Shirli McAllen of The Leftover Cuties recommends Blake Mills

Shirli McAllen of Leftover Cuties and Blake Mills

Shirli McAllen of Leftover Cuties and Blake Mills

Shirli McAllen’s recommendation: “It’s a real challenge to choose one artist when there is so much music I love. I was going to go with something classic like Bob Dylan, but then again, everyone already knows about Dylan and his brilliance, right? So I decided to go with something completely new that most people haven’t heard of yet and totally should. Blake Mills. This guy is the best guitarist/singer/songwriter around. He had played with so many huge artists as a session guitar player (Kid Rock, Cass McCombs, Lucinda Williams, Fiona Apple, etc.) and he was also a band member of Simon Dawes.”

New to Blake Mills? Shirli suggests you start here: “In 2010 he released his own solo debut titled Brake Mirrors. It has been my favorite and most frequently listened to album in the past year. Songs like Hey Lover and It’ll All Work Out get to me every time. Blake’s voice, lyrics, guitar parts and overall sound go directly into my soul and give me that bittersweet feeling that I live for. He is original, innovative and sincere. And when you find out how young he is, you won’t believe it. Treat yourself, really. Take a listen.”

Check the Blake Mills web site for tour info, album ordering and more.

Shirli McAllenAbout our guest author, Shirli McAllen: Shirli fronts The Leftover Cuties, a band whose rise to success started with a song that was literally written on the back of a napkin. Israeli born McAllin was working in a bar when she scribbled down lyrics for what would become the band’s breakthrough single, Game Called Life. She met up with Austin Nicholsen later that night and the two synched up the lyrics with a chord progression he had been playing on the ukulele. Karma would have it that the tune eventually would become the theme song for the Showtime show, The Big C. And, yes, there are other Cuties. Stuart Johnson (drums), Ryan Feves (bass), and Mike Bolger (keys, horns, and accordion) rounded out the rest of the lineup for their debut album, Places To Go, a collection that was produced by veteran producer, Tony Berg (Squeeze, Peter Gabriel and Michael Penn) and won praise from the likes of Filter Magazine and LA’s KROQ who gushed over McAllen’s ‘sugary sweet vocals.’ We’re right there with them fawning over McAllen’s sultry delivery. The band is finishing up work on a covers EP (you gotta hear them take on Regina Spektor) and are currently on tour. Be sure to visit the Leftover Cuties website for the latest updates.

MP3: Places To Go by Leftover Cuties

Adam Levy recommends Sam Phillips

Adam Levy and Sam Phillips

Adam Levy and Sam Phillips

Adam Levy’s recommendation: “One artist who moves me consistently is Sam Phillips. Her songs are smartly written, yet she always keeps them from sounding fussy or fussed over. Her melodies get stuck in my head and I never mind them sticking there. Some of her lyrics race along with the pace of taut short stories (imagine Tobias Wolff as a singer/songwriter), while others are more dreamlike. She’s a strummer — not a fingerpicker — and I love the way her guitar lopes and swaggers through her songs.”

New to Sam Phillips? Adam suggests you start here: My favorite Sam record is A Boot & A Shoe. Song for song, I think it’s her most consistent batch, and the production is seductively gritty. My other fave is Fan Dance — released a few years prior to A Boot and a Shoe To me, these two feel like companions. (I’ve no idea if Phillips thinks of them that way.) Both records were produced by T-Bone Burnett, and the cast of session players is similar — including drummer Carla Azar and guitarist Marc Ribot.

MP3: I Don’t Know Why by Sam Phillips

Adam LevyAbout our guest author, Adam Levy: We at recently found out about Adam Levy on a WFUV segment and we really liked what we heard: skillful guitar work perfectly laid under intimate, well crafted lyrics. We dug around the Web for his bio info and found out that his grandfather wrote “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and the theme from the TV series Gilligan’s Island (how cool is that?!) and that he has backed the likes of Norah Jones, Ani DiFranco and Tracey Chapman. But the interesting thing is that there is not a ton of bio info on his own site. Instead the music and reviews of his work speaks for itself. Of his most recent record, The Heart Collector, No Depression says, “A great album overflowing with warm and soulful songs that enchant the ears and captivate the heart,” and Minor 7th writes, “It’s his guitar virtuosity, melancholy melodies, vocals — multiple musical personalities — that will surely mesmerize you.” Levy gets a lot of jazz coverage, but there is definite crossover potential here; we see him as a gifted singer-songwriter. Be sure to check to check Adam’s concert schedule, join his mailing list and more.