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Songwriters Showcase February 2008

It is a time for celebration as VOCAL prepares for the 200th consecutive showcase in March 2008.  And what better way to get ready for this milestone than to celebrate a great songwriter’s personal milestone!  Long time VOCAL member Jim Uzel held his CD release performance at the TapHouse Grill for VOCAL’s monthly songwriters showcase.  Jim completed work on his most recent collection of songs entitled 13 Stories and shared CD’s with everyone in attendance.

VOCAL is very proud to be hosted for over two years by Richbrau’s TapHouse grill.  Every third Monday of the month join VOCAL at the TapHouse for live, original music by the artist who wrote the songs and for good food, fine home brewed beverages and the company of great people.  It’s a fun, relaxed atmosphere at the Showcase - come join us!!

Preparing the Showcase crowd for the big event was a VOCAL member who is a fine songwriter and musician.  Frank Lucas put on a twenty minute set of his creations including ‘Once In A Blue Moon’ which has a jazz bend to it that was emphasized by Gary Shaver’s clarinet work.  The opening song ‘Chance at a Holiday Inn’ was a light hearted song that was filled out with Gary Shaver’s back up vocals.    In the span of his Showcase set, Frank’s instrumentation had touches of blues, jazz and rock adding musical spice to his own unique style of songwriting.  The set closed with ‘What Did Uncle Joe Know’ a song with a bit of humor to it and a good toe tapper!

The night’s headliner, Jim U (as he goes by on the CD) enticed the crowd first with the distribution of his new release 13 Stories.  As with all things Jim does, the CD is a very well prepared recording and well presented package.  The CD artwork is an eye catching photograph with an ‘in session’ photo on the back of Jim recording his music.

The first song ‘Standing in the Shadow of the Sun’ is a rock song with lyrics by Sarah Uzel, Jim’s daughter.  It has a great rhythmic rock quality somewhat reminiscent of Neil Young’s electric rock in the sense that it’s not heavy metal, but it does have a bold, definite, steady driving kind of sound.  The lyrics are poetic, yet bold with the refrain “standing in the shadow of the sun, between the darkness and the light”, I very much enjoyed this rock excursion.

‘Sounds with More Power’ is a more laid back melodic song that includes a nice lead guitar on the recorded version, weaving melody through the length of the song.  In ‘Just Takes One’ Jim contemplates how one person would deal with some of the historic tragedies that have resulted from racism and how an individual’s actions can make a difference for better or worse in these moments.

‘Take My Blues Away’ and ‘100 Love Songs’ demonstrated Jim’s take on the love song.  Tim Stanton joined in on steel guitar for ‘Take My Blues Away’.  Gary Shaver, the man of a 1,000 sounds, added bass notes from the keyboard and Frank Lucas contributed lead guitar on ‘100 Love Songs’.  ‘FACE of the Earth’ is Jim’s reflection on searching for a friend from years ago through Google and other Internet tools, until he was finally able to track the friend down.

Throughout the night Jim had his fellow musicians join him on stage.  Gary Shaver contributed synthesized bass notes to several songs, synthesized strings on ‘When a Sparrow Dies’, saxophone on ‘Spirits in the Rain’ and even synthesized accordion on ‘Wonders’.  Frank Lucas provided lead or rhythm guitar on several songs and, for many of the songs, backing vocals.  Tim Stanton’s pedal steel guitar was utilized on ‘Take My Blues Away’ and ‘No More Goodbye’.  Gary Shaver was also the writer for ‘No More Goodbye’, which Jim has included as a cover song on 13 Stories.

The featured performance set was closed with ‘Iron and Rust’ with Frank Lucas on guitar and Gary Shaver providing piano and backing vocals.  An encore performance of ‘Midnight’s Ours’ was presented for the final song of the evening.

Many people contribute to a successful Showcase each month.  Thanks goes out to Larry Cody who printed the Showcase table tent cards, John Ellis for organizing performers and providing sound services, and Matthew Costello for promoting the Showcase on the VOCAL website.  Matthew also serves as photographer many times, then incorporates the photographs in VOCAL’s web page.  Thanks to a superb crowd who showed up in support of our songwriters and to the Showcase songwriters for putting on such a fine display of VOCAL talent.  We’ll see you next month!

- John Ellis