The 227th Vocal Showcase at O’Tooles Restaurant on June 21st saw another full house, listening to the fine talents of three of Vocal’s premiere songwriters.
First off was the always entertaining Bill Wellons, with his Randy Newmanish piano tunes both topical and humorous. Bill started off his set with “Champions of the World”, in this reviewers opinion a masterpiece of exotic keyboard settings and melody and timing changes that kept you wanting more. His “Just for the Fun of It” was a playful instrumental one could imagine playing behind a silent movie. “Oh Hurricane”, was a touching tale about the woes of New Orleans following Katrina, with lyrics both biting and tender. “426” was titled such because “that’s when I wrote the song, and couldn’t think of anything else to call it”, was another instrumental portrait for whatever thought the listener might have while appreciating this heart felt melody. Next, “Doggone Blues” was a morous look at dog ownership to which many in the audience could relate. Lastly, Bill played a new tune called “Man That’s Good Eatin”, which was about as close to Rap that I’ve ever heard Bill come, set to a bouncy country/ polka beat, and sung the celebration of food. It was a tasty and solid set of tunes.
Second up, Steve Nuckolls, treated the audience to a set of his sensitive ballads. Steve has more tenderness in his guitar pick than I have in my whole body! His ballads span the topic map, from leaving the hectic life in “Making My Get-a-way” to his heartstrings tugging love song, “Something About Your Love”. Then he sings about his mountain roots in “Back Home in the Backroads” where he hits some high notes that I was sure was due to a tugging pixie in his tighty-whities, Whew! His next tunes, “Alleyman” and ” When the Flags Half-Mast” spoke of homelessness, and death with melodies that carried the message straight to your heart. “Much Obliged” was about the stories of a hitch-hiker during one of his rides, and the closer, ” Simunye” summed up emotions from a trip to Africa. Steve as always, kept us in touch with our hearts.
The headliner, was Triad, which is comprised of Dave Pollard, and Dale and Vickie Payne. Dave and Dale played acoustic guitars, while Vickie kept the percussive beat. Their sound, which I could best describe as “country folk pop” was uplifting and tight. The harmonies brought many of the tunes to a professional peak that never let you down. The first number, “Leaving Town” was an instrumental with some punchy guitar licks provided by Dale. “Goodbye”, was a heartfelt tune about an ended love affair, and showcased the background vocal harmonies these three have mastered. “Anne Marie”, a tune written and sung by Dale, was a country-folk ballad also about failed love, and was sung with passion and flair. “Downtown Side of the Street”, a Dave Pollard song that reminded me of Dan Fogelberg, was an uplifting number that just made you want to smile. “Reach Out Your Hand” was written by Dave to his sister, who was having difficulties at the time. I’m sure this tune helped bring her out of her funk just for the sheer positive vibe of the message and melody. “Devil’s Den” was a Dale song that sounded like a bit of Steve Earle influence was evident. Sung by Vickie, it was a touching number about the woman left behind by her military husband who was eventually lost to war. A chilling tune made tender by the close harmonies of Dave and Dale. “Church of the Mind” as Dave said, “is a tune about Ocracoke. Spoke of hanging out at this mental place for a bit of escape “every Wednesday at 10!” The next number, “Rock Me in the Cradle (Roll me in your arms)” was a love song that had a Jimmy Buffet meets Jim Croce feel. The great guitar licks took this tune to the next musical level. The closing song was one written by Dale called “Bull Pasture River”. This county tinged tune was about a beloved mountain get a way which was beautifully painted by the tight backing vocals of Dave and Vickie.
As Triad were singing about “heaven in the hills” on this final number, I was thinking..”heaven is right here, right now with all of this great music”.
Thanks to all for a thoroughly engrossing show!