> REVIEW: CLARA BELLINO, “THIS IS HAPPINESS - HAND IN HAND"    - Heidi Drockelman, Indie-Music.com

“What Bellino has managed to do with this set of songs is to show a versatility, deft vocal touch and an attention to detail that shines through every moment of the record.”

Artist: Clara Bellino EP: This Is Happiness - Hand in Hand

Genre: Jazz Pop

RIYL: Aimee Mann, Lisa Loeb, Suzanne Vega

Clara Bellino’s musical genesis is interesting and memorable, and easily translates into a hybrid of classic American songwriting mixed with the romanticism of French jazz and classical roots. It’s an intoxicating and charming mix of old world meets new with a…pardon the pun…French twist. What Bellino has managed to do with this set of songs is to show a versatility, deft vocal touch and an attention to detail that shines through every moment of the record.

Bellino’s catchy “This Is Happiness” kicks things off with a warm, bright, and sunny disposition; it’s pop perfection. What this track does so successfully is grips you in that moment of enlightenment, that moment when you recognize your true and total happiness. It’s lovely, in a word. “Driftwood” clocks in at a mere two minutes, but offers yet another glimpse into the versatility and maturity of Bellino’s work. This short, but very sweet, instrumental track is such an unexpected moment of musicianship that came at just the right moment.

“Hand in Hand” is a Bobby Sharp ballad, and Bellino offers up two very smooth and delightful interpretations on this record. The first is a solo Bellino, with a vocal track that sounds liquid, languid and definitely sets a romantic, old-world tone. The second finds Bellino in a duet with Bobby Sharp himself (who penned the classic “Unchain My Heart”), and the contrast of their voices is such a refreshing blend of experience and tone. There is a vintage quality to the pairing, and sits easily as a modern gem of its own, but stands up to classic duets of the past.

Clara Bellino’s artistry is what rings loud and clear above all of the individual and collectively interesting and unique moments on this record. She has a clear and intuitive understanding of how to meld her upbringing with her own modern experience in the American music scene. She is a unique voice, but the music itself is universal. Both are widely appealing, and Bellino’s infectious personality shines."


“As I’ve never had the opportunity to enjoy the amenities of private island living, I am appreciative of the vicarious experience offered by Clara Bellino’s newest EP.   With a youthful voice that impishly and unabashedly skinny-dips its way through unencumbered – and eclectic - compositions, Clara Bellino is offering her own point of view...no strings attached.

The EP features  “This is Happiness,” penned by Bellino...as well as an interlude titled, “Driftwood”...and a tune originally penned by legendary jazz pianist/composer, Bobby Sharp in 1947. Clara Bellino’s style, a lounge-indie-folk-Europop concoction, is neither an empty-caloried confection, nor a heady round of pontification.  *This* is story-telling. At its best, this is even-tempered, cerebral conversation, punctuated judiciously with light – and very *Parisian* -  smatterings of instrumentation and backing vocals.As in any *polite* conversation, Bellino’s airy voice never interrupts or soars above the music, but wears it like a loose garment...a favorite sweater.  Hers is an ethereal voice that sometimes leaves you wondering whether you are overhearing her thoughts or whether she is telling you a *secret*.  There is “breathing room” between the lyrics . . . dramatic pauses that animate good storytelling. 

While she has, in the past covered tunes by Smokey Robinson, Tom Waits and Marianne Faithful, her stronger work is to be found within her own tunes, and thereby her own experiences.Much as I enjoyed this project, I find myself wishing that “Hand in Hand” had been presented as a “bonus” item; as in comparison to Bellino’s usual work, this piece is an entirely different, yet equally good experience.Bearing in mind the eclecticism and free-spirited independence emanating from her usual work, the vocal on the Sharp piece is entirely different. Vocally and stylistically “Hand in Hand” is artfully delivered as if it were a May/December romance...lending a modern voice to a musical love letter composed over 50 years ago. 

In what can be read as deference, tenderness or tentativeness, Bellino’s vocal conveys a growing trust in another musical voice.Due, in part to the inclusion of Hand in Hand in this project, Clara Bellino has reminded us of her capabilities as a song writer...and introduced us to her talent as a song stylist.  The most important thing this EP has done is make me want to hear the LIVE Clara Bellino experience.Clara Bellino has the disarming quality of sounding like no one in particular yet someone distinctly familiar.  As footloose and fancy-free as contemplation can be, this EP is not your typical ear candy.  This is more like a shell on Clara Bellino’s private beach...one you playfully put to your ear as you rock back on your heels, listen and think, “This is Happiness.” 

- T. L. Murray, Owner, - Jazz-O-Mat Radio