June 2024 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase

O’Toole’s was packed for the June 17, 2024 VOCAL Showcase featuring songwriters Dave Drouillard and Norman Roscher.  Dave started the evening off with his solo set, and, after a short break, Norman performed solo and then alongside his band Norman and the Clackwells.


Dave Drouillard

Dave opened with a lovely mandolin instrumental called “Grandma Betty’s Waltz”, which he wrote three years ago for his mother.  Next was a new song named “Hymn to the Crooked Road” which he wrote as part of a writer’s project for The Crooked Road, Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail in Abingdon, VA.  Then, Dave shifted to his six-string guitar and finger-picked his song “Angel in High Heels”, about a young woman who came to Boston to study law and “defended the lowest…before a judge…an angel in high heels…country music her delight”.

Dave continued with “Walk Away From My Door”, a song about the Dust Bowl he wrote 60 years ago when he was 14 years old, trying to imitate Woody Guthrie.  Lyrics included “…We came out west to work the land, we found America together hand in hand, but now the dream has turned to dust, the well is dry the plow is rust.”  “Robin’s Song” followed, an Appalachian folk tale Dave wrote for his wife Robin, including “…and I love you forever like grapes on an endless vine.”

Dave, in white collared shirt and blue jeans, and grey-speckled hair and beard, switched to a Roland keyboard for his next song, “After The Buffalo”.  He wrote this around the time of the Kent State Shootings, which occurred at Kent State University in Ohio in May 1970 at a rally opposing the Vietnam War.  Four students were killed and many wounded.  “You cannot understand why it haunts me so…” he sang of that tragic time.

Dave finished his set with an inspirational, moving song written by fellow VOCAL member Glen King, entitled “Walking in The Light”.  At the keyboard, playing with purposeful intent and with strong vocals, Dave sang:  “I do not tremble, when I see a cloud.  I feel no panic in a gathering storm…I am walking in the light, in the light of Jesus.  I am walking where shadows fear to go.”  Dave’s set was well-received by the appreciative crowd.


Norman Roscher

Norman walked onstage in striking visual style, with multi-colored top hat, jacket and tie, his long hair tucked neatly under his hat, along with his full, flowing beard.  He played a KORG keyboard for his first song, entitled “Heaven”, and sang “…If I should ever get to heaven, it won’t be because I lived a holy life…”.  The song continued that maybe he drank too much whiskey or loved too many girls, but that he could only be himself.  A bouncy vocal interlude of “bump, bump, bump” got the audience singing along.

It has been said you can identify a great artist immediately upon hearing them.  Norman is one of those artists.  Top hat or not, when you hear Norman, you know it’s Norman.  The gravelly growl, calliope piano sound and brilliant costumes harken back to vaudeville and make Norman a one-of-a-kind musician and singer/songwriter.

He introduced his next song “I’m A Fool” as a slow one, and it had strong chords and a boogie rhythm.  “I’m just a simple man….but I’m a fool” he sang, playing quick runs up the keyboard.  Next was “So Long Baby”, a toe-tappin’ composition Norman wrote in the 1970’s.  He was joined onstage by Charlotte, and, one of Norman and Charlotte’s three daughters, Deanna, who both provided background vocals.

“I Think I’m Going to Take My Baby Dancin’” followed, a jumpy tune written by VOCAL’s Bill Wellons, one of Norman’s favorite local songwriters.  “She’s got no rhythm, but she don’t care….well, I’ve never been a Fred Astaire.”  The O’Toole’s crowd sang along at the end, “Tonight!...tonight!”

The beautiful “Waiting for the Moon” included vocal harmonies from Deanna and Norman’s youngest daughter Melody (Mel).  Norman recalls recording the song with musical partner Glenn Habel in the 1990’s for Dog’s New Clothes first real CD.  Mel, just 11 years old at the time, was in the studio as they worked on it.  As he sang, Norman showed his proficiency on the keyboard with almost chime-line sounds, and ended the song by telling the audience “Singing with my daughters is the greatest high.”

Norman said he started writing songs when he transferred from John Tyler Community College to VCU in 1970.  He continued his set by strapping on his guitar and bringing up The Clackwells, whose lineup is: Eliza Brill (Slinky Clackwell) on vocals and washboard; her husband, Evan Esche (Stinky Clackwell) on vocals, fiddle and bass; Deanna Lorianni (Blinky Clackwell) on vocals and percussion; and Christie Wright (Pistol Clackwell) on Drums.

The Clackwells first song carried forward the distinctive tongue-in-cheek Roscher style, the lively “Dr. (Doctor)” with the lyrics “I liked to play doctor, because at doctor I was best…” and later “…I found what I was looking for, so I don’t play doctor anymore….”  The rollicking “You, Me and Baby” followed, a song Norman wrote for his kids, which featured great vocal backup from the Clackwells.  Then “Sweet Nector”, a song about an imaginary pot farm, and also “You’re Beautiful”, a song encouraging the listener to say you’re beautiful when you wake up, which featured a jaunty “call and response” between the band and the audience.

Norman dedicated his next song “The Hat” to his young grandson Cyrus, who was in the audience with Norman’s family.  Lyrics included “I live in my hat…..my hat is the perfect place to be.”   Norman then brought up VOCAL member and Spectrum band’s Gary Shaver (The Blade), who added his saxophone to “Roamin’ Eyes”.   Gary, in Hawaiian shirt and shorts, blew notes up the scales, eyes closed as his smooth, rich sax sounds reached soaring heights.  Norman said the song was almost 40 years old and originally arranged and produced by Richmond’s music legend Bruce Olsen.

Norman then thanked the large crowd for coming out, and introduced the Clackwells’ last tune, the love song “Within Your Eyes”.  After they finished, the large crowd insisted on an encore, which they obliged with the “Clackwell Theme”, a hilarious fictional history of the Norman and The Clackwells Band, with the mom as a lady wrestler who “….learned to play the washboard doing laundry all the time…” and “If you don’t like their music, I guess you’ll leave the room.”  But the real finale and show stopper was Norman’s quintessential song “Boobs”, “…shoo-ba-dee-do…” about a man’s live-long love, obsession and devotion.

A fine night of music, iced-tea, onion-rings, dark and light beers, and friends.

Showcase Photos

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Photo Credits: Matthew Costello


June 2023 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase

There was a nice, boisterous crowd gathered at O'Tooles Monday night, June 19th for our monthly Songwriters Showcase, and like the month before, we experienced a few growing pains. Specifically, we were scheduled for three performers, but due to "technical difficulties", we ended up with two. We hope to have this particular glitch figured out moving forward, but as the saying goes, "the show must go on". So we did!

Our first performer was Dave Drouillard, a singer/songwriter with a folk troubadour style that was melodic at times, tender at others, and always a joy to listen to. His set started out with a medley of three songs woven one into the other -  "Untitled", evoking personal images of home; "Get Down Sister", a love story that wafted through the venue with a Travis-picking beat; and "Robinsong", with a tender intro that morphed into a straight ahead country feel, with nice tempo variations and an affinity for "screw-top wine". After a breath, Dave continued with a self-described "Deuteronomy set to music" offering entitled "St Raphael". Dave ended his set with "Voyager", with a haunting melody, minor chord progressions, and visions of raven hair. Dave handled a less than attentive crowd well, and we look forward to hearing more from Dave in the future.

Our next performer, Doug Patrick, suddenly found himself in the featured songwriter slot, and handled it with all the grace and ease we've come to expect. Out of the six song set list Doug handed me before his set, he played nine, including two or three he kept in his back pocket, just in case. If you give him a nice chair, a front porch, and a tuned-up guitar, it's this writer's opinion there's not much that would phase Doug!

Doug's set contained some familiar favorites as well as a few surprises…

  • "Special Place In Heaven" - a love song for the one who's been most patient with the performer
  • "Molly" - an ode to the struggles and loves of the Civil War
  • "One Lone Georgia Pine" - a tribute to a Civil War ere relative
  • "Til The Boys Come Home Again" - a haunting Civil War era melody with guest vocalist/collaborator Kelly Kennedy joining Doug on stage.
  • "Full-Time Love" - a quirky love song lamenting a 2nd fiddle status
  • Granddaddy's Knee - a tribute to the beloved patriarch of the family and the life lessons he imparted
  • "Getaway" - a Doug Patrick classic, re-envisioned, with Kelly Kennedy once again singing harmony
  • "I'll Hold You As Long As I Can" - grandchildren and family roots run deep in this song
  • "Leave It Like We Found It" - a timely plea for Mother Earth

Congratulations to Doug Patrick and Dave Drouillard for a wonderful night of music at O'Tooles on Forest Hill Avenue, and for helping VOCAL as we slowly but surely find our way back to normal. Until next month…!


Showcase Photos

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