Category Archives: album review

Katie Belle Akin: Review of “You Are My Holiday”


Katie’s enthusiasm for music and singing has been consistent since an early age.  Following her dreams, working hard, and learning from her mistakes with an always upbeat attitude has helped her multi-task successfully as a musical entertainer and in fashion as a model.


Since her very first music release, and even since my last review of her music, she has come a long, long way, and like a fine wine, only improves with time.

She has that special “it” in all that she does that brings me to her Christmas song, which I pulled from her back catalog of other great songs.  

Blessed with natural vocal talent and an ear for a good melody, Katie brings home the Christmas cheer easily with her song “You Are My Holiday“. I dug this song up by accident and was surprised I didn’t find it before. It is from 2012 but sounds as fresh as yesterday!  It is pure goodness!

I can hear this song being covered by other artists in the future in a big way. And it is also a great candidate for a Christmas movie soundtrack.


The rich warm acoustic guitar played by song co-writer Kip Williams starts the song out accompanied by Katie’s naturally pure and very tuned vocals and with the snare brushes and brush hits that give it a light and smooth feel.

Katie’s vocal gives a rich, warm, and enchanting beginning to the song that when the chorus kicks in knocks you out with a fantastic hook that will be stuck in your head for life.

As the song progresses from the perfect opening sparse arrangement, more instrumentation comes in and the bass picks things up a notch and never lets it back down.

With dramatic vocal pauses before the chorus, the song is well arranged and puts the “Merry” into Merry Christmas.

The song will fill you with feelings of jubilee and bright cheerfulness washing away any kind of sadness that sometimes come to many this time of year. The song is like an escape into merriment and blissful joy.

Katie Belle’s Homepage:

Watch the video on YouTube:




Olivia Penalva | “Dream You Home” Single Review

by Randy Wayne Belt
Dec 23, 2017

(First published in Starlight Music Chronicles on Nov. 30, 2017)

I’ll admit I love the Hallmark Christmas movies.  There’s something about that time of year  that makes even the mediocre movies seem good or magical.  But the best ones always have great music behind them.  Olivia Penalva’s new Christmas song “Dream You Home” would fit well as a background track for one of the well produced Hallmark Christmas movies, or any other, for that matter. This song is far beyond medicocrity.

Olivia, who hails from Vernon, BC in Canada, has put together quite a gem with this new song.  It has that magical sparkle to it in the underlying arrangements.  It is not as much an in-your-face Christmas song as it is capturing the spirit behind the season, making it perfect for placement in any Christmas or Holiday movie.  The chorus of the song is very memorable and powerful and even having  this as a background track would make any movie even better. (Great tracks can MAKE a great movie)

Not only does the song have a great mix of sounds based around a sort of shuffle march type drum beat on the verses but the lyrics are well written and paint a perfect picture of what she is trying to convey.

My favorite lyric in “Dream You Home” is “The light in your soul shines brighter than gold in my heart – that’s where you are.”

olivia dreamyouhome1highercont

The images invoked by the song could be any number of situations. It could be a lost loved one or a significant other who is separated by distance or time, or even a soldier gone in a far away land during the Christmas Season and the song  is almost like the soldiers spouse singing to bring him home even if it’s only at home in the heart.


The song does indeed grab your heart and imagination, which is, to me, the ultimate goal of a song – to speak to anyone or everyone in any situation.  This is one more thing that makes it an easy shoo in for anyone considering it for a spot in a Christmas movie.

Often, it is this time of year when many find themselves missing a loved one in some capacity, and it isn’t always the best time for many, but even still and even if you are not into Christmas or the spirit of it, and even if you are the Grinch himself, this song still weighs in on its own merit as a song with a powerful  chorus that demands attention and speaks to the soul.

This isn’t Olivia’s first Christmas song.  I reviewed “Christmas For Two” which was published in Starlight Music Chronicles’ December issue back in 2015


And also on my own blog:

Since that time Olivia has progressed even further as an artist and has honed even further her vocal and songwriting skills. Recently reaching a million plays on Spotify, her newer music bears out how far she’s grown since then.

Her voice still has that same special warmth to it but with a sultry yet still innocent sound that will capture your ears, heart, and will leave a memorable impression when you hear it.  I compared her voice before, in a sense to that of Nora Jones, or Colbie Caillet.  In fact, since the last review, Olivia was able to be mentored by Colbie Caillet after winning teen artist of the year in the Starlight Music Chronicles “Artist of the Year Contest” in 2016.

As a winner, Olivia got to attend ArtistMax an Artist Development program in L.A. in March 2017. Artist Max was dreamed up by legendary producer and engineer Ken Caillet (Fleetwood Mac Rumours) and was mentored there by Ken and Colbie Caillet, and David Foster in L.A..

Link to Dream You Home on Spotify:



YouTube Lyrics Video:

Olivia Penalva SMC 2016 TEEN Artist of the Year


Review of “Don’t Underestimate Me” by Carolina Magnolia

Originally printed here on Starlight Music Chronicles

by Randy Wayne Belt

This rootsy song by Carolina Magnolia could be the missing song from “Oh Brother Where Art Thou”, or even better, it could have been used for a follow up movie “Oh Sister Where Art Thou”.  No seriously!  This song could easily find its way into an appropriate soundtrack, without a doubt.

Based out of Petal, Mississippi this Duo has an acoustic sound all their own. blending genres a bit without you even noticing, this song in particular has that old-timey feel that will pull you right back in time.  The chorus and title of this song, “Don’t Underestimate Me”, lends the song a very memorable phrase and melody. It is like you may have heard it before, only you haven’t.

carolinamagnoliaLead vocalist Virginia Grey delivers just the right sassy soulful sound with her voice and guitar playing for this track.  The line “I’ve got horns hidden under my halo” sums up the vocal work here.  Carolina Magnolia is backed by Tammy Chambliss with her smooth harmony and background vocals and upright bass ability.  The vocals together in harmony and alone, hauntingly sound like they were pulled straight out of a time warp to back when music was pure, raw, and real and sounded music the better for it.

Adding in the upright bass gives the song just the bottom end it needs to thump its way onto the canvas of sound and bring the swampy bluesy sound into an Americana field and into your soul and feet.  If you mix a little CCR (especially that tremelo guitar sound in this song) with a bit of Alison Kraus and Union Station and a little rock, blues and country, you’ll get a bit of an idea of what sounds you can expect with this group.
The duo is currently working on their first album together which is expected to be released sometime in 2016.  Judging from the back catalogue by the duo’s songwriter Virginia Grey, (notably, and I recommend as well: Virginia Grey’s Greatest Hits you can expect some excellent songwriting and musicianship coming up on that album.

Social Media Links for Carolina Magnolia (click to view):
Since the original posting of this review on Starlight Music Chronicles
Carolina Magnolia has indeed released a full length album. It was released Dec 7, 2016.


‘New Beginnings’ cover art

Here is the link: