Thursday, 30 June 2016

Unique Dance Events From India Dance Wales At Everyman Open Air Festival

Two unique events presented by India Dance Wales’ will take place at Everyman’s Open Air Festival in Sophia Gardens, Cardiff on Sunday July 10.

Bharatanatyam, a classic Indian dance will be performed by Shishyas (disciples) trained by India Dance Wales at 2.30pm. In this annual showcase, Shishyas of all ages, abilities and backgrounds come together from classes held in different cities for an exciting gala event.

At 8pm, India Dance Wales’ will present their production of Shakuntala, an epic story told through the classical dance style of Bharatanatyam with English narration and directed by Kiran Ratna. A tale of love, heartbreak, & forgiveness to reunite love, the play was the first Indian drama to be translated into a Western language, by Sir William Jones in 1789. In the following century, there were at least 46 translations in twelve European languages.

There is a special discount of £20 for those wishing to attend both shows if booked as one purchase.
Contact the  Box Office on 0333 666 3366 or visit for full details.

Stage Presentation Of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet Gets Worldwide Broadcast

Lily James and Richard Madden star in Romeo & Juliet
The Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company will broadcast their presentation of Romeo and Juliet to more than 1200 cinemas worldwide live from the West End’s Garrick Theatre on July 7.

The broadcast of Romeo and Juliet follows that of last year’s presentation of The Winter’s Tale which topped the UK cinema box office when it was broadcast to 520 cinemas across the country. Reuniting the stars of the celebrated film Cinderella, Kenneth Branagh and Rob Ashford will direct Shakespeare’s heartbreaking tale of forbidden love.

Meera Syal and Lily James in Romeo & Juliet
The full cast of Romeo and Juliet, the sixth production in the Plays at the Garrick season includes Lily James as Juliet, Richard Madden as Romeo, Derek Jacobi as Mercutio and Meera Syal as The Nurse.

“The live broadcast is so exciting because it gets the play out of the Garrick Theatre and across the world, opening it up to an entirely different audience,” says Lily James who plays Juliet, “When Ken first talked to me about Romeo and Juliet he described how we would really try and capture the thriller aspect of the story and set it in 1950's Italy, firmly in the world of la dolce vita. The feel would be monochromatic, like those beautiful old black and white movies of that time, and it all immediately felt very filmic anyway. I really think it's so exciting to see Shakespeare on film and to watch plays displaced from their original setting into a new medium. I can't wait!”

South Wales filmgoers will be able to catch The Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company’s production of Romeo & Juliet at Newport’s Cineworld, Cwmbran’s Vue Cinema and Monmouth’s Savoy Theatre.

For more information visit

Stars line up to take part in Humble By Nature Festival Weekend

A scene from last years Humble By Nature
Tickets for this weekend's Kate Humble’ Big Day Out Festival weekend event at Penalt, Monmouth are proving popular with the festival's opening comedy event featuring Miles Jupp and Lucy Porter now sold out.

There is still an opportunity to purchase weekend or Saturday only ticket for other festival events including an appearance from TV chef Matt Tebbutt, fresh from his morning stint on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen. Joining Matt, are Romy Gill (Romy’s Kitchen), Freddy Bird (Bristol Lido) and Jane Baxter.

Local food will be on offer from Hang Fire Smokehouse, Dusty Knuckle and Native Breeds as well as Monmouth’s Aahaan Thai and Taste of Persia. Jane Baxter will be creating a delicious Italian sharing menu at her pop-up dining event in the barn.

Gareth Malone OBE will be in the Lambing Shed with free singing workshops for kids, while there will be live music from Swing from Paris, Grace Hartrey, Railroad Bill and The Penarth Soul Club.

The family friendly festival is jam packed with great activities for kids and grown-ups, including a Saturday Evening Barn Dance, Mini Land Rovers, Jitterbug Circus, Wild Tots Outdoor Play, Archery and Survival Skills. There's also chance to relax with some Yoga and massage on Sunday morning.

The Big Day Out camping field opens at 5pm on July 1, activities start at 6pm with food, live music and comedy running into the night. The main festival field opens Saturday morning with the fun continuing through to Sunday afternoon. Visit further festival and ticket details

Blues Brothers show will meet approval in Cardiff

THE feelgood show Blues Brothers (Approved) is currently keeping soul fans entertained at Cardiff's New Theatre until Saturday July 2.

Purveyors of classic soul are advised to dig out their shades, dust off their dancing shoes and to party like never before to music from the classic films including the worldwide hit Everybody Needs Somebody To Love.

For more information or to book tickets call 029 2087 8889 or visit

Quiet Loner reschedules Battle of the Ballot at Newport's Cwtsh Arts Centre

A performance at Newport's Cwtsh Arts Centre that will feature slides and images from the People’s History Museum's collection and highlighting significant historical events that led to the right to vote has now been rescheduled for September 8.

People’s History Museum ‘Songwriter in Residence’ Matt Hill whose work as ‘Quiet Loner’ has garnered rave reviews and a Glastonbury appearance, will bring the Battle for the Ballot highlighting the story of the vote and how the democratic process evolved.

Matt was appointed to this coveted role earlier this year and set about creating original musical works inspired by the museum’s collections, all of which explore the history of working people in Britain.

Quiet Loner’s music is inspired by the storytelling traditions of American Folk and country music but with a distinctly British lyrical bite. His third album Greedy Magicians was both personal and political and led to his being invited by Billy Bragg to perform at the 2013 Glastonbury Festival.

The Battle for the Ballot was to originally be performed at the Cwtsh Arts Centre, Newport on July 1, but due to its clash with scheduled Wales Euro match will now take place on September 8. To find out more about Quiet Loner visit

New project to Inspire Wales' authors and composers

Authors and composers will come together next week to plot the next stages of musical theatre in Wales through an innovative new project entitled 10 Minute Musicals / Open Space, run by director Angharad Lee’s new company Leeway Productions.

Five authors and five composers will combine talents for peer to peer learning, creating, collaborating and co-authoring work and discussions about the musical theatre genre in various locations around Cardiff and the Valleys from July 4-8. The week will culminate with the sharing of work and discussions about the art form at The Other Room, Cardiff on July 8 providing a supportive “safe space” for artists to explore and develop their own practice.

“We have seen a positive shift in our attitudes towards musical theatre in Wales recently.” says Angharad Lee, “But I still feel that we shy away from a genuine grassroots investigation of the genre. The question I will be asking the artists is: ‘How do you make a story sing, and not just the artists?’ The approach to the week will be very task driven, much in the same vain as I would work with actors. Roles may be switched and specific tasks will be set by a group of year 5 students I am working with at the moment who are also developing their lyric writing skills. This will hopefully open up a discussion about who exactly are we writing for and why.”

Lee, whose most recent work includes the successful To Kill a Machine added, “I am keen to open out the discussions to artists who wouldn’t necessarily find themselves writing musicals. I want to challenge form and our approach when it comes to assembling such productions. It is an age old problem that sometimes artists can feel hugely disempowered when it comes to how work is commissioned in theatre in general. Everyone wants to be commissioned but it is vital that there is playtime and safe spaces to explore one’s own practice as part of an artists continued development. It can sometimes seem like moments of dreams rather than reality. To be able to pay artists to learn from each other and to be inspired by each other is an absolute joy.”

Key organisations throughout Wales have also been keen to lend support while numerous programmers and venues have confirmed the clear need for this kind of work. Among those confirmed to be in partnership with 10 Minute Musicals / Open Space are Wales Millennium Centre and Blackwood Miners Institute.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Meet The Artist: SaraBeth

Savvy, fun, creative, adventurous, determined and delightfully unexpected are a good start, but adjectives begin to run out well before facets of SaraBeth’s artistry do. A force-of-nature Texan who is already building a meaningful presence as a singer, songwriter and entertainer, she is a virtual lock to take the next step – if only because she hasn’t missed one yet. Earning fans one show at a time, landing considerable regional media exposure, scoring three nationally charted singles, developing a base in her native Texas, expanding it nationally and even internationally with her 2016 U.K. bringing her to Cardiff's Gwdihw on June 26, SaraBeth has made astounding strides in a very short time.  Andy Howells recently put questions to the singer/songwriter.

How did you first start out in music?
Music has always been something that came naturally.  I started singing (Frosty the Snowman) at the same time as I started talking!  I've been singing in choir, competitions, talent shows, etc. ever since.  I was like every kid who dreams of being a rock star, movie star or professional athlete, but as you grow up so many of us let our own self doubt or other people's opinions mold the path we take for a career.  I graduated with a degree in entrepreneurship from Baylor University and then my younger brother was drafted to play professional baseball by the St. Louis Cardinals.  At that point in time, I decided I didn't want to wake up in 10 years and think "What if?"  So I moved to Nashville and started learning as fast as I could and as much as I could about the music business.

Who or what has inspired you most on your musical journey?
It's definitely been my family.  I'm incredibly lucky to have parents, grandparents, cousins...everyone really say follow your dreams and we'll support you.  I talked earlier about my younger brother and he truly is my biggest inspiration.  My parents are also a huge part of why I'm doing music. They pushed me to follow my dreams and taught me all I know about having a strong work ethic. Growing up I watched them overcome obstacles and never lose sight of what's important.

Can you give us some background about your latest release?
I have a new album that's available for pre-order on iTunes called Full Speed Ahead now and will be out on July 12!  This album is all about personal experiences plus one of my all time favorite songs that I made my own and covered!  Compared to some I haven't been in the music business very long, but in that short time I've learned a lot. Each song has been inspired by something in my music career, and I'm so excited to share these stories with the world.

You’re touring shortly are you looking forward to that?
Touring is my favorite part of my job!  It's so amazing to get to meet the people that support me and my music.  There are so many people that I hear from on social media on a daily/weekly basis, and I love getting to hug their necks and say thank you in person!  Music is a team sport.   I wouldn't be where I am without the amazing people who listen to, share, and support my music.

What can people expect from your forthcoming Cardiff gig?
This is one of the few UK shows that will be acoustic.  It's also our first show in Cardiff!  My co-writer, guitar player, and best friend, Glen Mitchell, will be playing all our UK dates with me this summer.  The show in Cardiff will just be Glen, me, and a guitar.  Personally I love these shows because you're able to tell all the stories behind the songs, and it's so much more personal!  On every other past UK Tour we've stopped in Cardiff to visit, but we're so excited to finally be playing a show!  You can see all of our tour dates on my website

What are you enjoying listening to at the moment?
At this exact moment, I'm on a plane listening to Blake Shelton's new album!  I've also been listening to a lot of UK Country artists like The Shires, Ward Thomas, Megan O'Neil, Laura Oakes, Luke & Mel, Paul Carella, and Gary Quinn….there are so many talented acts in the UK that I'm lucky to call friends!

What else have you got planned for the rest of the year?
With a new EP release comes a lot of tour dates.  I'll be on the road pretty extensively this Summer.  We have 13 shows in the UK starting on August 5th.  I'm also incredibly excited about the fall because my younger brother is getting married!
  • Stay in touch with Sara Beth online at
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on June 24, 2016

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Writer Lee Hall Discusses Bringing Billy Elliot To The Stage

Billy Elliot the Musical made its Wales' debut at  Wales Millennium Centre last week as part of its first ever UK and Ireland tour. Based on the highly successful film, the show is set in a mining town in the North of England against the background of the 1984/85 miners’ strike and follows Billy’s journey from boxing to ballet class where he discovers a passion for dance that inspires his family and whole community and changes his life forever.

Billy Elliot the Musical is brought to life by the multiple award-winning creative team behind the film including writer Lee Hall (book and lyrics), director Stephen Daldry and choreographer, Peter Darling, joined by Elton John who composed the show’s score. The production features scenic design by Ian MacNeil, the associate director is Julian Webber, costume design is by Nicky Gillibrand, lighting design by Rick Fisher and sound design by Paul Arditti. Musical supervision and orchestrations are by Martin Koch.
Andy Howells recently chatted to writer Lee Hall about how Billy’s journey  has developed  from a film screenplay to a stage musical.

Stephen Daldry, Elton John and Lee Hall
Photo: Craig Sugden
Billy Elliot has been a part of your life for a long time now?
I first came up with the story almost 20 years ago, I then wrote the screenplay and the film came out in 2000 and we started work on the musical pretty soon after that, so its been part of my life for a long time.

Has Billy Elliot’s success surprised you at all?
Completely! I really thought it was going to be a small British film that would come and go like films do. I was quite surprised by the affect of the film and then we did the show and that went on for so long, it was pretty amazing to me.

Where did you get the inspiration?
It was one of those weird acts of imagination. I had grown up in the North East of England in that time, I knew all about the mining communities because of the miners strike. I think I was quite different from the others because I liked poetry and drama and that kind of thing and I was thinking of a way to tell the story about my journey but in cinematic terms. I thought writing was a boring subject to write about and I thought what if a little kid wanted to become a ballet dancer? I think at the time and possibly still so been a ballet dancer is something that a young lad would never think of doing because they’d get picked on in school, so I was quite interested in the story and I just made it up.

Haydn May as Billy Elliot
Photograph: Alistair Muir
Years later, I found out there were a few dancers at the Royal Ballet who had come from mining backgrounds. One of the mainstays Philip Mosley, came from Yorkshire and had a very similar journey to Billy Elliot, so fact has followed fiction.

It’s also an iconic tale about anyone who has a dream to do something different to the circumstances they were brought up in, everybody’s got something that is unique about themselves or in something that they want to do. It’s a story for everybody.

How did the musical come about?
It came from Elton John, he saw the very first public showing of the film which was in Cannes and he really identified with it. He could see a lot of his own journey in Billy Elliot.

I just got a phone call from Elton’s people asking “Would you like to meet, because he’s really interested in doing it as a musical.” To be honest, when I first heard that, I thought it was a terrible idea. I went to see him and he explained how we should do it and his total passion for the project. I thought “well you can’t not do it,” of course, we gave it a go and the rest is history.

You hadn’t set out to write Billy Elliot as a musical, so how was the experience writing with Elton John?
The thought of writing songs with Elton was beyond ones wildest dreams. I assumed he’d want Bernie Taupin to write the lyrics. He wanted me to do it rather than a lyricist because he knew it needed to be in the language of the characters. He was very determined on that and very experienced having worked on musicals like The Lion King and Aida. He said to me “Listen, We’ll just start at the beginning and work our way through it” and it was great advice not to take too much off, but just to take little bits and  build it up gradually. I was in very safe hands with Elton - he looked after me!”

Lewis Smallman with ensemble cast in Billy Elliot
Photograph: Alistair Muir
So now the Billy Elliot musical is touring the UK, how important was a tour to you?
Coming from the North East, I was dying for the last ten years or so that people from home could see it. Eventually, it went to Sunderland on the tour and it means a lot to me that we can take it to regional theatre to let people see it who couldn’t make the trip to London. It’s been a long time coming so I’m really excited about it.

For those who are planning to see Billy Elliot, how would you describe it?
Quite genuinely, there’s something in it for everybody. I think we all set out to make something you could laugh and cry at.

There are also the amazing kids who play Billy Elliot. I’ve been watching it for over 11 years and I’m always astonished at how brilliant they are. They can act, dance and sing and I don’t think there’s another show you’ll see where the kids are so brilliant. I really wanted to make something that my Mam and Dad could go and see as they never went to the theatre. I wanted to make something for everybody. It was really important to me that I made a show that everyone could go and see.

  • Billy Elliot the Musical continues at Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday July 16. To book tickets or for more information visit or call 029 2063 6464. 
  • A version of this interview by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus on June 17, 2016

Mad On Her Musical Rewinds Back To The 80s - Phoebe Rose White Q&A

During July, the 80s feel-good musical Mad On Her will tour 4 fringe UK venues including Liverpool Lantern Theatre (July 14), The Solway Hall, Whitehaven (July 15) and  Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate, London (July 17). The July 16 date at  Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester is already sold out.

Mad On Her follows the story of Donna and Tina who party through the nightlife and drama of 1985.
Donna, ambitious and stylish, is climbing the ladder of success. Finding ‘Mr Right’ is the last thing on her mind – little does she know he could be just around the corner. Tina, with her big hair and big heart, is the disco diva of the boulevard. As Donna’s best friend she sets out to play cupid.

Newport actress Phoebe Rose White, who recently played Mimi in Rent for Two Box productions and featured on The Dreamers original cast album, will Co-Star in the UK tour of Mad on Her playing the role of Brandi. Andy Howells recently spoke to the rising stage star about her current role.

Was been in musical theatre always your dream?
I've been involved with musicals ever since I can remember. I was in Stagecoach at a young age and took part in every school play - I think my first role was a camel with in the Nativity! In secondary school I focused more on my grades until I played Maria in our School's production of West Side Story when I was 16, and then that was it, I caught the theatre bug again! From then on I focused all my energy on getting into drama school and it was my dream to study in London.

You are from Newport originally, were you involved in many local groups / productions as you were growing up?
Apart from School productions, I performed with the Greater Gwent Youth choir in venues like St David's Hall, Birmingham Symphony Hall, and the Royal Albert Hall. I also was a member of WAWWA: The Musical Youth for a few years. That was such a special time in my life. I learned so much about professionalism and how to conduct yourself whilst in a company. The support I had from the creative team there was amazing too. We performed in shows in the Dolman Theatre, most notably The Music Man and Footloose.

What was your first professional role?
Whilst in college, we were lucky enough to take part in professional concerts and shows that took place in West End theatres, which was an incredible experience, but my first job out on my own after college was a pantomime tour of Aladdin in which I played Aladdin. It was a really great experience in learning what touring is like - you never quite get used to performing a high intensity show to hundreds of kids at 9am!

You played Mimi in Rent, where was that and what did you enjoy most about that role?
I recently performed in a run of Rent at the Two Brewers in Clapham, London. Playing Mimi was a big tick off my list (I used to watch my DVD of Rent on repeat when I was in school) so there was a big pressure I'd put on myself to get it right. The music of Rent is beautiful, so I enjoyed getting to sing the score every night, but what I really enjoyed was the intensity of the role. Mimi goes from a very happy, carefree place, to her rock-bottom in the space of two hours, and so I put a lot of work into making sure that it was believable, authentic and that people could relate.

You're currently starring in the UK production of Mad On Her, what can you tell us about the show?
Mad On Her is a brand new 80s Musical, about Donna, who is climbing the career ladder to success and will let no man get in the way of her dreams- until new guy on the block Ricki turns up on the scene, The musical is a fabulously fun show set in a nightclub wrapped in everyone's favourite 80s classics. It's an all-singing, all-dancing and acting musical with a starburst of energy and 80s flavouring!!

Tell us about your role in Mad On Her and whats your favourite part of the show?
I play Brandi, one of the IT girls in town and one of Donna's best friends. She is fun loving and is never seen without a touch of glam and perfection. She loves all her girls and will always put her friends first. I've always LOVED the 80s, from the music to the fashion, so playing this role will be an absolute blast! The songs are fantastic and the choreography is insane! I'm also covering Donna for the run, so it'll be a great experience getting to learn two very different parts!

How long will you be continuing with the show for?
The show runs until the 17th July in 4 UK venues with our final night being in London. However there is a huge potential to take this show further and that's such an exciting possibility. I love being involved with the very start of something  and seeing where it will take us!

Do you get back to Wales much and will you be returning in a production anytime soon?
I'm very family-oriented and so try my best to get back to Wales around once a month to see my Family and friends. I've been lucky enough to tour Wales twice with two different shows, and also shot 2 short films in Cardiff last summer, which was fantastic. I'd love to perform again in Wales soon - fingers crossed!

  • You can find full Mad On Her tour dates and information at
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus on June 18, 2016

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Meet The Band: The Kaz Hawkins Band

Belfast born singer-songwriter Kaz Hawkins is Northern Ireland’s very own blues and soul darling. Her high energy, original shows, combining 1950's style swing-dress-meets-Dr Martens look and an ability to closely connect with the audience, make Kaz one of the most popular blues artists in the UK.

Underground for years as a secret songwriter, Kaz  is now established as one the biggest performers to come out of Northern Ireland. Locally called "a vocal force" on stage, she envelops the fighting spirit of a true powerhouse singer. Kaz is much-loved for her deep, powerful voice, original songwriting and down to earth attitude; she brings fun to every performance & is loved not only by her fans, but anyone who meets her. She has lived and sung ‘The Blues’, yet has much more to offer across differing genres - soul, rockabilly, folk & more.

Kaz hopes the new sound of her new album, Feeling good, will show a modern twist to the blues and roots she adores, alongside newly penned songs written, as ever, to inspire, excite and move. Ahead of The Kaz Hawkins Band appearance at The Met, Abertillery on June 17, Andy Howells put questions to the lady herself.

How did you get into playing music?
I sang on the cover scene for 20 years but had written lyrics in my journals, a lot of my journal writing ended up in poem format without me realising it so I bought a cheap acoustic guitar in 2007 and taught myself some chords and then ventured into open mic nights in 2010/11.

Tell us about the band, how did that all come together?
Up until 2015 there were lots of band members, some couldn't commit long term, some didn't suit and some just didn't see my vision for the future. My guitarist Nick McConkey has been with me nearly 4 years and was originally only a rhythm player but has grown organically with me since. Peter & Jan Uhrin on drums and bass joined in 2015, they are originally from Slovakia but have been performing around Northern Ireland since they moved here over 10 years ago. They have a great insight into most genres of music so that appealed to me as I wanted to experiment with a bigger more dynamic sound. I then added Deanne Jones as a backing vocalist who I had been mentoring who I met through Nick as he is her cousin, I loved how she complimented my vocal with a sweet edge.

Who are your music influences?
Everyone says Etta James, but she was and is my musical savior through so much in my life, when I first heard her sing St Louis Blues I cried, and that was the moment I wanted to sing. I love discovering old underground blues, one of my favourites is Lucille Bogan and of course the ever faithful artists like Big Mama Thornton (who I mention in PRAY from our album) Koko Taylor, Bessie Smith (our tour bus is named after her).

What’s been your best live experience?
Best live experience I can't choose as things keep going from strength to strength so much, so I get overwhelmed with it all, but just being able to do what I thought would never happen is the best experience for me. I've had amazing opportunities, like supporting Van Morrison, performing in Boston with professors and lecturers from Boston Uni & Berklee College of Music but there is nothing like being in that perfect moment on stage with my band when we are connected and having fun, that's a dream come true in itself to trust my band and them have faith in me.

Can you tell us about your new album Feelin' Good?
Feelin' Good is dedicated to those who think positive, those who will always fight the fight to survive and who come out the other end to proove that life is worth living. It's a mix of 8 original songs, most of which are about my life and 2 classic blues songs we wanted to experiment our new sound on. This album is exciting as its not just a collection of songs, it represents who we are as a unit, showcases what we are and how tight and how much fun we like to have. From blues to ballads, funky rhythms to rock and jazzy sprinkles of loveliness. We want to take people on a journey that they would want to repeat time and again.

Your also going on tour, what can fans expect from your shows?
Our Feelin' Good tour is our biggest yet with nearly 50 dates across the UK and fans should expect an explosion of sound, colour and fun. The music is serious and we mean business with our album but we also like to have fun so that our fans are seeing a show, we want them to jump up from their seats and let the music take over, most of the time I would be the one jumping off stage if I can, although management have warned me with so many dates I have to stop being so clumsy just like dislocating and breaking my shoulder at the end of a previous tour, ha ha, but when spontaneity hits I just gotta run with it.

What else have you got lined up for 2016?
Our Feelin' Good tour is our biggest yet with nearly 50 dates across the UK and fans should expect an explosion of sound, colour and fun. The music is serious and we mean business with our album but we also like to have fun so that our fans are seeing a show, we want them to jump up from their seats and let the music take over, most of the time I would be the one jumping off stage if I can, although management have warned me with so many dates I have to stop being so clumsy just like dislocating & breaking my shoulder at the end of a previous tour haha but when spontaneity hits I just gotta run with it.
We performed on BBC Northern Ireland on 3rd June for BBC Music Day so made our TV debut from the historic Stormont Parliament Buildings just before we head to Scotland for our first tour date. This is amazing exposure for us and what a way to kick off our tour across the UK. We have also been nominated to compete in the UK Blues Challenge on 12th Nov at Robin 2 in Wolverhampton and the winner will get to represent UK in Memphis & Denmark in 2017. We really won't have time for much else but touring until then as we will be so jam packed and that's a great thing.

What are you listening to at the moment?
Personally, I've been listening to lots of my sisters on the blues scene as I just created Blues Sisterhood UK to help showcase women in blues from one central place so have been researching lots before I leave for tour. I love Lauren Housley who I discovered through BiGIam who is working with us on Feelin' Good. Elles Bailey too, the younger generation who is carrying the torch for blues and roots in my opinion. A lot of Beth Hart lately as her music is really transcendent, I adore her performances, she's crazy just like me and that's a great thing for the audience, the more we can give of ourselves the more the fan experience will be enjoyed. Plus I can identify with her as a performer and her history, when she gets on stage I know that look in her eye where nothing matters but the here and now. I just have to see her live soon but Northern Ireland is too far from anywhere for now lol.

Friday, 10 June 2016

In Concert: Ronnie Spector, St David's Hall, Cardiff

From The Beatles to Amy Winehouse, many of popular music’s greats have sung the praises of Ronnie Spector and The Ronettes since they formed the final piece of Phil Spector’s infamous Wall of Sound back in the 1960s.

Ronnie’s inclusion in the Cardiff’s Festival of Song programme was therefore an important one. The decades rolled away as soon as she sang her signature opening “Whoa-Oh Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh” on the 1963 smash hit Baby I Love You on St David’s Hall’s stage last Friday evening.

Supported by three backing singers (suitably attired in 60s style) and a five strong band, Ronnie proceeded to tell the story of The Ronettes early 60s origins in Spanish Harlem before getting their big break performing alongside Joey Dee and The Starliters in Manhattan’s Peppermint Lounge.

Ronnie’s story was illustrated with anecdotes, back screen projections of The Ronettes and a soundtrack of hits from songwriters including Goffin & King, Lennon & McCartney and Harry Nilsson. There was even a rendition of Keith Richards and Andrew Oldham’s I’d Much Rather Be with the Girls recalling The Ronettes 1964 UK tour with The Rolling Stones.

Highlights undoubtedly were renditions of The Ronettes classics Paradise and Is This What I Get for Loving You Baby? all capturing the essential 60s vibe. There was also a moving tribute to Ronnie’s sister Estelle with How Do You Mend a Broken Heart? 

Cardiff’s audience gave a warm reception to Ronnie indicating that the music of The Ronettes is still much loved. Be My Baby brought the show to a close with Ronnie inviting the audience up to the front to have a dance, needless to say, she didn't have to ask twice!

 For more details on Ronnie Spector visit her official website.

Friday, 3 June 2016

CD Review: Pigs Might Fly By Railroad Bill

Recent television documentaries have reminded us that the raw twanging tea chest bass of Skiffle was right at the heart of the birth of the British popular music scene in the mid 1950s. 60 years on, and skiffle is still going strong thanks to Cardiff's Railroad Bill. Seasoned musicians themselves, the band have been together some 30 years and were even described as "Bloody Good" by the original King of Skiffle, the late Lonnie Donegan.

Their latest release on CountryMile Records, Pigs Might Fly proves King Lonnie was right on the mark, hanging on to their skiffle roots, Railroad Bill bring the skiffle genre firmly into the 21st century, with shades of classic rock n roll and raucious punk thrown in for good measure. There are some fabulous stand outs from the bluesy Obstinate Child to the rock n roll of Selfish Jean performed with more than a nod to early Elvis!

Pigs Might Fly displays the versatility of Railroad Bill and even allows a few friends in on the journey too including welsh singer/songwriter Kizzy Crawford who gives a fabulous vocal on What You Need.

For a sneak peek of Railroad Bill, catch them taking part in the new BBC Four documentary series UK's Best Part-Time Band at 9pm this evening.

360 Degrees Celebrate One Year With Dolman Theatre Show

360 Degrees - Jordan Archer and Marino Meano
Just over a year ago, Marino Meano brought his years of experience as a top class musician to Wales and joined forces with the fabulous voice of Newport born singer Jordan Archer.

In this short time their talents have quickly been recognised on the music scene gaining them the great reputation they deserve and an almost fully booked year of gigs and private parties including Newport's Celtic Manor. The boys are thrilled at the way that their audiences have taken to them and already have a strong following.

To celebrate their first year and by popular demand following their sell out Christmas show, 360 Degrees are back at The Dolman Theatre Cabaret Bar on Saturday 11 June from 7.30pm to bring you One Night Only Summer Spectacular. Dance the night away with hits from every era or just sit back and enjoy the evening of fabulous entertainment.

Tickets are available on line at and are £10 which also includes a cocktail on arrival.