pop-rock. More at facebook.com/rosscopperman.
Song: Silver Fawn
Artist: Electric Owls, Asheville, NC
Album: Cullowhee Songs [EP], 2010
Notes: Infectious, original, delightfully quirky and completely unknown, with two of the happiest sounding instruments out there - the ukulele and Jew's harp, by a one-man band that is Andy Herod. It's on his four-track EP called 'Cullowhee Songs' released five years ago on the excellent Vagrant Records label. He's originally from Oklahoma, frontman of the now defunct Comas for a while, but now based in Asheville, North Carolina, where he works as an artist. More at facebook.com/pages/Andy-Herods-Art/170236943020484.
Song: Lovesick Mistake
Artist: Erin McCarley, Garland, TX
Album: Love, Save The Empty, 2009
Notes: A first-rate lost diamond from a delicious debut in 2009. Sadly her followup album, 'My Stadium Electric', in 2012 was a poor miscue by comparison, but let's hope her new set, which is being previewed by the new song 'I Can Be Somebody', sees her back on top form. She started out her musical career in San Diego after graduating from Baylor University. Now based in Nashville, she writes top-notch melodic pearls and has been part of the admirable Ten Out Of Tenn collaborative. If you look closely at the ABC TV musical drama series 'Nashville' you might see her popping up from time to time. Keep up with her news at facebook.com/erinmccarley.
Song: Fortunate Son (live)
Artist: Bruce Hornsby, Williamsburg, VA
Notes: Literate, thoughtful lyrics about the plight of a wounded veteran paired with a deftly played and tragic ivory melody by the consummate wordsmith, tunesmith and pianist with a live version of his immaculate composition from his 1999 concert album. When he plays this in concert he often mixes it up with a cover of Pink Floyd's 'Comfortably Numb' - and pulls it off big-time. He's also one of the most in-demand musicians in the industry today - everyone wants to record with him. What's so unique about him is that when you hear him playing piano on any record, you know it can only be him. Hard to believe it's almost thirty years since he burst on the scene with 'The Way It Is'. More at brucehornsby.com.
Song: Carry You Home
Artist: Jamie Scott, England
Album: My Hurricane, 2014
Notes: This glorious ballad was the standout track on the precociously talented singer-songwriter-producer's sophomore solo set. It's an atypical love song, more about sterling friendship than the usual soppy topic of romance. He released a terrific album in 2007 as Jamie Scott and The Town, before teaming up with Tommy D to form the duo Graffiti6, which released a new offering called 'The Bridge' last year. During his seven-year solo recording hiatus he wrote hit records for the likes of One Direction, JLS, Enrique Iglesias, 5 Seconds Of Summer and Christina Perri. More at jamie-scott.com.
Song: The Hardest Part
Artist: Coldplay, England
Album: X&Y, 2005
Notes: The driving guitar work and piano rolls on this number are too good and rarely heard on the radio. The song was actually written as a tribute to Michael Stipe and R.E.M. In discussing its origin and referencing Stipe, Chris Martin said: 'I've lost all respect for fame, but I haven't lost all respect for respect. So the one great thing about being famous is that I get to meet people who I respect. Our relationship is akin to a dog and its master. I'll always look up to him.' It's been fifteen years since the band's debut, 'Parachutes', and now it seems their next record will be the last.
Song: Not Dark Yet
Artist: Bob Dylan, Duluth, MN
Album: Time Out Of Mind, 1997
Notes: I was born here and I'll die here, against my will, I know it looks like I'm movin' but I'm standin' still. Every nerve in my body is so naked and numb, I can't even remember what it was I came here to get away from. My sense of humanity has gone down the drain, behind every beautiful thing, there's been some kind of pain. I just don't see why I should even care, it's not dark yet - but it's getting there. More than too sad for words - extremely dark and depressing ruminations on death. Outstanding backing soundscapes from producer Daniel Lanois, from what may be one of Dylan's best albums. Ironically Dylan nearly died that same year from a life-threatening heart infection which makes this song even more impactful. Still going strong at 74, his 36th studio album, 'Shadows In The Night', was released back in February.
Song: You've Got The Style
Artist: Athlete, England
Album: Vehicles And Animals, 2002
Notes: Since signing to the Parlophone label more than a decade ago and then seeing their brilliant debut album being Mercury Music prize-nominated, this London quartet have taken the less commercial route and musically the better for it. This track is one of several fine cuts featured on that debut, showcasing the songwriting and vocals chops of their ridiculously talented frontman, Joel Pott. There have been four grossly under-appreciated albums since, but other than 2012's 'Live At Union Chapel' there has been no new music from them for five years. More at athlete.mu.