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April 2020 Showcase

These immortal words about postmen

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”

would seem to aptly applied to Tonight’s VOCAL showcase.
After all: It would seem the coronavirus, technical difficulties and just plain logistics might put the kibosh on our monthly showcase.

But, noooooooo, nothing could stop it. Thanks to Matthew Costello and his intrepid fortitude, and know how, the showcase made its first ever virtual appearance on Facebook.

After a short intro by him, the first performer to take the stage was our wonderful young lady, Keely Burn. She cranked up her ukulele, for a handful of original tunes, which included a sort of self imaged song titled “Cute girl with glasses’.

She was followed by Prof. Dean Broga, who on guitar, regaled the viewers with some tasty tunes about the road and ended with a bluesy number celebrating (?) the coronavirus or covid19.

Next up, David Atkins, a long time VOCAL member and music teacher, demonstrated his songwriting abilities with songs covering a wide range of subjects from haunted houses to barroom moroseness with “One Drink In The Bottle” .

Capping the evening, which was limited in time to 60 minutes by Facebook, our president Matthew Costello pulled out one of his signature songs “Elvis Blues” with the singalong chorus of “Diggin’ Diggin’ Diggin'” which every viewer participated in (maybe).

As for turnout, a standard showcase at O’Toole’s brings around 20 or so folks out for the night, by my calculation and the figure on the screen, we peaked at 25, which is great for this first attempt a live streaming event. Given the circumstances, that will most likely remain next month, we will be anxiously awaiting the next VOCAL showcase.

feb. 2020 VOCAL Showcase

Feb 2020 VOCAL Showcase
(due to a complete delete of a full review, I am only listing a set list of each performer. Sorry about that.)

Tonight’s performers included two returning songwriters, Jim Puckett and Steve Nuckolls. who was the featured performer.
Jim went first and did six songs.

  1. Runaway Horizon (a travelling song that ook us from east to west and back)
  2. In the Bargain ( it’s hard enough to love yourself musch less lose the one your love)
  3. On Your Mind ( you can forget me, i’m in your mind)
  4. Last of the Lonely Girls ( he ends up the last of the llonely men when all the girls are gone)
  5. Opalena ( a mountain doula who delivers many babies but has no surviving choldren of her own)
  6. Song of Love ( a song strangely enough, about love)

Steve Nuckolls followed with a 13 song set including the following:

  1. Making My Getaway (doing what it takes to supress one’s pride)
  2. Sitting In With Emmy Lou ( a Saturday session to sing along with Emmy Lou Harris)
  3. Sunrise ( equivaling a sunrise with the idea of hope)
  4. Something About Your Love (She is the singer’s answered prayers and a gift from heaven)
  5. The Flag’s At Half Mast (pondering the reasons why the flag is at half mast)
  6. Open Door ( Being thankful for the things on your life that make it what it is)
  7. Everything’s Just Two Good (body parts as a metaphor for loving someone)
  8. The Gibson Guitar ( a surprising place to see a guitar for sale, in a furniture store)
  9. Praying For a Rocky Top ( hoping good old country values still exist)
  10. Lines Of Love (how the words we say reflect on those we love and those that love us)
  11. Higher Bar (describing the sacrifices made by heroes in war and at home)
  12. Sumanye ( An African term for togetherness and pride in unity of a homogenious group)
  13. Two Hours From Everywhere (living in a town that is 2 hours from all the major cities and their offerings)

As seen by the above: there was a wide range of topics and ideas spun together by the two performers , and highly appreciated by the audience at hand.

January 2020 Showcase

January 2020 VOCAL Showcase

Tonight was an open mic showcase which invites any and all to perform their original song material.. The evening was filled with music from a variety of performers from the traditional to the unusual.
Opening the night was host and stalwart member Norman Roescher, on keyboard, who began with a soft ballad “A Simle Man” and and followed up with Waiting For The Moon” a song filled with surrealistic images. Next up was Steve Smithson, a longtime VOCAL member, who rarely appears at showcases, but came equipped with guitar and songs to perform for us tonight. “Prairie Cowboy” offered a eulogy of sorts for someone who has passed and for himself as he moves on in life, Next was ” Go On” and then he did two songs written by Mark Fitzgerald “January Song” which had vivid pictures of winter, and “Castling” with the audience singalong chorus “Burn My Bones’. Steve Nuckolls came up to the mic next with “Praying For Rocky Top” a tribute song to those small towns in Appalachia who maintain old time standards like offered in the classic “Rocky Top” song. Where The Morning Glories Grow By The Road’ was a touching song (co-written with Glen King) about a relationship with sad overtones. He concluded his set with “Higher Bar” about aspirations we seek in life. Next we had a small interlude of poetry and flute as performed by Joan (formerly Jen) Smith and Roger Fink.
The poem “Story Of Our Lives” recited by Joan, detailed a relationship of disparate people who came together through a commonness of religion. Adding to the unusual, Joan followed up with a beat box accompaniment to a rap performed by Earl Jordan titled “Resurrection Power” which offered praise to Jesus. The duo of Gene (guitar)and Gayla (stand up bass) Mills, came up next and did a set of traditional country type songs, including “Run Away Like Water” about a restless life that was going downhill all the way. Gayla did the vocals on “Blue Runway Lights” and then Gene gave us a picture of “Forks of Buffalo” the small town where he grew up and left, which was thriving then , but when he returned years later, it had fallen on hard times and was virtually non recognizable. Closing the night’s line-up was Jeff Wagner. He opened with “The Devil Claims Your Soul” followed by “Scarecrow” a tale of love falling apart as the scarecrow in the field falls apart through exposure and age. Eventually, he burns it down as he tries to erase the sad memories
that filled his life. Lastly” I’m Still Trying To Make You Proud Of Me” was a song inspired by his father and remembering him and the influences in his life he left on the singer.
A full night of music was enjoyed by all for it’s depth of material and variety of performers.

Nov. 2019 Showcase

One of Richmond’s longest songwriters showcase, probably the longest, presented its #340th, this Monday, Nov. 18th, at O’Toole’s Bar and Grill. Two sets of songs were on the menu.

Sherry Heath Wagner and Jeff Wagner

First up, the duo of Sherry Heath Wagner and her husband Jeff Wagner, starting off on two guitars. . They did 7 songs which included the opening number “Reckless Mind”, followed by “She Was Raised On Sad Songs”, “Scarecrow ( Jeff on mandolin), “Ghost Rider”, “Borderline” , “Is It Still You” (again with mandolin) and lastly, Musicland”. The songs ranged in scope from painful experiences to relationship doubts, to a trip to Nashville. Their singing blended well and they instrument playing was exceptional and versatile.
After a brief pause and new setup, the show was back on with Jim Puckett. Jim is an extremely proficient guitar player and he showed off his skills on the set of mainly folk style songs he presented. Beginning with “Breaking Ground’, “I Will Take You Into My Arms”, a rocker “Keep’em Comin’ Around’, “Looking Down”, and followed by “Our Own Blues” Learning How To Say Goodbye”, “Letter To a Friend”, “Riverside” ( with harp accompaniment) and lastly, The Rest Of Our Lives”. A well planned set of songs, which covered wide ranging subjects from heartbreak, love, pep talks, sadness and secret rendezvous’.
The nearly full house showed their appreciation for the talents of these 3 people with hefty rounds of applause and in some cases, clapping along with the song. Be sure to mark your calendars for the big Christmas showcase on Dec. 16th. Lots of good cheer and prizes will be dispensed.

Jim Puckett

After a brief pause and new setup, the show was back on with Jim Puckett. Jim is an extremely proficient guitar player and he showed off his skills on the set of mainly folk style songs he presented. Beginning with “Breaking Ground’, “I Will Take You Into My Arms”, a rocker “Keep’em Comin’ Around’, “Looking Down”, and followed by “Our Own Blues” Learning How To Say Goodbye”, “Letter To a Friend”, “Riverside” ( with harp accompaniment) and lastly, The Rest Of Our Lives”. A well planned set of songs, which covered wide ranging subjects from heartbreak, love, pep talks, sadness and secret rendezvous’.

The nearly full house showed their appreciation for the talents of these 3 people with hefty rounds of applause and in some cases, clapping along with the song. Be sure to mark your calendars for the big Christmas showcase on Dec. 16th. Lots of good cheer and prizes will be dispensed.

Oct. 2019 Showcase

October 2019 VOCAL Showcase

It was a good night for original music at O’toole’s tonight. Though Dean Broga, scheduled to perform, had to miss the showcase due to an accident, his spot was ably covered by two stalwarts of VOCAL.

Norman Roscher

First up Norm Roscher did a set of his songs including “I Don’t Play Doctor Anymore” which is self explanatory, as he transitions from childish games to manhood. This was followed by a sad sort of dirgelike song “Lady of the Poppies’ which had a lonesome air to it, and lastly, he did an upbeat humorous tune about pigs on a garbage binge called “Pig Party”. Tasty.

Matthew Costello

Continuing ths substitute players, Matthew Costello, VOCAL’s president for life did a set of his tunes including “Meaningful One Night Stand” in which the singer , tired after all the morning after letdowns, find his true love. “If You Knew’ relates the singer’s reluctant to tell feelings to a would be love. And, his last song, a chestnut in repertoire, an obsession with the King, “Digging For Elvis” had the audience singing along with the chorus.

Gary Shaver

Long time member Gary Shaver followed with his set of keyboard selections helped out by guitarist James Wilkenson. “Somewhere between Her and You” details the singer’s plight of being caught between two loves, seeing her in your eyes etc. “I need A Little More Time” a sort of follow up to the previous song, talks about being in love with someone not the current one. Keeping the thme going, “Why Did You Hold Me Tight” explores falling in love with someone who has left him and wonders what went wrong with the relationship. And, finally in the quartet, is “How Did I Let You Go’ where the singer is stuck with memories of someone he should not have let go.

Gene and Gayla Mills

The main attraction for tonight’s showcase were the husband and wife team of Gene and Gayla Mills. He sings and plays gluitar and she plays the stand up bass and does back up vocals which makes a nice sounding duet. First off, “Hurricane” a new song, describes the results a hurricane and the destruction it has caused. An anti-tech rant “Carburator” bemoans all the technical advances we have made and wishes to return to a simpler time when gadgets, cars and life were easier to deal with. In a change of pace, Gene then performed an instrumental “Dying Fire”. “If Whiskey Had A Voice’ was a hoot of a song, in which while on stage performing, an inebriated audience member decides to make his debut right in the middle of the set and surprisingly, stuns everyone with his honest singing. Gayla then sang the song BITCH (Boys I’m Taking Charge Here) and intoned “It’s a man’s job, but I’ll (a woman) will show you how it’s done.. You go, girl. The final song in their set, was a long tale about the settling and growth of a section of Richmond called “Oregon Hill” which was settled in the 18th century alongside the James River and expanded to where it is now. A nice tribute to an historic area.

All in all, the night provided the audience with a wide variety of the talent there is in VOCAL and was amply expressed by the artists that performed on the showcase.

August 2019 showcase

August 2019 VOCAL Showcase

A special award winners showcase was on tap, tonight, at O’Toole’s Bar and Grill. Before a huge crowd of noisy patrons which made it difficult to hear the lyrics of songs, the performances featured winning songwriters and winning songs from the last two years.

Steve Nuckolls

Voted on by the membership, Steve Nuckolls who won both categories in 2018, opened the evening with a set of songs “Remembering the Past”, “Higher Bar”, “Two Good” and his winner from last year, “Something About Your Love”. After that, this year’s winners took the stage.

Jeff Wagner

Jeff Wagner, who split songwriter of the year, introduced his wife, Sherry Heath Wagner as his accompaniment on guitar and back up vocals. His set included the tunes “I Think I might Forget You”, a new song, “She Was Raised on Sad Songs” a very traditional type country song, “Sometimes”, a tribute to Nashville, titled “Musicland” and the closer “Ghost Riders” about a relationship gone wrong.

Keely Burn

Keely Burn, who split songwriter honors with Jeff, was next. VOCAL’s youngest member, Keely performed on both ukelele, and keyboard. She opened with “When I’m Acting” a tale of insecurity where the singer is better liked when she’s not herself. That was followed by a new song “Guiding Light” with some great piano riffs. Picking up the uke, she offered “I’m Not Afraid”, “Come Down Love” with whistling, then “Masterpiece” , which implied there was more to be done to to be impressive, and the set ender, “Wake Up”, which has the interesting line in it, “the greatest gift is in my mind, tonight.

Doug Patrick

The closing act, Doug Patrick won this year’s “song of the year” poll. He is a long time member of VOCAL and it’s always a treat to hear him perform his narrative songs. Dueling with a feisty 12 string guitar, he began his set with “I Wouldn’t Change a Thing”, followed by a sweet song of love “I’ll Hold You As Long As I Can” which relies on memories that are made throughout a Life time. As a contrast, “You Don’t Cross My Mind” sort of takes the opposite view, when I think about the good things in my life, “You Don’t Cross My Mind”. “Grand Daddy’s Knee” his winning song, closed out his set. This well honed tale about lessons learned in life from his grand daddy is full of poignant remembrances and visual sentiment. A song well deserved to win.

May 2019 VOCAL Showcase

May 2019 VOCAL Showcase.

Welcome to O’Toole’s, the home of the VOCAL songwriters showcase every third Monday of the month. Tonight was no exception as two fine performers presented their wares to an attentive audience.
First up on the schedule was Jim Puckett, a relatively new VOCAL member. He opened his set with “Watcha Got” a cautionary tale that offered the message of whatcha do is more important that whatcha got. “Come A Little Closer” made the romantic suggestion to close the space between the two lovers so the space between them wouldn’t fit a two dollar bill. This was followed up by “Ruth” a tribute to a lady who had the patience of Job and the kindness of Ruth who was killed in a car accident. caused presumably by the singer, who’s now atoning for her death. After “Nothing Goes Wrong”, a likely song “Feeling Lucky” took on the theme of taking chances in your life. Jim closed out the set with “Our Own Blues” which depicted sort of a troubled relationship where the participants wonder what they are doing when they thought it was all under control.

Featured artist of the evening was Richard Hinman, accompanied by three other band mates, Rich Castille on Bass, son Richard Hinman Jr. on flattop dobro guitar, and Brad Barnhill on acoustic guitar. THh group demonstrated various style of music from country, to folk, rock and pop type songs. “Which Way to Arkansas” was a road song about looking for a place to settle down and find some peace in life. “At The Honkytonk” , the singer expresses his interest in a lady he sees dancing, wishing he were out there with her, “Ridge Runner” was a tale about avoiding the revenuers in the back country , featured a music track that resembled travelling, Reminiscing was the theme of “Remembering You”. The dobro was featured on “Loonie Mae” a story about a scary dream. Richard Jr. was the singer on “Whining Of a Diesel” about a trucker who misses his loved ones. One of the highlight songs of the night was “Tennessee Vols” which told the story of two civil war soldiers who were trying to escape capture and possible death at the hand of the Union army. This was followed by “Lost” and “Big Bob” “Darkness” was song about the trauma of the singer trying to come to grips with the dark moments in his life and proclaiming, “If I make it through the darkness, I’ll be coming back to you.” The last song in Richard’s set, co-written with Glen King, was “My Sweet Heaven” which was a pleasant fantasy about a beach beauty, the singer has in his sights.

Another great night of original music.

VOCAL Feb. 2019 Showcase

VOCAL Showcase–Feb. 2019

A great night for music, hosted by Norm Roscher, at O’Toole’s bar and grille, before a huge crowd of music afficiandos.

Steve Nuckolls

The showcase began with long time member and audience favorite Steve Nuckolls. Steve brings a high lonesome tenor voice to his original songs that rings with authenticity, sincerity and truth. “that Old Road” tells the story of the back road country of Western Virginia where he grew up and paints a fine portrait of the countryside. Continuing in the country vein, “Rocky Top” wishes that all the little towns in the hills of Appalachia would have the atmosphere of old time country living, friendly people, and hospitality. “Gibson” is a sweet song about the singer’s longing to own a guitar he sees hanging on the wall in a furniture store. The song “Where The Morning Glories Grow” is a sad, yet happy tale of making choices in life that have profound effects. Next in Steve’s set was “Daddy Come Home, Soon” was the tale of a mother’s task of overseeing her kids and making sure they keep attending their activities such as church and sports till daddy comes home. One song that always shines and pleases the audience, is “Something About Your Love’ which is a sweet love song that tells of the singer’s attraction to his love and sports a singable chorus. “Normandy” was a sorrowful tales of visiting that site of a horrendous WWII battle and the memories it evokes. Where can you find inspiration for a song? How about in your own backyard, or alley as the next song demonstrated. Al the “Alleyman” goes around collecting cans for recycling and refuses to take charity from the neighbors whose alley he prowls, proving that even the down and outers have their dignity. Last song of the set was “Everything’s Just Too Good’ which was the VOCAL song of the year in 2018 and relates with what body parts the singer can appreciate his love interest as in two good arms to hold, two good eyes to see you etc. adding up to it all being too good.

Jeff Wagner

Jeff Wagner is a relative newcomer to VOCAL, and has done an open mic but never been a featured performer on the showcase. Tonight he corrected that with his set of original tunes. “The Reckless Kind” spun a tale of wild and crazy folks trying to get by in the world, followed by “Sometimes The Fire” in which the singer is a bartender offering advice to a heartbroken customer and swearing he’ll stand by and give support to her as it is needed. “a House Burning In The Town, Tonight” perhaps is autobiographical as it tells the tale of a musician who decides to quit music, but can’t stay away and eventually goes back to playing with a vengeance. Another sort of autobiographical story, to which most of the older folks in the audience could relate, was “I’m Not Ready To Go To Seed” in which the singer tries to adapt to advancing age by wearing longer hair (hippie style?) and reliving the old songs of his youth. The audience joined in on the chorus. Following that, the song “My Big Brother” was a really nice tribute to a long ago deceased brother who the singer keeps alive in memory, even though, he barely got to know him. “She Was Raised On Sad Songs” tells us of a lady who was in remorse, until she met a guy with a guitar and through making music together, found a source of happiness. A little bit of musical musing can next in the song “Bazouki” somewhat cryptic in nature, which then followed by “Song Songs We Need To Play” encouraging us to not give up to early on those songs which have meaning in out life. The last song of the set, and a stirring bit of musicality, was a tribute to the indigenous people of the Mattoponi tribe. This song filled the room with images of native American life, touching on tribal rituals and symbols such as drum beats, eagles, full moon and talking to the “old ones” for wisdom. Jeff even included some drum beats on the guitar to emphasize the subject.
Once again: the showcase proved the versatility and depth of the writers who belong to VOCAL.

2019 VOCAL Open Mic,

January 2019 VOCAL Showcase

Norman Roscher
Norman Roscher

Welcome to the first open mic night of the year. While the temperature took a dive into frigidity, the atmosphere in O’Toole’s was warm and toasty for some original music.

Hosting the event was stalwart entertainer Norm Roscher. To kick off the night he exhibited his exuberant piano styling with a couple of his tunes. “Yer Beautiful” was a tribute to an an attractive lady who evinced the qualities of the title in her style of dress and looks. “Apple Wine”, an older song rarely done by Norm, was a wistful journey into a young romance that ended sadly with one participant leaving the country.

Steve Nuckolls
Steve Nuckolls

Next up was another stalwart of VOCAL, Steve Nuckolls, who regaled the huddled audience with a trio of his well written songs. “Saturday Morning With Emmie Lou” Was tale of learning to play along with her (Emmie Lou Harris’s) songs, proudly gearing up for the session with new guitar strings and picks. He followed that with “Each Town Has It’s own Rocky Top” which illustrated how small towns have a great country vibe of people and atmosphere. A song written while running, was next. “When Like Turns to Love” which analogized the transformation of emotions to the weather.

Jeff Wagner
Jeff Wagner

A fairly new member of VOCAL, Jeff Wagner, on guitar, followed Steve. “Wide Open Wyoming” was a tale of two separated lovers who fouhd a way to come together by compromising their geographic differences, in a hurricane, no less. “I Think I Might Forget, This Time” details a desire to get over a past relationship but the singer keeps getting images of her, that won’t go away, and leaves him perplexed. Jeff closed his set with “Who’s Your God” a sort of self explanatory song that asks the listener to think about what they worship.

Keely Burn
Keely Burn

Keely Burn, a younger member of VOCAL, came on stage next with her newly acquired baritone ukulele and tested out her chops on “I’m Not Afraid” a work in progress, but still well done. Next, she performed “Come Down Love” , which she opened with a whistle intro, before getting into the song. This was a plea to an unrequited lover to recognize her and give her a chance at romance with the line “Plant your flag on me”. “Lightning” was the next tune. In this one, she seems to be mad at a love interest for being jilted, somewhat amazed at quickly emotions can change.

To round out the night, Norm returned to play a few more of his songs. In his more bawdier manner, the first song was “Mr. Calls Got Big Balls” followed by a co-written ( Pam McCarthy) tune “Idle Time” and closing out with a standard of his”So Long Baby, Bye Bye”.
Once again, a great night of music was provided and enjoyed by all present.

Happy New Year from VOCAL.

VOCAL Nov. 2018 Showcase

VOCAL Showcase: Nov. 19, 2018

The showcase keeping rolling on. Tonight’s performers brought their “A” game to O’Toole’s to entertain the assembled multitude. Featured on the bill were Bill Wellons and Flashlight Tag ( a duo made up of Bryan Phelps and Justin Laughter).

Bill Wellons led off the night at the keyboard with a selection of old and new tunes.
First off was “Brand New Game” which implied how the world has changed with regard to morality. We have more crooks and thieves now than ever. Perhaps a shot at the current political world. “Back On Solid Ground” told the story of lovers who go through trials and tribulations but always manage to end up back together. In “Mere Humans” we get the idea that there is much to learn, but we seem not to get the message from our teachers, like nature and Jesus. How much abuse can you stand? that is the question Wellons poses in “A Woman”s Touch” and answers, a lot, if the end result is, a home is just a house without a woman’s touch. A new song “Little Fat Man” followed, wondering what are we going to do about this guy Kim Jung Un of N.Korea? Some folks never leave this country, but still and all, they intuit what the world is about from just living and observing their surroundings, which is what Bill tells us in another new selection, “I’m a Cosmopolitan”. Lastly, “I Still Remember Your Smile” reminisces about memories from distant days and years past and ponders the struggles we go through.

Before Flashlight Tag did their joint set, each member did a set of songs solo.

Bryan Phelps started his performance with “Cities Divide”, followed by “You Look At Yourself” ( more than I look at you) a little poke at self absorption replete with Italian lyrics. his last song was in his words a combination of folk and hip hop, but really more Dylanesque, as he ran through a fast litany of images too quick to fully grasp in “Tom, the Jackhammer”.

He was followed by a solo set by Justin Laughter, which included the songs “30 Odd” “Know” saying “I should have looked before I leaped, but what did I know.” and he ended with the song “Warning”

Back together as Flashlight Tag, the duo exhibited a fine ear for syncopated rhythms as they exchanged guitar licks on their set of songs sung by Justin. “More”, “Born”, “Believe”, “Try”, “Sure”, “Beacon”, “Stitch”, and ending with the novelty song “Hush Puppies” featuring Bryan in a run down of the delights of eating at Captain D’s fast seafood restaurant. Who needs lobster, when you get get hush puppies, cole slaw and a fish fry?
As for me, I’ll take O’Toole’s onion rings.