Archive for February, 2009

VOCAL Showcase February 2009

It was a fantastic winter night February 16, 2009 as we settled into the warm, inviting atmosphere of the showcase venue.  As the showcase counter flipped over to 211, we ordered our meals, shared thoughts on songwriting over drinks and readied ourselves for the musical experience that was unfolding.  VOCAL re-introduced a newer member to the showcase stage, James Lester, who is a great blues picker and a fine songwriter.  VOCAL also welcomed back a steadfast musician who is a gifted poet and always a fine performer, Gerry Laverty.

It seem like just yesterday that VOCAL held its first showcase performance at Richbrau’s TapHouse, but it has been about three years now that the live music event has been hosted by the TapHouse.  Join us every third Monday of the month at 1212 East Cary Street, in Shockoe Slip, for live music, great food and a welcoming staff.  Thanks to the management of Richbrau for continuing to support live, original music in Virginia.

Many styles of blues music were on display in our first set, when James Lester took the stage to show his skills with the pen and the guitar.  The set included instrumentals and songs that dabbled in the blues and country genres.  James warmed the crowd with three instrumentals including ‘Almost Blues’ and ‘Rugged Cross Blues’ showed his abilities with finger-style blues music.  The timely and widely applicable ‘Why I Sing the Blues’ gave everyone something to relate to – “…because times are hard…”, “…depressed watching the news…” and “…laid off…” were some of the reasons to sing along to this great blues tune.  James said ‘Whatever Makes You Happy’ before he spoke his mind on ‘All About Money’.

James’ song ‘Circus Blues’ reminded me a bit of the bluegrass guitar style, with fast, alternating flat picking and strumming.  And the blues/country themes were present in this song with the line “That clowns’ been knockin’ at her door”.  ‘I Like Your Love’ was a little bit rock-a-billy to my ear.  The song ‘W Blues’ had a political theme and a bit of reflection on a past presidency.  James wrapped it all up with ‘Lame Pony Blues’.  Thanks to James for sharing his music and giving us a great variety of styles in his set.  We look forward to a quick return from this artist!  Gerry Laverty found James’ blues so compelling, he dubbed him ‘Little Jimmy Lester’. 

It was great to have Gerry Laverty back to present his poetic lyrics and fine fingerwork in the folk style.  Gerry started off with ‘By the Blood of the Nazarine’.  He introduced some new material ‘Delta’ written on a train from Richmond to Seattle – thanks to Gerry for introducing this great new song.  It was a welcome sound to my ears to hear Gerry perform a fan favorite ‘Lonesome Blue Eyes’ which is a wonderful blend of emotion and harmony.  Another favorite of mine and a powerful folk song addressing the problems revealed during the hurricane Katrina disaster was ‘Details of Catastrophe’.

Gerry delivered his own dose of the blues, a song for the insomniac, ‘Blues in the Night’.  Gerry’s guitar was ringing out with sweet blues tones in a slow and easy riff.  The set closed out with ‘Jerusalem’ and another Laverty classic ‘Zion Crossroads’ about a mysterious red haired lady at a mysterious location in Central Virginia.

Thanks to our performers for presenting a great evening of live, original music!  Each showcase is pulled together by a team of volunteers – special thanks to Matt Manion for sound services, Larry Cody for announcing our performers with his table tent cards, Matthew Costello for web services and John Ellis for sitting in as MC.  Thanks to you for supporting our performers and visiting our website.  See you next month!

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VOCAL Showcase January 2009

The showcase counter turned to 210 as the VOCAL members prepared the stage sound for the monthly installment of live, original music in Central Virginia.  The heavy double doors of the TapHouse entrance kept the cold out as the instruments were tuned up and the house was warmed up with the sounds of VOCAL songwriters.  Performers Bill Wellons and Norman Roscher treated the audience to a night of great songwriting.  It was a great night for music, January 19, 2009.

We thank Richbrau’s TapHouse for hosting the showcase each month.  Join us every third Monday of the month for great food, home brewed beverages and the best of live original music from Virginia artists.  The location is 1212 East Cary Street in historic Shockoe Slip.

Bill Wellons took the first set and showed the audience a great time with songs ranging from the ballads to the blues, from slow and easy to upbeat boogie rhythms.  Bills voice was accompanied by fine fingerwork on the piano.  He blew the crowd away with ‘Hurricane’ a moderate tempo song with sort of a bluesy, folk lyrical content, but a light, easy, steady piano pattern.  Bill then injected a little humor into the evening with ‘In a Family Way’, a humorous look at expecting the arrival of a baby – this song had an upbeat “boogie” rhythm to my ear.  The instrumental ‘That’s How it Goes’ was a beautiful song and an interesting change from the earlier songs.  The emotional content of the music swept from tender reflection to humor and love with the next series of songs including a tribute to Bill’s father ‘When I Needed You’ and another boogie tune ‘Unlucky at Love’.

It was great to have Bill on the showcase stage and we hope to have him back soon.  Until then, you can hear some of Bills music at www.myspace.com/billwellons.

At the request of Bill Wellons and Norman Roscher, time was set aside for special tributes to Cham Laughlin, VOCAL’s founder, who passed away January 5, 2009.  Cham was a great inspiration and source of support for many songwriters and performers in Virginia.  VOCAL took time to honor Cham with a few songs.

First to pay tribute to Cham was Darryl Ellyson with his song ‘The Final Hour’ a very moving song about contemplating the end of life www.myspace.com/darrylellysonbluelightdistrict.  Next, Eddy Kitchen performed ‘This Beer’s on Me’ which is a light-hearted country style song featuring Larry Cody on lead guitar.  Eddy’s song was somewhat the reason for Cham and Eddy first working together.  Norman Roscher gave the final tribute with ‘If I Should Ever Get to Heaven’.  We thank Bill and Norman for remembering Cham by setting aside this time and thanks to each performer for taking time to honor our founder.

For the closing set of the evening, Norman Roscher took to the stage with family and friends in the formation of ‘Norman and the Clackwells’ to bring his unique, imaginative music to life.  The first song was the reminiscent, fun song ‘I Don’t Play Doctor Anymore’.  Keeping the fun alive, the act moved on to the song ‘Fat Alice’.  The Clackwell portion of the band was made up of Evan Esch on upright bass, Eliza Brill (Evan’s spouse) on backup vocals and washboard rhythms, and Norman’s daughter Deanna Lorriani on vocals.  The Clackwells rounded out Norman’s live sound nicely!  Another special guest, Charlotte Roscher joined the group with backing vocals for ‘So Long Baby Goodbye’.

So much of Norman’s music has lively rhythms and catchy words that make you want to sing along.   Norman included some of his lively material in the closing portion of the program, which included ‘Kazooka’, ‘Burn Baby Dynamo’ and ‘I Don’t Want to Grow Up’ for the Peter Pan’s in the audience.  Catch Norman on the web at www.myspace.com/normalnormannortledorfband .

I can’t give enough thanks to Norman, Bill and my cousin Kenneth Sebera for making themselves available to help out on the showcase as I recovered from a back injury.  They showed up early to make sure the showcase was ready to roll and helped me pack up as well.  It was truly a group effort this month!

VOCAL’s thanks goes to all of our performers and to the showcase crowd who supports our wonderful artists.  Thanks to Larry Cody for making the table tent cards to announce the performers, thanks to Matthew Costello for web support and John Ellis for sound services.  Until next month, be sure to support other live, original music events!

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