Catch Brian Kennedy before Christmas, plus two other local singer-songwriters on the cusp of international acclaim, says Damien Murray
One of Belfast's favourite sons, Brian Kennedy, has lined up a special show at Londonderry's Millennium Forum tomorrow - your last chance to see him this side of Christmas (he has a three-date series of hometown gigs at the Grand Opera House, beginning on Valentine's Night).
The New Year concerts coincide with the February release of Kennedy's forthcoming album, Interpretations, which has been produced by Billy Farrell and Steve Fiachra. Between them they have produced and engineered recordings by artists as diverse as Bono, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello and Westlife.
Comprising more than a dozen songs from legendary names like Cole Porter, Declan O'Rourke, U2 and Clifford T Ward, Interpretations will be preceded by an appetite-whetting single in January.
Kennedy, who alongside a stellar music career has also written two best-selling novels and earned a Doctor of Letters honorary degree from the University of Ulster for his contribution to the arts, has appeared in top venues throughout the world during the past 15 years.
He has also had two successful television series, several radio shows, plus appearances in films, and nine mostly self-penned albums, together with a top-selling DVD under his belt.
Other career highlights have included spending many years with Van Morrison on his Blues & Soul World Tour, performing with such other greats as Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Ray Charles, performing as lead singer in the prestigious Bill Whelan production of Riverdance on Broadway, and for President Bill Clinton in New York, at George Best's Stormont funeral and at the Eurovision Song Contest in Athens as Ireland's representative.
Local singer-songwriter Ben Glover is finally reaping the benefits of many years of hard work and is likely to see his career move quickly on the up-and-up with the release of his first album next year.
Having recently finished the recording of his debut album, The Week The Clocks Changed, in Nashville, Glover has since recorded a session for BBC television's Blackstaff Sessions series to be aired early in the New Year.
Indeed, next year could be 'the year my life changed' for Glover, as his self-financed recording - containing twelve songs, ten of which are Glover's sole compositions and two of which are co-compositions - attracted some industry heavyweights and some of Nashville's finest musicians who all wanted to be part of it.
Produced by renowned producer/musician, JD Foster (Calexico, Richmond Fontaine, Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris), the album naturally features his regular three-piece touring band, The Earls, plus a host of musical luminaries in the studio.
He was joined in the recording by 21-times Grammy award winner, Vince Gill (vocals and mandolin); Mickey Raphael (harmonica) of the Willie Nelson band; Al Perkins (pedal steel), who has played with the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, CSNY and Gram Parsons; Buddy Miller (vocals), a singer-songwriter/guitarist with Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle; Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter, Jim Lauderdale; John Deaderick (piano), who has played with The Dixie Chicks and James Taylor; and Rob Burger (clarinet), who has played with Rufus Wainwright, Norah Jones and Lucinda Williams.
If Glover is the local male most likely to break through, then his female counterpart must be the excellent local performer, Eilidh Patterson, who recently released her debut single to great acclaim.
Catch both artists in intimate surroundings before they become international names at the Rotterdam Bar tomorrow (Ben Glover and The Earls) and on Monday (Eilidh Patterson).