Monthly Archives: March 2015

Tales from ‘BelNash’ – Joe

Wednesday, 4th of March, 2015. ‘Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival, ‘In The Round’ Concert. Starring Amanda St John with Jason Clarke, Kate Gilbertson and Pete Gardiner.

With barely a couple of hours sleep between us, Jane(my trusty wing woman) and I crawl onto the coach at Edinburgh Bus Station, armed with ample knitwear, packed lunches, headphones and adrenaline. We arrived to a sunny and buzzing Belfast, checked-in to our home for the next couple of days and after a few mugs of scalding tea in the garden and listening to some music, we walked five minutes around the corner to The Holiday Inn and from there our ‘BelNash’ really began.

We entered an already busy and bustling  ‘Olympic Room’, we were fortunate to grab a great table and to my delight Jane assumed the role of bar duty. I spied Amanda St John and Pete chatting and mingling their way through an eager crowd, Kate and Jason were likely doing the same thing but by now it was getting busier and my perfect view of the entire room and stage were being slightly compromised by the absolute success of a ‘full house’.

The ‘In The Round’ Concert format was much like that of a relay, each artist performing a song in turn. However for the purpose of writing, I have grouped and paired the songs of each musician collectively.

Jason Clarke, who with his eye-catching ‘Limited Edition, Taylor Mini Koa’ , was performing solo for the very first time, took the mic and opened the show with ‘Before he lays you down’. Lyrically heartbreaking, Jason’s voice and rhythm allowed for a regretful account of ‘the one who got away’ to be explained beautifully. Next was ‘Crossfire’ another strong song he had written during the night, leading us to  Jason’s final song ‘Ashes’, where he describes the wounds left on a broken heart, self preservation and not allowing himself to feel and fall again, like before. Both Jane and I enjoyed Jason and look forward to hearing these songs again when he gets them recorded.

Further further information, music, news, gig dates and upcoming releases visit Jason Clarke’s Facebook.

Jason Clarke at 'BelNash' Photo by Nurse Ratched

Jason Clarke at ‘BelNash’
Photo by Nurse Ratched

I’m no stranger to Amanda St John’s music and for quite some time I’ve wanted to see and hear her live. In perfect unison and with great chemistry, the extremely talented Dean Stevens accompanied on guitar and we witnessed something really special indeed.

This was a masterclass in many respects. Amanda St John looked stunning in her rouge dress, and before each song this classy bombshell connected with the entire audience. Her first song ‘Reach’ describes the sheer frustration of being in a relationship and wishing to go to the next level but the other half is frightened of his feelings and quite possibly a commitment-phobe. Amanda asked her fans recently on social media what they would like to hear at ‘BelNash’. To my utter delight ‘If I Should Fall‘ was chosen and as if that wasn’t enough, Amanda gave a really lovely personal and warm welcome to me for selecting it. Of course Jane was at the bar when this all happened and doesn’t believe a single word of it, but it did happen. This is my favourite song to date by Amanda, its soulful and sultry, crammed full of emotion, describing a desire to be with someone and they just simply don’t see/feel it as you do. The guy in front turned around and asked if it were me Amanda was singing about, I had major ‘beard blush’ at this point. The vocal range demonstrated here was nothing short of mind-blowing, with nowhere to hide and she didn’t need anywhere. This was an emotive show stopper, executed with passion and precision. Her final song of the evening ‘Big Strong Man‘  as a single is an upbeat swinging number but on this occasion was performed in a stripped back style, beautifully played on stage by DeanAmanda’s phenomenal talent and stage presence, combined with Dean’s wonderful acoustics,  resulted in a  fantastic performance in every aspect.

For further information on Amanda St John, music, news, gigs and new releases, visit her Facebook and Soundcloud.

Amanda St John at BelNash Photo by Nurse Ratched

Amanda St John at BelNash
Photo by Nurse Ratched

Kate Gilbertson was up next,  and immediately there was something intriguing about her which I couldn’t put my finger on. Originally from Perth, Australia, Kate already benefits from an international fan base and is popular on the live music scene in Toronto, Canada. Quietly confident and in a cute ginger lace dress, Kate approached with her guitar and began with ‘Sister’, Jane instantly connected to Kate’s voice and I swiftly followed. Kate went on to sing ‘Part Of Me’ which hasn’t been recorded yet, but guaging by the reaction it received I imagine it will feature on her new album. She concluded her set with ‘Home’, this song visits the highs and lows of travelling, missing home and how to find strength, comfort and resilience to create a home where ever she is, a song testament to her natural storytelling ability that can hold an audiences attention.

For more information on Kate Gilbertson, gigs and new releases, to listen and buy her music, visit her Facebook, Bandcamp and website.

Kate Gilbertson at BelNash Photo by Nurse Ratched

Kate Gilbertson at ‘BelNash’
Photo by Nurse Ratched

Pete Gardiner followed up next and was yet another highlight for me, having been following his music for some time. This guy has a unique songwriting talent and is already making a name for himself in the industry. After scoring a record deal with Paul Hardcastle’s record label ‘NUA’ and supporting Charlie Simpson on his tour, much of his time is now spent now on the London gig scene, making his debut album with Tommy McLaughlin from the Villagers. Pete’s singing style cropped up in conversation post gig with a few locals, one likening him to Lloyd Cole, which to some extent I can hear along with a whole lot more. In stylish double denim attire, a sleek, quiff topped Pete along with Justin Stewart also on guitar got straight to work opening with ‘James Dean’, a cautionary story on the long term psychological effects of drug abuse. The line ‘Jimmy never had a patch on me’ is still stuck in my head. His next song ‘Crime Scene’ is a favourite of mine, the title being a metaphor for when you have been stuck in a rut. It is by no means a miserable song, with a positive message in there reminding us not to return after we have made the effort to make a fresh start. ‘ Pete finished with ‘Hollywood Lights’, another poignant song,  about a girl desperately wanting to make something of her life, to make changes, who is really determined. It talks of the day after when she is dealing with a hangover, surrounded with the reality that makes her miserable, where she is less motivated, the vision has faded and again she is routinely defeated. Pete Gardiner will be making music for a very long time and this excites me.

For more information on Pete Gardiner, gigs and new releases, visit his Facebook.

Pete Gardiner at 'BelNash' Photo by Nurse Ratched

Pete Gardiner at ‘BelNash’
Photo by Nurse Ratched


Public Service Broadcasting – The Race For Space

The Race For Space

Public Service Broadcasting are a London based duo who use spoken word samples provided by the British Film Institute to a backdrop of electronic instrumental music with a manifesto to “teach the lessons of the past through the music of the present”. The band consists of J Willgoose Esq. on guitar, sampling and electronic instruments, and Wrigglesworth on drums and electronic instruments. They released their debut album, ‘Inform-Educate –Entertain’ in 2013 which reached No.21 in the British charts. Now almost 2 years later, the electronic duo have released their second album ‘The Race for Space’ which entered the UK album charts at No.11.

‘The Race for Space’ is simply one of the most coherent concept pieces I have heard in many years. Every single note on this album has been lovingly crafted with the spoken word samples charting the excitement and drama of the space race from 1957 to 1972. I personally feel the ‘The Race for Space’ also benefits from focusing on one particular historical topic which provides a strong sense on continuity and narrative direction to this album.

Some of the outstanding pieces from this album include an insightful reflection on the loss of life on the spacecraft Apollo 1 with the track ‘Fire in the Cockpit’. Contrasting to this sombre moment in space exploration is the track “Go” which deals with the successful moon landing in 1969. However for me, the outstanding moment is undoubtedly the euphoric bleeping of ‘Sputnik’. This track slowly builds into an uplifting crescendo and manages to recreate/capture  the hopes and thrills felt by humanity during that historical occasion.

Public Service Broadcasting undertake a British tour starting in April 2015, I’m really looking forward to this one with excitement and anticipation to hear this fascinating band perform live at the O2 ABC Glasgow, 2nd of May 2015.

For more information, to purchase the music, gig dates, videos and social media links visit the Public Service Broadcasting website.


The Race For Space

Natalie Duncan – Queen Elizabeth Hall

Natalie Duncan

On Friday 13th March I went to see Natalie Duncan at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank. Natalie is an English singer songwriter who’s just released her new EP Black & White.  Black & White is Natalie’s comeback; in 2012 she released Devil in Me, an album which swayed further to a more traditional jazz genre. However with Black & White she has become more modern and electronic. To me, her new style is more appealing to teens because it’s relatable and more accessible to us.

The gig was great, Natalie is a natural performer. Her vocals are incredible! She has a wide range and her ad-libs were beautiful. When she addressed the audience throughout the show, she came across a little shy, yet her voice is so powerful that it overcomes her shyness. At every gig I’ve been to so far, there has always been background noise, people chatting, laughing and moving around. However, the audience seemed to be mesmerised throughout and it was so silent from the first breath to the last word. There was a larger level of respect between the audience and the artist compared to every other gig I’ve been to, either because of the smaller venue or maybe it was just her sheer talent.

What’s more, is that she’s a exceptional pianist. This instrument features in most of her tracks and as I’m a pianist too it was truly inspiring to watch her perform. I reckon a reason why I love her so much is because of her playing, because I aspire to be as good as her. Most musicians can knock out a few chords but she can really play. The combination couldn’t be better, her voice feels as though it belongs with the piano.

Ripples and Black & White are my favourite tracks from the EP. The use of triplets in Ripples makes it sound so different, and I like that. I think that sometimes the feeling of a song is more important than what is trying to be said. Yeah, the lyrics of Ripples are clever but the actual feel of the song is something in itself. Its relaxing, exciting, happy, and sad all at the same time. The opening to Black & White instantly interests you with the pauses and soft melody. I guess the reason it’s one of my favourites is simply because its catchy, it’s been stuck in my head since Friday.  Everyday when I go onto Spotify I find myself gravitating towards Black & White which is something I can only say about a few EPs I’ve come across.

Click below to purchase Black & White from iTunes

Black & White EP

I definitely recommend you to check out this EP 😀

There is much more to discover about Natalie Duncan, for all the latest news, upcoming gigs, new music, videos and links to her social media, visit her cool Website by clicking the image below.

Natalie Duncan



Tales from ‘BelNash’ – Nanno

Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival 2015, Thursday 5th March.

Mandy BinghamNJ McCLean & Tony Villiers.

Photo by Nurse Ratched

Photo by Nurse Ratched

I will apologise now for how bias I will be. Mandy Bingham is my sister. I said I wouldn’t review any of her gigs for obvious reasons but as this was with other performers, I decided to give it a go.

At ‘The Holiday Inn’ Belfast, one of the main venues for Belnash I meet up with my old friend Joe (yes that’s Joe ‘founder of BeardedRadio). He and I haven’t seen each other since I believe 2004. So I was not only excited about the gig but catching up with Joe was a fabulous bonus.

Just before grabbing our seats we order some drinks and Joe kindly buys me my requested wine. Half way through the glass I think oops….. it’s only 6 o’clock.

The lights dim and the guys climb on stage. Mandy and Graham (Mandy’s wonderful husband and musical side kick) are up first. Mandy as always looks amazing in her psychedelic dress and very fancy boots. They begin with ‘If This Is love’. This is a gorgeous song and very sad but probably something everyone at some stage can relate to in his or her life. This was a great start to the show and delighted the crowd.

Photo by Nurse Ratched

Mandy Bingham at ‘BelNash’ Photo by Nurse Ratched

Next up was NJ McCLean. Noel James has been on the scene for the past couple of years. He says he is just beginning to get to grips with hearing his own singing voice and is now enjoying it. His songs are deep, story-telling melodies. He begins with ‘Magic Moon’ which is the title track for his new album which will be available shortly.

Photo by Nurse Ratched

NJ McLean at ‘BelNash’ Photo by Nurse Ratched

Then we have Tony Villiers. I have seen Tony before about a year ago and I must say his confidence has grown fiercely in that time.  Tony has been playing with his band for some years, its only in the last couple he has ventured out on his own. His debut album ‘Thin Wild Mercury’ has received fantastic reviews. Tony began with ‘Jesus Was A Rolling Stone’. It is a fab song, thoroughly enjoyed it as did everyone else and it certainly brought a bit of foot tapping to the show.

Photo by Nurse Ratched

Tony Villiers at ‘BelNash’ Photo by Nurse Ratched

Back to my favourite performer of the night.. Mandy, singing ‘Oblivion’ which I heard for the first time only last week. Love love love it. Where do the words come from? I envy her but nonetheless I’m incredibly proud of her too. Impressive to say the least and Graham compliments her with his beautiful harmonies. I will stop now and move on.

Photo by Nurse Ratched

Graham Bingham at ‘BelNash’ Photo by Nurse Ratched

NJ is up next with ‘Why’. He explained the song was about a man who went missing and was found a few days later dead in a river. Like I mentioned before he is a storyteller. It is clear to see that NJ has a special relationship with his guitar as he disappears into the instrumental sections of his songs.
Tony then entertains us with ‘The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’ from his next album which is due out in the summer. He accompanied himself with his guitar, adding the harmonica which went down down a storm.

Mandy then sang ‘Turn’, soon to be her new single. This is a fabulous song inspired by her hatred of football, unlike Graham who had settled himself down nicely for the World Cup. This song is one that will engrain itself in your head and you wont forget it in a hurry. I catch my 6yr and 8yr olds singing this tune all day, every day since introducing them to it last week. I’m so excited for the release of Mandy’s new EP and can’t wait until everyone can hear it.

It’s nearing the end of the show and luckily everyone gets to gift us with another song.

Mandy Bingham at 'BelNash' Photo by Nurse Ratched

Mandy Bingham at ‘BelNash’ Photo by Nurse Ratched

Mandy surprises everyone with one of her ‘happy songs’ known as ‘The Chicken Song’. I love to perform this as a party piece, with her permission obviously!! ‘I want a lover that’s forever and a cottage by the Sea,’ what more could you ask for in life? A thrilled audience offer their appreciation at the end and I am sure Mandy and Graham were delighted with their own performance and the reception they received.

NJ finished off with ‘Do You Ever’ and once again another story was to be told, losing himself in his lovely style of guitar playing. I enjoyed watching him play, NJ is what you could call a subtle performer. The audience enjoyed his songs and I believe there were a few of his followers in the crowd. I look forward to seeing what he’s up to next.

Last but certainly not least is Tony with ‘Rabid dog Blues’. Yes you read that correctly. Did I mention Tony loves Bob Dylan and does lots of tribute style shows. I think he even looks like him.

Great show, great performances from Mandy, NJ McCLean and Tony Villiers. Joe and I had to go our separate ways afterwards but hopefully it wont be as long till we catch up again.
Well done ‘Belnash’, I am looking forward to next year already.


Mandy Bingham, Vol. 1

Magic Moon
Thin Wild Mercury

Rhythm Of Love (Deluxe Edition) Kylie Minogue

Rhythm Of Love (Deluxe Edition)


2015 has seen the rerelease of Kylie Minogue’s first four albums being reissued in various formats & collections by the PWL label. ‘Kylie'(1988),Enjoy yourself'(1989),’ Rhythm of Love'(1990) and ‘Lets get to it'(1991) have each been digitally remastered and expanded,  alongside the enhancement of the original albums, each reissue comprises new material of remixes and alternative versions of the originals, presented in a befitting and beautiful style that for any Kylie fan is a must have. Rhythm of Love, her third album has always held a special place in my music collection.  The new déluxe edition consists of two CDs and a DVD. The CDs includes the original,  plus a wealth of remixes and rare tracks all digitally remastered from the original studio tapes. The DVD features the promotional videos for the singles featured on the album and rare footage from such BBC shows as “Going Live” and “Top of the Pops” Each déluxe edition comes in a clamshell box with each disc presented in a beautiful card sleeve with a 32 page booklet containing new liner notes and photos from this era.

“Rhythm of Love” was Kylie’s third album released in November 1990. The album featured 4 British top ten singles “Better the Devil You Know”, “What Do I Have to Do?”, “Step Back In Time” and “Shocked” The majority of this album was written and produced by Stock, Aitken and Waterman but unlike previous albums, it also included collaborations with various producers and songwriters. The album charted in the ‘Top 10‘ in both Britain and Australia.

For me, the first 2 albums suffered from the somewhat factory line production and song writing style of Stock, Aitken and Waterman. This album saw Kylie move away from the ‘girl next door’ into a more mature sexualised image. Encouraged by her then boyfriend INXS front man Michael Hutchence, Kylie began to extend a more creative control on her sound and identity. The music on this album would reflect Kylie’s increasing interest in dance music whilst her new image would favour a more mature yet playful sexuality.

Unlike her previous albums, “Rhythm of Love” presents to her audience a wonderfully individualistic pop album that is brimming both in character and enthusiasm. This was her first album where she contributed to the song writing duties and also included four of the tracks being produced by other collaborators. It could be argued that by not having the burden of writing and producing all the songs on the album allowed Stock, Aitken and Waterman more time to concentrate on quality rather than quantity. It seems that all of these factors led to the creation of a much more sophisticated and confident piece of work both visually and musically.

The most important thing about this reissue is that after 26 years in the business , the songs are still a joy to listen to. It is packed with life affirming pop music including the four classic singles mentioned above. These songs presented in their original album versions, various edits and 12” remixes still sound as dynamic as they did when they were first released. There are also some forgotten gems that are worth a listen to such as “One Boy Girl” and “Secrets” that will transport you back to era where pop was that little bit more fun and playful.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear to see that here was an artist beginning to assert her independence. The next album “Let’s Get to It” would see Kylie drift further away from the Stock, Aitken and Waterman sound and consolidate her own identity. Musical risks would be taken that no other mainstream pop star would have dared. Over the years, Kylie has collaborated with other well known musicians such as Nick Cave, The Manic Street Preachers and Brothers In Rhythm.  For me, Rhythm of Love was just the beginning of a flourishing pop career which still retains its magic first captured back in the late 80’s-early 90’s, and still remains to the present day, continuing to dazzle with singles such as ‘Confide in me’.

This beautiful reissue is a worthy addition to any Pop Music fan collection. It works simply as a collection of fine pop songs or as the foundation album of one of the world’s greatest pop stars musical career.


Kylie’s Website

Rhythm Of Love: Collector's Edition LP/2CD/DVD

Jarrod Dickenson – 2015 European Tour – Scotland – Edinburgh -15/02/2015 -Sneaky Pete’s


Photo by Cat

It was a bustling and energetic Sunday evening, the crowds still revelling from the Rugby match earlier in the day, when Cat, Stephen and I made our way through Edinburgh’s Old Town to catch singer songwriter Jarrod Dickenson perform. Texan born Jarrod rode into town in style as part of his UK, Ireland & European Tour, having just travelled via the longest possible route from the Isle of Man.


Photo by Cat

Jarrod appeared cool, calm and collected as he casually wove his way through a packed ‘Sneaky Petes’ in Edinburgh’s historical Cowgate, the crowd already elevated from the high caliber of supporting acts; Andy Tucker and Owen Denvir. Onto the stage and with a quick tune of his guitar, Jarrod opened his set with ‘The Northern Sea’ a beautiful composition which for me conjured up the image of a lonesome traveller on the road. This was perhaps aided by Jarrod’s visual presence, his perfectly slanted Stetson hat and his mixed three piece ensemble, not to mention his meticulously well groomed beard. His performance began and continued throughout in a smooth, colourful and talented musicianship, this was clearly being very well received by the fixated crowd.

Photo by Cat

Photo by Cat

Jarrod Dickenson’s songwriting and powerful lyrics explore various themes and emotions. He attributes American literature  and influences of early country and blues to his songwriting improving over time. ‘No Work For A Working Man’ is a dark and reflective song of those who have fallen on hard times, both heartfelt and descriptive in its imagery.

What stood out for me as I observed the musical and visual presence of this multi layered artist is that he is a natural storyteller, able to change the mood and ambience with the strum of his guitar and that sultry blues voice. Rolling into the more upbeat and catchy ‘Rosalie’, Jarrod demonstrated fantastic artistic range by changing the mood and emotion from one that was of a somber nature into one of enthusiasm and energy. He is also a man in love who spoke of his fiancee at times and this clearly shone through with a song dedicated to her, it was the day after ‘Valentines’.

Photo by Cat

Photo by Cat

Alongside the more well known songs from his already recorded songbook, he thrilled the crowd with some new tracks which, by the positive response were well received. His informal and relaxed dialogue and interactions throughout his show was comical, refreshing and endearing, including an improvised recording of the audience singing to his mother Teresa back in Waco, Texas. We managed to speak with him after the show,  and found a relaxed and pleasant musician who’s clearly enjoying the musical path he is travelling. Jarrod who is based in Brooklyn, New York is active on the folk and gig venue scene. His country and blues voice has earned recognition by winning the grand Belfast Nashville Songwriters Competition in 2011.  Jarrods appeal is International and timeless, he has recorded an album with  grammy award winning Ryan Freeland and has two additional EP’s already under ‘The Troubadour’. I have always connected with his recorded music and now will always have in my memory that epic night The Lonesome Traveller came to town.

Jarrod’s Website