Archive for September, 2014

Review: Sept. 2014 VOCAL Showcase

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VOCAL Showcase Sept. 2014

What is perhaps the longest running songwriter’s showcase in Virginia continued its streak with edition #278 (over twenty three years) at O’Toole’s Bar and Grille on Monday Sept. 15th.

Gary ShaverFittingly, The first performer was Gary Shaver, who has been involved since the inception of VOCAL. Gary is a multi- talented songwriter who plays a variety of instruments such as the sax, clarinet, flute and piano. This night he chose to perform on keyboards. His set of tunes consisted of throwback material to the early stages of his career, the 1970’s. “With You” kicked off the retrospective and was followed by “Taking The Easy Way Out” and “Don’t You Know I Love You”. At this point, Gary was joined by Larry Lyles on fiddle for a couple of tunes “If I Could Write a Song” and “I Don’t Believe You Anymore”. As the titles may suggest, these were all songs about love and the relationships it fosters both good and bad. The ballady, haunting melodies helped convey the emotions the singer was trying to convey. The set closer “How Could Love Make Me Feel This Way” was more in a jazzy uptempo mood which conveyed the positive message of the lyrics. No question Gary is talented, His deftness on the keyboard alone proved that.

Steve NuckollsNext up: Steve Nuckolls on acoustic guitar led the appreciative audience through a series of songs reflecting his roots that reach back To Galax Virginia. Lending his tenor voice to original songs such as “At Home in the Back Roads” and “Much Obliged” Steve gave the room a folksy air. “Everything is Just Too Good” was a positive tune followed by “Graysons Lady” a bluegrass tinged song. Digressing from his set list, he talked about seeing the flag flying on the state capitol building at various times at half mast, at the whim of the then Governor Tim Kaine, who quixotically had it set that way on every questionable occasion. This inspired Steve to write “Flags At Half Mast” which he then performed. Lastly, he played one of his most loved songs judging from the audience reaction,”Something About Your Love” which is a sensitive hooky song with a positive theme. Listening to Steve is well worth the time and effort should he be in your area.

Norman and the ClackwellsThe featured performers for the evening were The Clackwells. What can you say about these folks? They are the epitome of quirkiness and musical invention. Led by Norm Roscher, on guitar, the two back up singers on washboard and finger percussion and two back up instrumentalists on bass and banjo they sailed through a nine song set of funky songs with various human and inhuman noises. “The Ballad of The Clackwells” described how the group was formed and served as an introduction to each of the groups members, with the interchangeable names of Blinky, Stinky, Slinky and Winky (I thinly). They were the spawn of a lady wrestler and gambler. Going back into their extensive catalog, they pulled out “You and Me and Baby” and “I Don’t Play Doctor Anymore”. A sly nod to the pleasures of weed followed in “Sweet Nectar”, no doubt fueled by the leader’s proclivity to partaking in such stuff. “Think I’m Gonna Take My Baby Dancing” was a bouncy tune, written by VOCAL member Bill Wellons and perfomed solo on keyboards by Norm. “Pull The Wool Over My Eyes” was followed by “A Song of Hope” which indeed, advised all the single guys not to give up hope because there is someone out there for you. “The Hat” was a cute song about a character who lived in his hat which changed size according to his needs and was thus magical. “Your Beautiful” inspired by the singer’s lady friend, was a lovely tribute. By overwhelming request, The Clackwells could not finish the might without doing their most enduring and fun singalong song “Boobs” What can you say about a song that asks the audience to sing out loud their appreciation of a woman’s assets as they change over the course of her lifetime. The Clackwells are touring Richmond in the coming months. Don’t miss their show.

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August 2014 VOCAL Showcase #277

August 2014 VOCAL showcase #277

What started out as a rather sparse crowd picked up as the night wore on. At least half the audience were friends of the performers and half VOCAL members and guests. Tonight’s line up included as openers, Guy Gorman, and Torch, followed by featured performer Claudia Carawan.
Guy opened his mostly folk styled set, playing acoustic guitar and mouth harp with the song “I Smile Like a Dummy” which described how totally lost he felt when confronted by a woman. The key line which expressed his position was “you’re so cute, I go mute”. “Holiday in my Head” pretty much is self explanatory, if you can’t take a real vacation, use your imagination. Sample rhyme “want/Vermont”. This song was followed by “Love Makes The World Go Round” and “Wishful Drinking”, A polka with a Hungarian title (which I think meant “I’ll be back”) followed with a story about love in Budapest. “I Wash the Dishes” an homage to the house husband who does all the chores to please his lady drew some chortles from the males in the audience. A rockabilly tinged tune “Roswell Rock” was a tribute to a bunch of dancing aliens. A big crowd favorite “I’ve Got to Have Some Music in My Life” created a positive response and the last tune “God’s Got It” seemed to offer an uplifting message that no matter what difficulties you are going through, God has the solution. Overall, Guy demonstrated a wide range of topics and styles in his set.
Next up Carol Torchelli, known as Torch, took the stool with her acoustic guitar to present a set of her original songs. “Come to Virginia” described the beauties and benefits of living in Virginia. “Whenever I’m Thinking of You” was a melancholy song about an ex lover whom the singer hoped was also thinking about her. the song “Major Dad” was crafted out of the singer’s personal experience with a nephew making the transition from the service to civilian life and moving into a new life. Uptempo “Swinging and Swaying” has the audience swaying along and “Tossing Like a Salad Over You” had the audience mulling over the meaning of the metaphoric title. “Don’t You Slow Me Down” was a declarative song with a little whistling interlude that was Torch’s version of a harmonica. The last song in her set was a tribute to her father and all those who have passed, which requested “Save a Place For Me In Heaven” and was delivered in a very heartfelt manner which resonated with the audience. Her set was enthusiastically received as she closed.
The featured performer of the night, Claudia Carawan took over and brought along her friend Lucy Kilpatrick to help out on keys with some of the tunes. Mainly Claudia would be considered a pop artist. First up “Let Love Lead the Way” featured Claudia on newly learned guitar and Lucy on keys.”Refreshing” led the crowd through the many ways to cool off or lift your spirits, such as a dip in the ocean, or seeing a rainbow after the rain. Switching to the keyboard, Claudia presented “I’ll Carry You” which put forth the idea that “when I was young you carried me (as a child), but now that you’re old ( and unable to function) I’ll Carry You.” After “Possibility” she switched to ukelele on which she had just learned a few chords. and gave us a singalong song “It’s Alright, It’s Okay” which was a light breezy tune about “nothing but rainbows” ahead. On “Lenore” every rhyme was an “ore” rhyme which took the conceit to the extreme. “Joy Rising” was an uplifting song based on something Claudia had seen celebrating the last Oprah show. Show stopper of the night was her solo keyboard rendition of “Now You Know” which was a beautiful ballad full of heartwrenching imagery about what might lay ahead after death and for those that have gone on (like her dad) they now know what is on the other side (of life). Switching back to stand up vocals, with Lucy on keys, she did her theme song “Fearless” about her approach to living saying “I’ll make my life a work of art.” As an encore and the last song of the night. Claudia gave us “Yellow Brick Road” which lets us know that everything we need is here at the end of the road. All in all, with true feeling and depth, she demonstrated her versatility in composition and singing with excellent material.

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