February 2024 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase

The February 2024 showcase took place on February 19th at O’Toole’s. An intimate and attentive crowd attended the event with one patron even seeking out a tip jar!

VOCAL President Matthew Costello opened the accompanied by backing tracks as he is unable to play guitar at this time. Walkin’ Willie is a catchy number many of us can relate to about a bomb-surviving war veteran whose purpose in life seemed to be walking the streets all over the town. Not sure exactly where he needed to be but he was heading there anyway! The Ghosts of Centre Hill is a Petersburg-based story about ghosts inhabiting the house and grounds of this early 19th century mansion. Shadows of September is one of Matthew’s more recent signature tunes that I believe came out his songwriting classes with Harriet Schock. The tune has some beautiful imagery and play on words describing the long shadows of the short days in September.  Get Me Some Happy is the story of curbing a life of excess and taking the correct turn at the crossroads of life, occasionally resulting in “getting’ some happy”! He then delivered The Artist That Hung The Moon, one of his most touching works describing the wonderful artwork of John Atkinson Grimshaw. Missing Planks is a new song containing numerous images of a deteriorating dock observed over time and etched in your memory. The heart pine from a tree was like the branches of a family. Matthew ended his set with Behind the Scenes, a vision from a dream where he seem himself out front on the stage, but there’s a backstage crew making everything happen. Way to go, Matthew!

Russell Lawson took the stage with several of his awesome tunes. Montana Wide recounts the experience of a mission trip to Blackfoot Indian country in 2016. He has numerous vivid images of this breathtaking part of the country along with the spirituality he felt along the way, totally in harmony with the people of Montana. If You Call Now is a love-lost song with the narrator at fault. He knows that she’ll probably never come back to him but he’s leaving the door open in case she has a change in mind. Life Sentence is another love-lost number about being locked up without her love with no parole/visitors and having to spend this grueling life knowing what might have been. Russell then brought us Hallow Ground, a haunting yet beautiful tale born from attending a memorial service in Hollywood Cemetery. Wheatland is a tranquil spiritual story about departing this earthly world and looking down upon the serene river property on your way to Heaven. The grieving hearts will eventually find peace knowing you’ve found freedom in your beautiful resting place. High Road and Low describes the life of attempting to take the high road most of the time but inevitably falling down along the way – now that we’re here on this mountaintop with family and friends we’re back on the High Road! Ol’ Jack and Daddy is an interesting tale of Daddy’s love for Jack Daniels that made him run away from the family. He did have the decency to leave a note in an empty whiskey bottle along with a check for Mom to use for the kids! He then performed Charleston, an ode to his hometown in South Carolina that included vivid imagery of this beautiful country. He demonstrated some mighty fine whistling on this number! Penguin Blues is a “cool” tune that took flight when he was helping his son with a school project related to Antarctica. All I eat is fish, gotta go with the floe, etc. Wayne and Maggie’s Grill is a signature Russell tune that came from a dream. It’s a nostalgic view of an old truck diner that was torn down to build an interstate highway. Many great memories remain of its heyday when great food was being served and nightly live entertainment was held. RIP Wayne and Maggie’s Grill! Great job, Russell!

Showcase Photos

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Photo Credits: Matthew Costello and John Ellis