Category Archives: Nanno

Tony Villiers and The Villains – Songs of love and Fate

Click image to visit

Click image to visit

Tony Villiers is one of my favourites from the local music scene. From Armagh in little old Northern Ireland  which is home to some of the best singer song writers past and present and Tony proves that there is still more to come. Songs of Love and Fate is his second album and it certainly packs one heck of a punch.

This album will put a smile on your face and transport you to the wilds of the Americas southern states. Tony’s influences of Bob Dylan and Jonny Cash both shine through. This by no way means Tony hasn’t got his own unique identity. He certainly has and I know we will see a lot more from him in the future.

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is fantastic. You don’t just listen to Tony’s songs and hum along, instead you strain your neck trying to catch his every word as not to miss the story being told.

Rabid dog blues. I heard this song a few months past and it entertained me then as much as it still does now. “Rabid Dog hangin round my door. Well my mama went out and shot that dog, Rabid dog no more.

Rock Salt and Dear Mama are two heartbreakers however these are not songs to lie down and cry to, instead you want to to get up and dance.

Big Old Dancin Bear Blues. This track has that Johnny Cash influence and whisks you off to some dusty bar in Tennessee with cowboys spillin whisky and missing the odd punch as they crash down to the floor.

Lucky Rabbit Foot has Tony’s love of the blues throughout and Ramblin Man brings with it his trusty Hamonica. I’m a sucker for the Harmonic.

Now I thought this album was great when I first heard it but now it’s in the car, on the lap top, PC and on the Ipod for when out running along the shore. I can’t recommend it enough, it’s absolutely awesome. Don’t miss out on this one!

Available to download or in limited edition CD & Vinyl from


Sea Legs – Ciaran Lavery and Ryan Vail

Ciaran Lavery and Ryan Vail ‘Sea Legs Album Launch’ Sat 18th April Aboard the SS Nomadic Belfast.

Photo by Nurse Ratched

Ryan Vail and Ciaran Lavery, Photo by Nurse Ratched

The venue for this launch was a location to be proud of aboard the SS Nomadic Belfast. This boat was commissioned by White Star Line to ship passengers onto the ill fated Titanic. It is the last remaining White Star Line ship in the world and has been restored to its former glory and is back home in Belfast’s historic Hamilton Dock under the shadow of the Titanic Museum. The boat is beautiful and the detail in all the decorative wood is divine. We took the opportunity and toured as much of the ship as we could even acting out the infamous ‘Im flying’ scene from the ‘movie’ even though it was the wrong boat. Below deck the chairs were laid out and subtle lighting displayed one single mic on the right and a whole array of keyboards and electrical equipment on the left.

Photo by Nurse Ratched

Ciaran Lavery, Photo by Nurse Ratched

Ciaran Lavery is a singer songwriter from the small village of Aghagallon. He began singing at fifteen and soon became the frontman for the band ‘Captain Kennedy’, playing with them for over seven years. Ciaran later went out on his own and has since created a well earned loyal following.

Photo by Nurse Ratched

Ryan Vail, Photo by Nurse Ratched

Ryan Vail is from Derry and is a talented ‘multi-tasker‘ who’s a techno geek, musician, DJ and electro artist. He puts together a drum machine with whispered vocals to soothing piano. Stemming from his love of drum and bass, hip hop, vinyl and synthesisers he puts them together and what he comes up with is mesmerising, fresh and truly beautiful sounds. Ryan has also turned his hand to producing, shared his talents with other artists and given their songs an unusual twist.

After meeting at a festival and chatting online together Ciaran and Ryan decided to write a song or two that I believe was influenced by King Creosote and Jon Hopkins. This quickly spiralled into what was to become the album ‘Sea Legs’. You normally wouldn’t put these two together but you only need to listen to this album once to realise it just makes sense.

The warm up act for the evening was the amazing Arborist otherwise known as Mark McCambridge. Up on deck I mistook him for Ciaran Lavery before the show but thankfully he was quite pleased.

Photo by Nurse Ratched

Arborist, Photo by Nurse Ratched

Ciaran and Ryan began the show with ‘Ebb’. This is both haunting and intriguing as you listen to ropes and poles clang together with the distant engine and fisherman’s talk of their time at sea. Ciaran’s guitar is then introduced in its magical simplicity accompanied by Ryan’s keyboard. Leading straight into ‘The Colour Blue’, which is a stunning song/tune that shows the mix of the two artists in their opposing genres. Or perhaps not so anymore as this album may prove.

‘The Sea at Night’. This is where Ciaran and Ryan let themselves go and embrace their musical talents. Out of their comfort zones the pair suck everyone into their worlds where they sometimes collide. I feel that this tune alone deserves full attention, set to repeat and a set of very good quality headphones.

‘The Shipping Forecast’ is of a sailor telling his story of loss and loneliness. “Its black and wet in my head. I smoke on the high deck at the place where my family set sail yesterday” This is a piece of genius that I wish there were more of but I guess that’s the intention. It pulls on your heart from everywhere. I believe the voice of the lonesome sailor may be that of James Patterson the poet.

‘Nick Caves Band’ gives you a piece of Ciaran all to yourself for a while. Then beautifully accompanied by Ryan’s piano and electric strings. Ciaran may be Northern Irelands answer to Ryan Adams. With the beat and the guitar followed by a harmonious and rhythmic repetitiveness, this number will stay with you long after its finished.Last and most certainly not least, ‘Ceol Na Mara’ features the voice of Technopeasant(Conor O’kane). A haunting poem of winds and scented salted sea air works its emotions into your soul.

This album is brilliant. You may not have thought that folk and techno were your thing well think again. This unusual combination works incredibly well together.  If you live by the sea as I do you will hear the familiar sounds of the water and its vessels. If you don’t you will certainly feel a closeness to the water and the haunting of the boats and perhaps find a new yearning for such things.

RC Sea legs Sleeve Art DIGITAL500x500

Follow the links to stream the entire “Sea Legs” album on Spotify and SoundCloud, you can purchase from iTunes and the vinyl/CD is available from Quiet Arch.


Gareth Dunlop – Eastside Sessions

Gareth Dunlop at the Eastside Sessions, Sunday 12th April, The Park Avenue Hotel, Belfast. This was a free event brought about by the East Side Arts, Belfast.

Gareth Dunlop Photo by Nurse Ratched

Gareth Dunlop
Photo by Nurse Ratched

We arrived at the event unwisely thinking “ah sure there will be plenty of seats, its Sunday”. Nope we were very wrong the place was full. We should have known judging by Gareth Dunlop’s local fan base which includes myself. I first saw Gareth play a small gig a few years ago in ‘Holywood Yacht Club’. Loved him from his first song. I was then lucky enough to see him play several times at our local open mic night, which I might add I have sung at a few times myself but certainly not at the standard of Gareth Dunlop. Every time he turned up “the craic was 90″.

Gareth Dunlop Photo by Nurse Ratched

Gareth Dunlop
Photo by Nurse Ratched

Gareth is now 28 but has been playing and performing from a young age. In 2011 he was awarded the ‘Belfast Nashville Young Songwriter of the Year’. Since then he has been a busy bee writing and performing. He has opened for Jeff Beck, Jools Holland, Nanci Griffith, Angus & Julia Stone, Paul Carrack, The Steeldrivers, Imelda May and more. Gareth’s songs have also been featured in numerous hit television series including “Cougar Town,” “One Tree Hill,” “Private Practice,” “Army Wives,“Life Unexpected,” and more.

Unfortunately due to our late arrival our seat wasn’t too good but a seat we had nonetheless which was luckier than others. Gareth expressed how honoured he was to be asked to perform at this gig and got stuck straight in. He is a professional and so you just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. After his first song and the rapturous applause he received, he expressed how 5 years previous he had played cover songs in this exact venue and no one clapped so the night was getting off to a fine start.

Gareth Dunlop Photo by Nurse Ratched

Gareth Dunlop
Photo by Nurse Ratched

The next song was “Find Your Way Back Home” accompanied by the talented John McCullough on keyboard. They have been playing together for nearly a decade. I have seen John play along side many other artists and he is something to behold and it is quite exciting to watch him at work. One of his next songs was written while travelling with Angus and Julia Stone. Its about missing home ‘Just Don’t Feel Like Home’. Just before a short break himself and John did a cover of ‘Walking in Memphis’ which went down a storm as usual.

After the break and I’m sure a couple of Guinness’s later he came back with one of my favourites ‘Trick of the Moonlight’ which was featured in the series ‘House’. This was then followed by ‘Fools Desire’.

Gareth Dunlop Photo by Nurse Ratched

Gareth Dunlop
Photo by Nurse Ratched

A few songs prior to this I was joined at my table by the infamous Terri Hooley. Terri likes to banter and in between each of Gareth’s songs he kept whispering lots of very entertaining stories to us and so I was unable to hear much of Gareth’s banter. Nonetheless it was a great gig and Gareth and John finished off with a cover of Paul Simon s “you can call me Al”.

Love love love him and good luck to him for the future certainly looks bright.

For further information, upcoming gigs, music store, videos and social media links, visit Gareth Dunlop’s website.



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

Lucy Kaplansky – 18th January 2015 – Black Box – Belfast – Out to Lunch Festival – Nanno


It was way back in 2004 when I first became a fan of Lucy Kaplansky and since then I have heard a couple of her albums and have also played them to death. Apart from those albums, I didn’t know much else about her.

Lucy, 55, is a very talented musician. Although originally from Chicago, she resides in New York  and has been singing and playing the guitar from a very young age. She has played alongside singers such as Suzanne Vega and Nanci Griffith.

I had never seen her play live. In fact I have never even watched her play on YouTube so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. She walked on stage carrying her guitar looking like the average girl you might find sitting at the end of the bar in a t-shirt and jeans having a wee pint.

She began to sing and the profession in her voice was effortless. After a couple of her owns songs, she moved over to the keyboard where she played and sang her ‘Lovely’ version of Leonard Cohan’s Halleluiah. It was lovely. Afterwards she was brave enough to admit that she’d only heard of that song for the first time a few years ago. Where had she been? Very odd coming from her folk and musical background, nonetheless she did have a giggle about that as did the audience.

Next she sang a song which was  written while riding on the Subway from Manhattan to Brooklyn. I have to say I loved this. I found myself riding the London Tube and in my thoughts I could see every word she sang.

Freeze-frames in time
Move through me
Moments in life I
Wont see again

‘Down Below on iron Veins
Rolling waves of Subway trains
Rails of mercy
Cross the lives of men
Safe in the body of New York again’

Lucy’s songs are all very much stories which you can loose yourself in the words, listening along intently as though you want to know the ending.

She seemed quite keen on doing requests and kept throwing it out to the audience. It was a little odd, as she didn’t appear to know many of the requests, although in her defence she did attempt most along with a little help from the audience. She wanted to sing an Irish song but didn’t know one which I thought a little strange of course as she knew that she was coming our way. She had played in Scotland the night before and so did sing Loch Lomond which was great but still not Irish, but I think we can forgive her.

Lucy’s father was a mathematician and also quite musical in his own right and so she treated us to a song about pi as in π  that her father had written. Im not quite sure it’s for me, but I guess it might tickle some of you in the right places. You can find the official video below:

Her Father had written quite a few songs in his time and Lucy has recorded an album singing only his songs. So if you fancy it this album is called ‘Kaplansky sings Kaplansky’.

Her latest album below is called Reunion and is available from usual outlets. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any photos from the gig, however follow the link below and you can see her perform her song ‘The Gift’ from the actual show, filmed by Gerry McNally.


The Red Thread
Flesh & Bone

Van Morrison – Lit Up Inside – Concert Review – The Great Hall – Downpatrick – 22 November 2014 – BeardedRadio – Nanno

Photo by Nanno

Photo by Nanno

Photo by Nanno

Photo by Nanno

Photo by Nanno

Photo by Nanno

Photo by Nanno

Photo by Nanno

We jump into a taxi and are whisked away from our Hotel, with trees flashing by at speed, and corners being cut by the driver but I guess that’s what you do on country lanes. We pull into the grounds of an old Psychiatric Hospital in which a small theatre sits. Apparently it was originally used for shows and performances for the patients. The theatre is lovely, warm and inviting and intimately seats about 200 people.

We grab our seats in the 3rd row and wait. The stage is all set to go, but Van’s entourage are running in and out back stage. At one point one of them passes us by with large white bags, and runs behind the curtain. A few minutes later, there is a strong aroma of Chinese food. I hear people around me muttering “surely he’s not having a Chinese takeaway before he starts”. Suddenly, there is an announcement demanding everyone to take their seats, and that mobile phones must be switched off at all times. Everyone frantically rummages in their pockets and bags for fear of expulsion.

On stage are keyboards, trumpets, trombones, a clarinet and Saxophones of various shapes and sizes.
There was also to be found a double bass, a couple of base guitars, and 7 lead guitars, quite an ensemble. Van has both his mic stands in gold/brass, whilst everyone else has the bog standard black. Fair enough I think.

The band arrive, begin to play and then out Van marches onstage straight to the mic and into song. No one would have any other expectation of this man with a notorious reputation for non recognition of his fans and crowd, but as the audience clapped and cheered him, he gave an unexpected ‘thank you’. Woohoo, so far so good.

Van Morrison is in complete control from the very beginning. The lead guitarist doesn’t even face the audience, instead directly facing Van. He is clearly conducting everyone from his position on stage. All the band members are concentrating on his every move. He conducts them from crescendos to diminuendos. They watch him with such intensity as he can change his mind at any point as to how they are to play. It was like watching a symphony orchestra.

The musical ability of this man and his deliverance of it are sublime. I was hooked, as everyone else in the room appeared to be. Most of the music travelled down the blues route. Van was clearly having a great time, and loved the direction he was taking it. At one point, a ukulele was brought on stage and he immediately ushered it away. It was obvious that any previously arranged set was blown out the window. There was no Moondance nor Brown eyed girl, but you would have hardly noticed. There were 4 guitars in front of Van and he never touched one all night. He played his trusty Sax many times and of course his harmonica, using a distortion mic along side it that he also used for changing his vocals. There was at no point any real communication with the audience, but when recognition was showed for a particular tune, he did say “thank you” or nod. It was very unexpected from Van really.

There were a few times when his well known stage attitude came to light, when there appeared to be something he didn’t like from the drummer and bass player, which was unnoticed by the audience of course. He showed signs of irritation and quickly whipped them into shape. He doesn’t attempt to shade his voice from the mic. Its all about the music and if something isn’t to his satisfaction, he will let it be known. Likewise he also vocalised when he liked something. ‘ Nice, I like that, that was good, do it again’.

During instrumentals, Van occasionally took to the mic and rambled background talk. At one point, he randomly quotes Mae West as Lady Lou “Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just glad to see me”. He made people laugh. Yes you have read it correctly. He made people giggle, several times I might add.

This was a performance I will never forget. I danced in my seat all night and wished it had been a standing only performance as the music absorbed me. I wouldn’t usually be that enticed by blues alone, but I was hooked and had wanted to move. Then an hour and half in, Van says thank you and walks off. The audience erupts; everyone rose to their feet and chanted him back. Back he came to the ever-famous “G L O R I A”.
Everyone was delighted and danced throughout the song. Towards the end of the tune, Van pointed to the band and said  “The band” and walked off. It was pretty clear he wasn’t coming back. The band seemed to breath a sigh of relief, and they each in turn did a solo. It was awesome that  they had the freedom to do it their way, and their way they did it. It was immense and highly appreciated by everyone.

Van Morrison you are a genius!
Next time I see you on Holywood high street, I won’t say hello.


Moondance (Expanded Edition)
Ultimate Van Morrison Collection

Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo – October 2014 – Belfast


Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo Photo By Nanno

Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo Photo by Nanno

Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo
Photo by Nanno

On a Cheeky wee Wednesday night out to Elmwood Hall, Queens Universtiy, Belfast, as part of the Belfast Festival at Queens. I didn’t have much knowledge of Emily to begin with and so was in for an unknown treat.

Emily, an Australian born singer songwriter, moved to the UK in 2002 and teamed up with Rob Jackson. They quickly formed the band The-low-country and released two albums together. In 2005, Emily worked on her first Solo album Photos.Fires.Fables that led to her teaming up with The Red Clay Halo which is made up of Anna Jenkins (Violin, viola, vocals), Gill Sandell (Accordion, piano, flute, vocals) and Jo Silverston (Cello, bass, banjo, vocals).

They then released an album together named ‘Despite The Snow’ where the track ‘Nostalgia’ was used as the theme tune for the hit TV series Wallander, starring Kenneth Branagh. They then released a second album together, which again had another song ‘Pause’ chosen and featured in the series The Shadow Line, starring Christopher Eccleston.

From the moment the girls walked on stage and picked up their instruments, they immediately had my full attention. I wasn’t quite sure how a Cello, a Violin and an accordion accompanying a guitar was going to come together. Once they began I couldn’t get enough of them. Their ability to transform a tune and bind it all together was nothing short of perfection. Emily’s songs are a mix between folk and country with lyrics that take you someplace. The harmonies they produced were faultless and their voices complimented one another.

I spent much of the evening dodging the heads of the folk in front of me, this was so I could keep track of who was playing what and where. When Jo put her bow or finger to the strings of her cello I was in awe of her ability to change the soul of the songs. At one point there was a strong beat that seemed to appear from nowhere, until you noticed Emily’s right leg using a foot pedal of sorts whilst singing and playing the guitar.

This was one of my most favourites of recent gigs and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. For me having a love of various instruments, I embraced the music from every angle, from words, beats, bows, voices and the combination of them all.

If you get the opportunity to see Emily Baker and The Red Clay Halo, you can expect nothing but a wonderful musical massage to your ears. They are professional, beautiful and have talents between them that could only be envied, from Emily’s writing to the tunes and voices they all produce.


Photos. Fires. Fables.



First Aid Kit – Mandela Hall, Belfast

Johanna and Klara Söderberg on stage at the Mandela Hall, Belfast, 17th September 2014

Johanna and Klara Söderberg on stage at the Mandela Hall, Belfast, 17th September 2014

On 17th September, the Swedish duo Johanna and Klara Söderberg, aged only 24 and 21 walked on stage looking like 2014’s answer to modern day Abba. Johanna with her long legs draped in metallic gold flares and long blond hair and Klara with her long brunette hair and retro fringe. Accompanied on stage by their drummer and guitarist also playing the ukulele, electric guitar and slide guitar. Klara played her semiacoustic throughout and Johanna her keyboard, which also looked like something straight from 1976.

They displayed nothing but professionalism on stage, like they had been there for years. They began to sing and the quality of their vocal chords wooed the crowd from the outset. The harmonies they produce are nothing short of perfection. At one point during the performance they asked the audience to be quiet, as they wanted to sing a song together with zero amplification. This, I thought, was a very brave act bearing in mind there were up to 1000 people in the audience. They both moved forward and began to sing Ghost Town from their album The Big Black and the Blue. The Mandela Hall was captivated and there were no shushes throughout the song only people joining them in the sweet melody.

Not only do they tap in to your soulful, melancholic side but also have the ability to get you rocking out with their head-banging chorus such that comes from the song The Lions Roar.

I believe there is much more to come from this band – this is only the beginning. They currently have 3 albums, The Big Black and the Blue, The Lions Roar and their latest Stay Gold, now available for purchase.

Watch out World The Lion is Roaring.

Stay Gold
The Lion's Roar