Artist: Glen Campbell, Delight, AR
Album: Ghost On The Canvas, 2011
Notes: An A+ swansong, one of Campbell's last-ever recordings after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, a self-penned melodic masterclass with deep Beatles influences, and Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan, rockabilly twanger Brian Setzer, Rick Nielsen and Marty Rifkin all trading superb guitar licks with Glen on the track's fabulous extended instrumental climax. Check out the bonus tracks on the album on iTunes, including 'Wish You Were Here,' a reworking of Jimmy Webb's 'Postcard From Paris.' And if you haven't seen 'I'll Be Me', the conversely inspiring, depressing but compelling 2014 documentary about Glen completing a farewell tour while struggling with the daily horror of his disease, then track it down immediately.
Song: Someone Somewhere
Artist: Jason Reeves, Arlington, TX
Notes: The 31-year-old, originally from Arlington, Texas making his way to Nashville by way of Iowa City ten years ago, has been crafting top-drawer music since bowing in 2003 but a big solo hit remains elusive. His first major success was as a songwriter with Colbie Caillat - he co-wrote her earliest hits including 'Bubbly' and recently teamed up with Nelly Joy as Sonic Graffiti with a brand new EP, 'High Dive Heart', released a couple of weeks ago. Radio at large needs to give him the break he clearly deserves. More at facebook.com/JasonReevesMusic.
Song: Merchant Of Love
Artist: Joan Armatrading, St. Kitts
Album: What's Inside, 1995
Notes: An exquisite and deeply moving lost ruby tucked away on her 1995 CD 'What's Inside'. Armatrading has recorded more than 20 albums over an exemplary career - every one of them contains at least one lost pearl. In the midst of a world tour, which returns to the US next month, she says it will be her last major sojourn, but recently told the New York Daily News: 'I'm not retiring by any stretch of the imagination. I'll still do short tours. And I'm a songwriter. I'll stop that when I'm dead.' Dates at joanarmatrading.com/index.php/about/tour.
Song: Static Waves
Artist: Andrew Belle & Katie Herzig, Nashville, TN/Fort Collins, CO
Album: The Ladder, 2010
Notes: The delicious intertwining of Andrew Belle's freezer-cool vox offset by Katie Herzig's fabulous feminine counterpoint vocal, throw in a restrained rolling rhythm track and a deft strings arrangement and you get a song clearly too fine for any other show. The Wheaton, IL native, real name Drew Forston, is yet another non-country musician drawn to Nashville where he lived before moving to Chicago. The Colorado-raised Ms. Herzig is an alumnus of the University of Colorado at Boulder where she graduated in journalism and has been long-based in Nashville - both of them are members of the Ten out of Tenn collective. More at andrewbelle.com and katieherzig.com.
Artist: Mat Kearney, Eugene, OR
Album: City Of Black & White, 2009
Notes: Brimming with a memorable melody, top drawer lyrics, hope, superb vocals and co-written with two other first-rate L&F regulars, Trent Dabbs and Matthew Perryman Jones. Yet another top troubadour drawn to the city of Nashville, by way of Oregon and California State University, which he attended on a soccer scholarship. He's featured on the latest Brad Paisley album, with 'Pressing On A Bruise,' a song they co-wrote together and is currently working on his fifth album. Hard to believe that this radio-ready hit-in-waiting wasn't even released as a single, so it remains buried on his 'City of Black & White' CD. More on him at matkearney.com.
Song: Buildings and Mountains
Artist: Republic Tigers, Kansas City, MO
Album: Keep Color, 2008
Notes: A cracking, highly melodic and engaging song from an indie combo, creating a lovely meld of pop, psychedelic rock and folk. Only one album to date and a couple of EPs, the group's founders Adam McGill and Kenn Jankowski have a vaguely one-off commitment to the group so their catalog is a little sparse, although their new album 'Mind Over Matter' is expected before year's end. More at facebook.com/TheRepublicTigers.
Song: Two Shots
Artist: Elle King, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Not available
Notes: Astonishingly still unreleased, yet arguably her strongest cut and recorded as a demo prior to her signing with RCA last year. Born Tanner Elle Schneider in Los Angeles, the daughter of comedian Rob Schneider and model London King, brought up in Ohio and now living in Brooklyn, she's just getting started on her career and has just the one EP to date. Elle's opened for Of Monsters And Men, Train, Dashboard Confessional and Ed Sheeran and it's good to see her finally getting a hit under a belt with the current winner, 'Ex's and Oh's'. More at elleking.com.
Song: Nothing Rhymed
Artist: Gilbert O'Sullivan, Ireland
Album: Himself, 1971
Notes: A better wordsmith than he was ever given credit for, no doubt partly due to his manager's decision to dress him up in short trousers and a silly cap at the start of his career. Best known for his painfully sad 1972 chart-topper 'Alone Again Naturally,' he has been quietly perfecting the art of clever, deceptively simple top notch tunes for nearly 50 years. He is still going strong today, just released his 18th studio album, a latin affair called 'Latin Ala G!' In a typically modest quote from an interview a few years ago, he said: 'I write pop songs. That's all I wanted to do. End of story.' More at gilbertosullivan.net.
Song: Golden Heart
Artist: Mark Knopfler, England
Album: Golden Heart, 1996
Notes: The former lead singer and guitarist with Dire Straits, he's subsequently composed several excellent film scores and released a series of superior solo albums, the latest - the brilliant 'Tracker'. Ever modest, the Scottish-born 63-year-old is a sort of anti-star who just quietly goes about his business - erudite, smart, humble and ridiculously talented. He's in the midst of an 85-date world tour, arriving in the US next month. Dates at markknopfler.com.
Song: Twenty Years
Artist: Augustana, Greenville, IL
Album: Can't Love Can't Hurt, 2008
Notes: Extraordinary to think that Augustana was dropped by its major label in 2011, having made consistently terrific fare since breaking through big time with 'Boston' in 2005. This outstanding number boasts near-perfect melodic construction and execution but completely flew under the radar. The group's still going, long based in San Diego and still firmly fronted by its only long-term member, Dan Layus. More at augustanamusic.com.
Song: Climb On
Artist: Shawn Colvin, Vermillion, SD
Album: Fat City, 1992
Notes: Other than die-hard fans most people only know her Grammy-winning signature hit 'Sunny Came Home', but she's been recording heavenly material for 25 years and counting. Now in her 60th year, she still tours most years, performing on double bills this year with both Steve Earle and Marc Cohn. Her autobiography , 'Diamond In The Rough' is a frank, candid often amusing journey through her ups and downs and well worth a read. More at shawncolvin.com.
Song: Rollin' Home
Artist: Tyler Hilton, Palm Springs, CA
Notes: Such an underrated lyricist - is there another song inventive enough to have a rhyming couplet pairing 'vulture' with 'counter culture'? Tyler has an uncanny gift for crafting simple, memorable melodies and smart lyrics, delivered with a strong raspy voice. He released 'Indian Summer' last November - only his fifth album in 14 years, but all worth a gander. More at tylerhilton.com.
Artist: Bruce Springsteen, Long Branch, NJ
Album: Devils And Dust, 2005
Notes: A restrained and subtle gem, atypical of his more popular bombastic muscular fare ('I wanna live in the same house, beneath the same roof, sleep in the same bed, search for the same proof'). Simply exquisite legato strings and Mariachi horns. Known for his four-hour sets, even at the age of 65, he played a brief two-hour set recently, joining his friend Joe Grushecky onstage at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park. More at brucespringsteen.net.
Song: Love Me Still
Artist: Chaka Khan, Chicago, IL
Notes: The full original studio version of a divine ballad, written with Bruce Hornsby for the Spike Lee-directed movie, 'Clockers', in 1995. Lee returned the favor by directing the music video for the song. It was deservedly Grammy-nominated for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television, but to add insult to injury, it lost out to the deeply average 'Colors Of The Wind' from 'Pochontas'. The ten-time Grammy winner has recently revealed that she and Sam Smith plan to record together. More at chakakhan.com.
Artist: Cider Sky, Los Angeles, CA
Album: Fall [single], 2012
Notes: A catchy modern rock bubbler released three years ago by an electro-acoustic duo based in Los Angeles fronted by a female singer from Hamilton, Ontario, north of the border, who goes by the name of Simon Wilcox. She's one of Canada's top contemporary songwriters, securing several placements for her tunes on TV and film soundtracks, including the Tobey Maguire flick 'Brothers' and the provocative HBO series 'Hung' as well as co-writing Nick Jonas' smash from last year, 'Jealous'. More at facebook.com/pages/Simon-Wilcox/17184313775.
Song: Simple Together
Artist: Alanis Morissette, Canada
Album: Feast On Scraps, 2002
Notes: Desperately sad lyrics ('I thought we'd be on fire together, but I was sadly mistaken') and a top-drawer melody on a song that was an afterthought buried on an entire CD of leftovers, B-sides and previously unreleased tracks. How a song this great is not one of her best-known is beyond belief. Talking to Live Happy on the 20th anniversary of 'Jagged Little Pill', she said, 'After the tour for Jagged Little Pill and that whole experience, I just felt like I grabbed the brass ring that I've been encouraged to chase my whole life, through culture and otherwise. And so there I was, everything was amplified, so if there was any underlying loneliness or unresolved wounds or traumas, from childhood, etc., they were all exacerbated. To me that's what fame does, it takes authority there and just blows it up.' More at alanis.com or facebook.com/alanismorissette.
Artist: MoZella, Detroit, MI
Album: Belle Isle, 2010
Notes: Dead catchy ear candy by 33-year-old, Detroit-born Maureen McDonald who has recorded dozens of hook-filled gems in all kinds of genres and she should be a household name. Although her solo performing career still hasn't reached the dizzying heights it so obviously deserves, she finally scored a huge hit as a composer, co-writing the 2013 monster smash 'Wrecking Ball' for Miley Cyrus. More at facebook.com/mozellamusic.
Artist: Clubfeet, Australia/South Africa
Album: Gold On Gold, 2010
Notes: A top-drawer infectious dance/pop/rock bubbler from the five-piece Australian/South African combo featured several times on 'L&F'. Led by Sebastian Cohen from Cape Town, but based in Melbourne, they've released a couple of albums - this rolling cracker is on their debut album, but their 2013 sophomore set 'Heirs & Graces' is also well worth checking out. More details at helloclubfeet.com.
Song: Kentucky Avenue
Artist: Tom Waits, Pomona, CA
Album: Blue Valentine, 1978
Notes: I'll take the spokes from your wheelchair, and a magpie's wings, and tie them to your shoulders and your feet. I'll steal a hacksaw from my dad, and cut the braces off your legs, and we'll bury them tonight in the cornfield'. Too sad for words - a complete movie revealed over four minutes and fifty seconds of song, the simple tale of a couple of young lads hanging out together and getting up to no good in their run-down neighborhood - but only in the final two stanzas do we realize that its Waits' best friend is confined to a wheelchair - and he wants to set him free from his disability. Add to that one of the most tender, empathetic, beautiful string arrangements ever by Bob Alcivar and produced by the brilliant Bones Howe, whose hand guided Waits through his best work. Peerless beauty from Lord Tom.
Artist: Natalie Taylor, Mechanicsburg, PA
Album: Not available
Notes: Astonishingly this profoundly catchy, engaging EDM-flavored pop nugget remains unreleased. Original from Alabama, but unsurprisingly now based in Nashville, her influences include Jon Howard, John Mayer and Sara Bareilles. L&F featured a super, acoustic track by General Ghost last year, which featured her as guest vocalist. More at natalietaylormusic.com, where she declares 'I do musical things, am an esthetician, and could do R&B riffs in harmony for days. Oh and Roll Tide :)'.