Singers of Distinction 2013 – reviews

Singer Nate Swettenham

Reviews of the Singers of Distinction 2013

The final show of the 2013 series was held on Wednesday 21st August. The series has finished for this year. We are now inviting comments on the 2013 series as a whole – so please give us your feedback.

Scroll down for reviews, photos and videos  of each night.

Read our overview of the 2013 Singers of Dististinction.

Download biographies for all the artists who have performed at these shows:

Singers of Distinction Artist biogs for July 7th

Singers of Distinction Artist biogs for July 10th

Singers of Distinction Artist biogs for July 21st

Singers of Distinction Artist biogs for 24th July

Singers of Distinction Artist biogs for 14th August

Singers of Distinction Artist biogs for 21st August

Reviews are in descending order

Wednesday 21st August

Photos from the show

Photos and videos by © Kevin Gaughan.

Nancy Dawkins

Nancy Dawkins is a singer-songwriter from Leicester.  “Nancy Dawkins… her voice is to die for and her writing craft is phenomenal” (Dean Jackson, BBC Radio, quoted in The Monograph, Nov 2011.) Her debut single Smoke/Inadequate was released in June 2011 and is already getting regular radio plays, including on BBC Radio 2′s Steve Lamacq show. Tonight, Nancy’s velvety voice filled the room with the sumptuous sounds of her songs … a voice with a rich sonority and sparkling vocal technique, backed by intricate guitar picking and striking lyrics that are full of imagery. An outstanding song writer, Nancy’s set, comprising mainly her own original songs but with a cover,  delighted the audience. You can find songs by Nancy Dawkins on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon. Her song Poison is available on Vinyl and CD.

Watch this video of Nancy Dawkins performing at tonight’s show and another video

Visit Nancy Dawkin’s website.

The Skunk Boy Project

Singer Nate Swettenham

Singer Nate Swettenham

Singer and song writer Nate Swettenham has established himself as a popular and much-admired artist on the Leicester music scene. The Melton Mowbray based singer opened with his hall-mark Ukulele. An artist of outstanding originality, Nate captivated the audience with his unusual music style and ear-pleasing songs. Nate’s career has gone from strength to strength as recognition of his musical talents has grown. Nate played at the Summer Sundae festival in 2012, has appeared on Dean Jackson’s The Beat programme and in the UnPlugged series of shows for vocalists; he has been aptly described as ‘a little bit of musical sunshine.’

His distinctive and original songs are in a niche not occupied by many other artists.  Nate’s rich voice and lyrics imbued with humour made his performance immediate and enjoyable, laden with charm. Nate performed Dear Lord, “… a conversation with God” with its jaunty melody and memorable chorus Lord Make My Life Easy –  to which God replies with wisdom, making  this one of Nate’s remarkable songs. Moving over to the keyboard, Nate demonstrated his impressive musical talents, delivering some of his “love songs and anti-love songs” and finishing with “a song I wrote this morning.”  Brilliant.

You can hear some of The Skunk Boy Project’s songs on Soundcloud.

Follow The Skunk Boy Project on Facebook.

Carlos Stein

Three years ago, Carlos Stein made his music debut in this very venue. Since, then this highly unusual and iconic artist has attracted a wide audience from Leicester’s music scene.  Opening with his song New Age Highwayman,  the writer of satirical lyrics and one-man-band, launched into his repertoire that has established him as the avant-garde of alternative music. Deftly working a bewildering array of pedal loops with consummate ease, Carlos sang about a life With or Without Drugs and alcohol,   before launching into two of the songs that have attracted an appreciative following – Big Fat Bankers and Fast Food. Carlos has produced a range of EPs and albums over the past three years and you will not find much that is remotely similar. Carlos is at his most invective when taking on the failings of the establishment but he is not beyond tackling the weaknesses of everyday folk, as he does in his song about cyclists kicking cars or a slovenly lodger who will not go away.  With his holster of harmonics, Carlos also demonstrated that he is one of the most remarkable exponents of this instrument.

Watch Carlos Stein performing Big Fat Funky Dub | and Bad Boys |

Follow Carlos Stein on Facebook.

The Simpletones

The Simpletones at Singers of Distinction

The Simpletones at Singers of Distinction

Introducing The Simpletones, the announcer said “I have lost count how many times I have seen them, but every time I can’t wait to see them again.” Every time you see a set by The Simpletones, they do something new, alongside delivering some of their much-loved numbers, like Brown Eyed Girl. The four singers have put themselves into the forefront of harmony in the local area and also have won themselves a place in the national ranking for Barbershop. The Simpletones is one of the defining acts of the Leicester music scene in 2013, a group that has  brought the vibrant delights of this vocal tradition to their home town in a way that is unrivaled by any others.

On stage they are  not only incredibly good singers but also a very amusing and entertaining bunch of guys.  At one point they abandoned their microphones at the performance end of the room and took up their positions on a vacant sofa, still singing impeccably; walking through the audience, singing in the middle of room, their harmonisation was perfect and sounded equally as good when totally ‘unplugged.’

They introduced a new item into their repertoire when they sang Bastille’s Pompeii,  ‘… and the walls kept tumbling down/in the city that we love’, before going into one of their most-loved numbers, Sting’s Englishman in New York.

The Simpletones were on top form tonight, delivering an impressive performance of totally enjoyable music, with technical wizardly and a plentiful helping of good humour. Watch out for their new single, coming out soon. Magic.

Watch a video of The Simpletones performing at tonight’s show.

Follow The Simpletones on Facebook.

Samuel Hutchinson

Singer Sam Hutchinson opened with one of my favourite songs from his collection –  Only Yesterday –  with its lovely lilting melody and engaging words. With his  highly pleasing voice and cool style, Sam sang beautifully, capturing mood and emotion with considerable finesse; his songs are full of richly woven chords and colours, threading together dark, bright and shimmering vocal lines into  cloth of ear-pleasing delights.

Flashback, Sam Hutchinson performing in July 2011

Sam is blessed with one of the finest male voices you can hear in our local cadre of singers. What he does with it, is to deploy it as a finely tuned instrument. Backing his singing with able guitar playing, he can deliver a set of transportingly lovely pieces of music – Arts in Leicester magazine.

Follow Sam Hutchinson on Facebook.

You can hear some of Sam Hutchinson’s songs on his Myspace page.

Watch a video of Sam Hutchinson performing at tonight’s show.

Alex Van Roose

Alex Van Roose at Singers of Distinction

Alex Van Roose at Singers of Distinction

The evening was ably closed off by the up-beat set of indie songs from singer and songwriter Alex Van Roose who bounced off his set with a foot-tapping opener.  Having received plaudits from the likes of Huw Stevens, Zane Lowe and  Jo Whiley, Alex has dominated the band song scene in Leicester for several years.  His abilities as a solo artist are less known but no less significant, and Alex’s bright and sparky performance, of some of his own songs and covers,  showed how he is s singer with a sound of his own. “Let’s have a sing song”, he chirped as he revved up the audience before going on to leading them  in the Monkee’s I’m a believer.  Alex sang one of Midnight Wire’s songs: Excuses, getting the room involved in the choruses. What we  saw tonight was ‘Rooster’ the entertainer.  Whether leading people in The Stroke’s Last Nite or Midnight Wire’s Wait for me, Alex shows he can work a crowd. It was a wonderful ending to a night of very fine quality music and the last song in this year’s series of Singers of Distinction.

Follow Alex Van Roose on Facebook | and Midnight Wire

Watch a video of Alex Van Roose performing at tonight’s show.

How to sum up tonight?  Might I borrow a couple of lines from the great Jon Landau:  ‘For every moment I remember there are a dozen I’ve forgotten, but I feel  like they are with me on a night like this, a permanent part of my  consciousness, a feeling lost on my mind but never on my soul. And then  there are those individual experiences so transcendent that I can remember  them as if they happened yesterday: ‘ and here there are several I can list and the performances of Alex Van Roose, The Simpletones, Steve Faulkner, Nuala and Leo Kai would be among them.

Read our overview of the 2013 series.

Wednesday 14th August

Photos of tonight’s artists

Photos  © Kevin Gaughan
Aaron Stratton

Coldplay’s Yellow was the song chosen by young singer Aaron Stratton to open his set at the start of the show. Aaron is a  singer who has appeared regularly at shows and open-mic nights in Leicester and at county venues; he has also been a lead vocalist in a band and is one of the most promising vocalists of his age-group. Other songs in tonight’s set-list included those by Mumford & Sons, Linkin Park, Two Door Cinema Club and Snow Patrol. Using plenty of expression and feeling, Aaron delivered his songs confidently with good articulation and inflexion, being able to capture both sensitivity and power  where it was needed.

Watch a video of Aaron Stratton performing at this show.

Follow Aaron Stratton on Facebook.

Leo Kai

We first saw Leo Kai at the obsUnplugged earlier this year when he particularly impressed us with his interpretation of Maroon Five’s PayPhone, a song that he performed again tonight.  An artist with a strong presence, Leo delivered a sensationally good set which wow’d the room.  Backing himself on the guitar with  intricate picking of his strings, Leo also demonstrated the range and power of his vocal abilities.  Leo has recently released an EP details of which are on his Facebook page. Whether singing his own songs or his personal takes on covers.   Leo comes across as an engaging and highly talented artist;  his set was described to me,  by one of the industry reps,  as “brilliant.”

Watch a video of Leo Kai performing at this show.

Follow LeoKai on Facebook.

Rosie Doyle

Singer and songwriter Rosie Doyle is a well-known artist on the Leicester circuits and despite her rather “croaky voice” tonight,  she delivered a delightful set of songs;  as she said “… just drink wine and get on with it.”  Offering an engaging set of songs, accompanied by intricate string work,  Rosie’s set  conveyed plenty of feeling in a performance that was characterful and consistently enchanting, her lyrics eloquent and her stage manner relaxed and confident.

Watch a video of Rosie Doyle performing at this show.

Follow Rosie Doyle on Facebook.


Nuala at Singers of Distinction

Nuala at Singers of Distinction

Singer, songwriter Nuala appeared in the last year’s Singers of Distinction series but has made such considerable progress in her career that we were pleased to see her return to this year’s series.  As soon as Nuala started her set,  the difference in her style was apparent; her remarkable voice was impressively powerful and her songs had impact and immediacy.  Nuala’s selection of original songs and covers made for an enjoyable performance and,  accompanied by skillful string-work on the guitar,  it was altogether a very remarkable performance. Nuala has an EP coming out soon.

Watch a video of Nuala performing at the show.

Follow Nuala on Facebook.

Steve Faulkner

An established and well known singer, Steve Faulkner had been a front man in a rock band, before launching his career as a solo artist. Performing a set of his own songs and a cover, Steve delivered an exhilarating set, demonstrating his incredibly powerful voice and immense capacity for emotion and expression.  Steve sang a song from his albums Breakaway and  Jigsaw Man, details of which are on Spotify and his Facebook page. Tonight Steve demonstrated both his skills as a talented songwriter and as a vocalist and guitar player, in a performance that sparkled with energy, passion and drama . Steve delighted the audience with his own version of Billie Jean, which is always a great pleasure to witness and always impressive in the depth and originality of its interpretation.

Watch a video of Steve Faulkner performing at the show | and another one.

Follow Steve Faulkner on Facebook.

Chikka Moyo

Bringing tonight’s show to a close, Chikka Moyo brought per sumptuous voice to the microphone and gave a set of songs that had immediate appeal. Chikka sang a song from her up-coming EP, wielding her voice with subtlety and strength. Having opened with a cover from Fleetwood Mac, Chikka delivered upbeat and vibrant songs from her forthcoming album Flames and her individual renditions of cover songs from her favourite artists.

Follow Chikka Moyo on Facebook.

Altogether a night of impressive singing and musical skill.

Wednesday 24th July

Pictures of tonight’s artists

Photos  © Kevin Gaughan

What a great night!  The music was massively good and quite a few people turned up to enjoy some of the best vocalists in Leicester/shire.

The night was launched by Liv Armon, accompanied by guitarist Olly Stabler.  Both of them are in the Leicester band Satellite Empire. Liv started the set-list with an upbeat and vibrant song from the band’s EP. Armon’s finely toned voice was a joy to listen too and she sang with plenty of expression. With a varied set of songs, Liv’s set was strongly appreciated by those in the room who loved the good performance and highly enjoyable singing. Follow Liv Armon on Facebook and Satellite Empire.

Liv Armon accompanied by Olly Stabler: Watch their performance on Youtube

Liv Armon at Singers of Distinction

Liv Armon at Singers of Distinction

R ‘n B singer Matthew Richards started his set by covering Labrinth’s Earthquake.  Richards has been a successful recording artist for some time, now being signed to Mor Music Group. Accompanied by guitarist Darren Moulds (Velocity band),  Richards delivered a vibrant and very enjoyable set of songs, displaying his richly timbred vocals and engaging sense of rhythm.  Strong on vocal technique, his set drew an enthusiastic response from the audience. Follow Matthew Richards on Facebook

Matthew Richards accompanied by Darren Moulds: Watch his performance on Youtube

It was gratifying to see singer, songwriter Ash Francis take to the stage because he has been busy with other things of late and his performances have been few and far between. His set of own songs and covers demonstrated his very listenable voice.  Francis started his set with his own song World on my Shoulders, a resoundingly good start which was followed by some impressive interpretations of covers and solidly skilled guitar playing. Francis knows how to select just the right covers to suit his voice and style of singing. He finished with a cover by Fleetwood Mac.  Follow Ash Francis on Facebook.

Ashley Francis: Watch his performance on Youtube

The duo Binge and Bates, singer Andy Bates and guitarist David Binge, kept the mojo of the night going with a set of well performed and thoroughly enjoyable songs. Bate’s strong and characterful voice had plenty of resonance and their set had many compelling, foot-tapping numbers that wow’d the audience. Their cover of a Radiohead song was particularly notable and gave Bates a chance to demonstrate the extraordinary range of his voice. They got the audience clapping along to one of their songs and ended to an enthusiastic ovation from the crowd. Follow Binge and Bates on Facebook.

Binge and Bates:  Watch their performance on Youtube

The night was roundly completed by James Byron Norval, whose set was delivered with considerable colour and style.  Singing some of his own songs, Norval  showed everyone what a fantastic voice he has and how he can pump out plenty of mood and emotion.  Norval concluded his set with his take on Jancice Joplin’s Cry Baby. Follow James Byron Norval on Facebook.

James Byron Norval: Watch his performance on Youtube

Sunday 21st July

Pictures of tonight’s artists

Nile McGregor

Singer and songwriter Nile McGreggor launched his set with a resounding opening number, delivering his songs with plenty of style and character.  Nile was an engaging singer with an attention-grabbing set of songs.  Nile brings himself to the microphone – what we see and hear is the character and person behind the mic-stand.

Watch Nile McGreggor performing on Takeover Radio | Follow Nile McGregor on Facebook.

Theo Miller

Theo Miller is a another song writer with a  talent for lyricism; his lyrics tell a story and he delivers them with style and feeling. His words have depth, particularly Anatomically and Lulaby, which “is about waking up next to someone.”  In the intimate setting of the Exchange bar, it was easy to see the person behind the songs and to  really hear them.  Theo’s songs have an intimacy and delicacy that weave enchantment.  Flat Line was a song that he sang at his performance at the Riverside festival, earlier this year. It was clear that he really enjoyed performing his songs. Theo is an established artist with a strong track record of live work and has a knack of painting striking images with his lyrics.

Follow Theo Miller on Facebook.

Becky Edwards

The beautiful guitar picking of Becky Edwards, combined with her wonderfully clear voice were used with skill to bring her vocal crafts to the audience.  Her pitch perfect voice had an amazing range as she reached astonishingly high notes.  At times enchanting, at others upbeat and uplifting, Becky came with no shortage of spell-binding material.

Follow Becky Edwards on Facebook.


Wednesday 10th July

Artists from tonight’s show

Photos © by Kevin Gaughan

Dan Wright

Dan Wright at Singers of Distinction

At our second show Dan Wright opened the evening with a set of his own songs, delivering them in a strong, clear voice using a range of techniques. His songs were upbeat and vibrant, good on attack and impact. Singing with commitment, Wright articulated his lyrics clearly and used his voice to good effect. If he had a weakness then it was that he rarely looked directly at the audience – it’s the eye contact that makes the connection.

Watch Dan Wright performing one of his songs at tonight’s show (video by Kevin Gaughan)

Follow Dan Wright on Facebook

Beth Ellen Pearce

Beth Pearce at Singers of Distinction

Sixteen year old Beth Pearce was the youngest artists to appear so far but he performance was impressive.  Her strong clear voice was used with plenty of effect to deliver a confident performance and Pearce showed that she could command a range of vocal techniques.  There is clearly a lot of talent here and we will watch her future career with interest.

Watch Beth Pearce performing at tonight’s show (video by Kevin Gaughan)

Follow Beth Pearce on Facebook

Ian Bourne

Ian Bourne at Singers of Distinction

An experienced singer, Ian Bourne is someone we have seen several times before, including his recent appearance at the Hinckley Music festival. With his extensive repertoire of songs and experienced stage presence, Bourne delivered a highly enjoyable set of his own songs and covers. His song about Zombies (sung from their point of view) reveals his sense of humour and was saw how he could easily connect with his audience and draw them in to his performance.

Watch Ian Bourne performing one of his songs at the show tonight (video by Kevin Gaughan)

Follow Ian Bourne on Facebook

jonezy rapper

Rapper Jonezy at Singers of Distinction

The first rap artist to appear on these shows, Jonezy gave us one of his animated performances, articulating his own original songs in which he delivered strong stage craft.  As an act Jonezy stood out because he goes down well with a crowd of up to 1000 people as well as he did tonight in a small room. Jonezy is a show-man, an act, someone who always makes a lot of effort to pull people in, to connect with them throughout his performance; he plays to the crowd, he lived his lyrics, his act is a piece of musical theatre. He not so much sings his pieces as acts them. Including him in a series called Singers of Distinction was a challenging decision and Jones would be first to admit that he isn’t much of a singer but, even so, his set tonight was enjoyable and he demonstrated something vital about the art of solo performance in music – presence.

Watch this video of Jonezy performing at the show tonight (by Kevin Gaughan)

Follow Jonezy on Facebook

Rhett Barrow

Rhett Barrow at Singers of Distinction

There are few song-writers in Leicester to equal Rhett Barrow; his powers of song-writing are legendary. If anyone is a singer of distinction – Barrow certainly is. On stage we see the person behind the song, we see character.  What brings the music to us is, with Barrow as much as with Jonezy, the personality behind the mic.  Some of his songs are amongst the most memorable you will have heard on the Leicester music scene. His lyrics are strikingly meaningful and his melodies sticky – they stay in the head. Barrow is incomparable.

Follow Rhett Barrow on Facebook

Scroll down for earlier dates

Sunday 7th July

Our series of show launched at the Exchange Bar tonight with three artists:  Meri Everitt, Ravel Lumba and Samuel Idwal

Meri Everitt


Meri Everitt

Meri Everett at Singers of Distinction

Meri is a singer and songwriter who also performs with her band Flying Kagaroo Alliance. Meri was brought up by folk musician parents and started writing songs at the age of nine. She is currently based in Leicester and won 1st place in the 2009 Leicestershire sunflower songwriting competition, more recording time and the opening show at ‘The Big Session’ folk festival. She has also had the track ‘Lonely’ remixed by UK hardcore legend DJ Sy which hit No.2 in the UK Hardcore charts and was played on BBC Radio 1.

See Meri Everett on Facebook

Ravel Lumba

Ravel Lumba

Ravel Lumba at Singers of Distinction

Ravel Lumba lives in Leicester. Earlier this year he performed at The Riverside festival and is set to appear at Strawberry Fields festival later this year. His quirky songs marked him out when we saw him perform earlier this year at The Looking Glass. ‘… this vibrant singer delivered his songs with great articulation and plenty of style. A Dylan-esq style at times, his idiosyncratic last song was about a fish in a fridge! Marinate Me was an amusing but bitter-sweet song that showed off Ravel’s individuality as a song writer {Arts in Leicester)

Ravel Lumba on Facebook

Samuel Idwal

samuel idwal

Samuel Idwal at Singers of Distinction

Sam Jones (stage name Samuel Idwal) is a singer and songwriter who now lives in Leicester but was previously in Durham where he was at University. Sam has tracks up now and has performed several times at live events in Leicester and has been broadcast on local radio.  Since moving to Leicester three months back, Samuel has been putting his Ancient History degree to grand use by whole-heartedly pursuing his music and avoiding paying Student Loans a penny, focusing instead on writing and performing intricate and balanced folk-influenced songs.

Samuel Idwal on Facebook

See also:

Singers of Distinction main page