Category Archives: song 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:

Must Be Something

To catch up with all the singles released since my last blog post, we will start with this one.

The single “Must Be Something” was released on March 31, 2016 and also appears on Bongo Boy Records ‘OUT OF THE GARAGE VOL. 3 as track #6 which was released in early 2017 and marketed to Asia and the world.

Here is a favorite review of the song:

A Music Review by Jenny Cat
6. Barley Station – MUST BE SOMETHING

“Now, I had a flashback to 1967. This song could have heralded the Summer of Love in
a big way with it’s ethereal California style pop harmonies and British
Invasion style groove. Great tune that hearkens me back to bands like The Cyrkle and The Hollies. There’s something about a clean guitar sound with tremolo that sets my imagination a-glow with warm thoughts of peace and love.”

MBS FB Banner3AvailableNowFB1

A nice and interesting write-up appears in the Huffington Post on Out of the Garage Vol.3 which our song “Must Be Something” appears on.


You can get “Must Be Something” on iTunes HERE!




“Like Destiny” Coming Soon!

On Thursday, January 21, 2016, Barley Station will release a new single titled “Like Destiny”.  Blending folk and rock with progressive beats and pop sensibilities, this one has been called the best yet by those who have heard the song. The song will be available at most digital retail outlets.

Here is a sneak peek of the album art:

Like Destiny11400pix

Snippet from a Pre-release review:
“You’ll want to find a pretty spot under the old oak tree by the river and let Barley Stations new single ‘Like Destiny’ flow right through your soul.

“The unique instrumental in the song pairs perfectly with Vocalist Randy Wayne Belts ‘tranquil fluid motion’ vocals transcending one into a heavenly place of peace also known as: bliss… Infectious and pretty, this song is one for the iPod ‘favorites’ playlist for sure!”
~CA Marshall editor of Starlight Music Chronicles and Magazine

(Click here for a sneak audio from the track “Like Destiny”)


Album art by Candice Anne Graphics & Photography



Review of “Christmas For Two”

Review and Interview with Olivia Penalva

by Randy Wayne Belt

(first published in Starlight Music Chronicles Magazine)

As a connoisseur of original Christmas music it’s always great to find something new that is full of festive joy, delight, and fabulous vocals!   “Christmas For Two” by Canadian recording artist Olivia Penalva is just one of those songs.  With a fresh clean sound that has a somewhat Jazzy and R&B old motown rhythmic feel combined with a very contemporary vocal and lyric, Olivia delivers a song that reminds us of the joy of the season, and just enjoying life and having fun.  It is the perfect Christmas feel-good song!


As a singer, not only on this song, but in all of her work, her voice  has a timbre and character that make one think of a voice like that of Andrea Wittgens, Nora Jones, or Colbie Caillat.  Olivia’s voice has a mature tonal quality to it and a special warmth with a sultry yet innocent character to it that will capture your heart and ears.

Perhaps it’s that innocence of youth that can best create the atmosphere of a joyous life-is-good Christmas song.


At a mere 15 years old, Olivia has already begun making a splash in music, and the addition of “Christmas For Two” to her repertoire will only further the ripples created by the waves she’s already making.

This new Holiday song has already gained some radio play alongside other well established artists with Christmas songs on this years Christmas playlists such as 103.5 QMFM in her home area of Vancouver, BC; Majic 100 in Ottawa, ON and more. But this isn’t her first airplay.  

Then there is Miss Penalva’s recent single “Ferris Wheel”, a song that has a carefree atmosphere with a strong rhythm section, once again, giving a solid beat behind the song which is, more than less, a celebration of life.  With another powerful vocal performance, the song will simply leave you in a good mood!  The control she has over her voice allows her to naturally move around her notes and move in and out of vocal inflections with great ease.  This is a very note worthy song also garnering airplay support.

(Official video for “Ferris Wheel”    )

IMG_3423 (640x640) (4)

Another song I should mention is a song called “Forgettable” which Olivia co-wrote and collaborated on with a Canadian DJ Group called Project 46 who released it as part of their own album called “Beautiful”.  And indeed it IS a beautiful!  At this stage in her career, the music seems to be defined by strong rhythm section and very powerful vocals.

(Listen to “Forgettable” at this link:  )

So don’t shrug off the “fifteen years old” part because her voice is like that of an experienced 20-something, and one only needs to be reminded that when LeAnn Rimes came out with “Blue” and floored everyone with her mature sounding voice at age 14, they said the same thing with a similar “Wow” effect.  Her voice simply commanded respect and admiration.

So naturally, one of the questions I wanted to ask leads right into my interview:

Click Here to read my interview with Olivia in Starlight Music Chornicles Magazine

Song/Video review: “Taste of Heaven” by Radio Drive

 “Taste of Heaven” by Radio Drive

Article/Review by Randy Wayne Belt    June 14, 2015

It was no surprise to me when I learned that “A Taste of Heaven” by Radio Drive from St. Paul, Minnesota had been nominated  Best Alternative Song for 2014 by the Hollywood Music Awards. And in September of 2014 Bongo Boy Records included “A Taste of Heaven” on their first Compilation CD release to the  Asian market, among many other accomplishments for this artist including music that has been used on shows airing on Animal Planet and Discovery Channel and having signed to Artista Group, an international management agency.

Produced by Chris Garcia, who is known to bring the best out in engineering and vocal production, this song is certainly no exception in bringing out the best.  The vocals on this track are smooth, relaxed, and deliver the type of vocal this song needed. Neither would it surprise me that this song is doing well in the European market as vocally, Radio Drive’s man behind the engine, Kevin Gullickson, has that distinct European tone to his voice.  In many respects his voice and delivery remind me of Neil Finn.


Kevin Gullickson

“A Taste of Heaven” is an uplifting song that will just leave you in a good mood.  Not a jumping-around-good-mood, but a good mood where you feel a certain contentedness and satisfaction for the moment.  This track is full of layered sounds that give an effective backdrop of sound to the track from the very start that drives home the feelings and moods the artist wanted conveyed.  The song opens with nicely textured melodic guitar bits and builds into background vocals leading into the verse of the song, and the video for the song enhances this experience with it’s imagaries, subtle flashes of light, and scenes of two people enjoying each other’s company.  I would venture to say that if you’d like to hear U2, Imagine Dragons, Coldplay, with a touch of Neil Finn, all rolled into one song, then this is it.

The video flows along nicely with various interesting scenes where time seems to go by faster than normal.  I got the idea that this was meant to convey, intentionally or not, of how the relationship the song seems to be speaking of (and video seems to convey) makes you lose track of time and days and hours. Time goes by… unnoticed.  You’re in love. There’s that sense of timelessness when you are lost in the moment – you are enjoying the here and now, outside of time, just like heaven.  So I’m on the right track here aren’t I?  Well, just to be sure, I checked in anyway to Kevin’s interview on A.V.A. Live Radio with Jacqueline Jax from May 27, 2015 to find clues

(check out interview here)

and here’s what Radio Drive’s Kevin Gullickson says about the song: “A Taste of Heaven… was written to capture the time when I lived in New York City. I moved there in the month November back in the 80s and met my wife shortly afterward. It was such a care free time for us, living in the big city, doing whatever we wanted, all the excitement and variety the city had to offer – and of course being in love.”

Ok, I think I got it right! And my favorite lyrics from the song are (drum roll please) “you fill up and saturate my life with heaven”.  Now go watch the video:

What was I saying?  Oh yeah.. And now back to the nuts and bolts of it!  The song is saturated with good melodies and harmonies which always wins points with me because, well, I’m a melody guy.  As the song and its video progress, by the time you get to around the 3:50 to 4:00 mark, you have a pretty clear picture of what the song is getting at.  There you will find the overlapping of clouds giving a fitting backdrop to the song to relate to the imagery of the lyrics (heaven) overlapped with the artist on his guitar (on earth).

Rays of light, sunshine and positivity dominate and it becomes apparent by then, that the artist is painting a picture of a relationship that is more than just a “taste of heaven”, but at moments, may seem to be heaven on earth, or heaven meeting earth. This leads to the outro with a string arrangement sound that is fitting for such a sonic atmosphere relating to the imagery in the song. And that reminds me, did I mention this is a well constructed song? Kevin-Gullickson-Radio-Drive-752x440 It seems to just fly by and at no point was I feeling like I just wanted it to be over already. Rather, it ends by giving the listener a sense of completeness of the song and what he wanted to convey with it.  As an artist, it is always a good feeling when you can look back at the production and know that the producer caught your vision for the song as a team, and the team delivered it effectively.

Connect with Radio Drive on the homepage at  Radio Drive Home

And on social media: Radio Drive Facebook  On Twitter  @radiodrivemusic

And subscribe on YouTube:  Radio Drive’s YouTube Channel