Tennesse homesick blues are runnin’ through my head – when did you ever think you’d know how Dolly Parton felt? But we are sure we aren’t the only ones, and thankfully BelNash is just around the corner to cure the heartache for us all. One of the most dynamic festivals to take place in Northern Ireland, it returns on the 28th February for its tenth year and is set to be the best yet. Spoiling us all with a double dosage of the usual five day festivities, BelNash 2014 is a bulky ten days of gigs, showcases and workshops and it’s going to be a most electric collaboration of both international and local talent.
And that’s what makes this honky tonk festival just so special, that it really is a celebration of all spectrums of talent. It’s not just about staging the big acts for us to go and see – it’s about harmonising Northern Ireland’s singer songwriters with these renowned acts and watching first-hand the opportunities that blossom for musicians who participate. We only have to look at the likes of Gareth Dunlop who has had a long association with BelNash through which he was awarded 2011 Young Songwriter of the Year, which then led him to showcase in Nashville where he secured a publishing deal. And 2014 sees him back again, loyal to and no doubt extremely proud of the festival that opened a lot of doors for his career. And this seems to be the prosperous cycle that the festival follows for musicians, as cellist Alana Henderson who had her first year at BelNash in 2013, joined Nancy Griffith and when they struck such a cord with one another, Nancy requested that Alana accompany her for the rest of her sets during the festival. This marked the beginning of an excellent year for Alana across the Northern Ireland music scened and she too faithfully returns to BelNash 2014.
We’ve seen some huge acts involved and this year is no different, with legends including Donovan, Jim Lauderdale and the man who wrote possibly one of the most covered songs of all time, Chip Taylor – hearing Angel Of The Morning in it’s true glory is one of the things I’m most excited about. We also see veterans Bagatelle who have just celebrated 35 years on the road, return to Irish soil which is going to be second to none, not even a violin. And what is really exceptional about BelNash 2014, is that this year a Nashville based TV show, Music City Roots are making a one hour television special that will be broadcast to millions of Americans through PBS.
So it’s safe to say, 2014 BelNash is going to be exhilarating , unfolding more opportunities for our local songwriters than ever, not only the four fortunate acts that have been selected by Panarts to visit the Music City but for the newcomers, the familiar voices and the stars taking part. To quote Nancy Griffith, “it’s an extraordinary event” and certainly not one you want to miss.
You can read the full programme of events here: Belfast Nashville Songwriters’ Festival 2014 Line-up