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!

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!

Getting to know Cham

While I didn’t have the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with Cham, I often feel like he is someone I know well because the members of VOCAL who know him well talk of him so often.  The couple of times I was able to meet Cham he was friendly and seemed to have a kind spirit.  I appreciate the contributions that he has made to many musicians and songwriters by laying the groundwork for a songwriters group that continues 20 years later.  I was able to get moving on my attempt to be a working musician because I had VOCAL to ease me  into public performing.  By having a supportive community of songwriters, it has helped many gain confidence and expand their knowledge about their craft.  Thanks, Cham, for contributing so much to the local music scene, even for many that you didn’t know.

Cham – In Memory of my Best Friend

Cham was my best friend, my best man. I cannot imagine life without him there for me. He had the sweetest spirit and biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever known. I will miss our times together, the fun, the work, the laughter, the tears….and the long talks we had across the miles which often separated us. I love you, my brother, and will see you on the other side. Steve Roberts

Remembering Cham Laughlin

On January 5, 2009, Robert “Cham” Laughlin passed away. Cham is an important part of VOCAL history and I would like to take this opportunity to honor his memory with reflections on the place Cham held in my life and in the history of VOCAL.

In 1972 I graduated Colonial Heights High School. During those years I was aware of Cham as being a respected musician though I cannot recall the bands he played in.

I played in several bands in those years. One of my early band mates was Chuck Page, a wonderful, hard working drummer with whom I developed many an original piece of music.

Later, during my college years I got to meet Cham and his brother Tommy when Chuck introduced me at a rehearsal for their band Aaron.

The band’s lineup was Cham: guitar/vocals, Tommy: bass/vocals, Chuck on drums, and another CHHS alum, Mark Pond, filled out the lineup on Hammond organ. Aaron was actually a bit of a Supergroup from that area having merged together from several different styles and backgrounds. And they were great! The sound and music I heard that night was as good as many professional concerts I had seen.

During the next years I became a friend of Cham’s sister Susan. Actually I did not know he was her brother until after a few months of knowing her. She remains a good friend and I am sorry for her loss.

I don’t recall seeing Cham again until I attended a VOCAL meeting at Manchester High School. I believe this was 1991. Robbin Thompson was set to be a guest speaker and I was aware of VOCAL, but had never attended.

Somehow I ended up going to that meeting with Robbin. We road together and I received my first impression of VOCAL. It was a collection of excited people working with their talents and looking for a means to have their music heard and improved. Gary Shaver was the president. It was evident though; Cham was making sure a lot of the work of VOCAL got done.

I always said Cham was the “battery” of the group. It was his enthusiasm and organization that kept things going. His commitment and belief in VOCAL was astounding. He would host VOCAL events at his Studio. He gave freely of his knowledge about the music industry. He published the Newsletter every month and would distribute copies to not only the Music Stores in the Petersburg and Chester areas, but always to the stores in Richmond as well.

Like many songwriters I had been writing in a vacuum with a few people but no real understanding of what it took to get my songs “out there.” Sure, once a year or two I would buy “Songwriter’s Market” but never really understood what I was supposed to do with it.

Cham’s knowledge and desire to de-mystify the craft and business of songwriting helped me to understand so much more about the business and to respect my own vision f the craft. The value of good demos, the proper way of labeling & packaging and the way to target who you were to send to were all tasks that Cham shared his insight on. Anyone who ever had time with him would tell you he was a talented man and would bring some knowledge or inspiration to the relationship.

As I became more and more involved, Cham and Gary and I would manage a lot of things together. Cham was always there with the PA for Showcases and the TV show. The three of us would meet after events and share meals and always discuss the changes we were seeing and the next steps for VOCAL. It was an exciting time.

Cham’s contributions to VOCAL were immense. VOCAL is a proud part of his legacy. A legacy I hope many will recall when they remember Cham.

I’m sure there are many valuable contributions by Cham I have not acknowledged. It is not intentional so, please, accept my apologies.

Please, add to this post with your comments and memories. If you would like to make a main post. let us know.

Matthew Costello

VOCAL Showcase December 2008

VOCAL songwriters, performers and the public gathered together at Richbrau’s TapHouse to start off the holidays with live, original music.  A selection of VOCAL’s membership turned out to perform their material for a lively, attentive audience.  The showcase counter flipped to 210 as we kicked off the event on December 15, 2008.  You can find more information about the upcoming showcase at www.vocalsongwriter.org/showcase.html.

For over two years now, Richbrau’s TapHouse has hosted the VOCAL Showcase every third Monday of the month.  VOCAL’s original music is complimented by original, home crafted beverages and fine cuisine.  Join us at 1212 East Cary Street for the best in original songwriting from Virginia artists.

James Lester kicked off the night with his own style of instrumental blues.  Much of James’ music was finger-style picking on a sweet sounding, hollow body electric that rang out with a cool, jazzy feel.  The eight song set included ‘Bucky’s Blues’ as well as ‘Bernie and the D Blues’, written in honor of two cats.  James conveyed a rich, bluesy feel as he moved his hands about the fretboard, demonstrating dexterity and creativity.  We look forward to James’ return to the showcase in February 2009.

Gary Shaver and Jim Uzel joined forces for the next round of music as they took turns featuring their own material in an in-the-round format.  Gary’s songs included ‘Somewhere Between Her and You’, ‘Right Through My Mind’, ‘Calling You Back Home’, ‘Take Me Back’ and ‘I Stand Amazed’.  This sampling of Gary’s music reflected the ballads and love songs that he is known for.  ‘Calling You Back Home’ was written on Thanksgiving weekend a few years ago – the song title reminds me of someone reflecting on a loved one during the holiday season.  ‘I Stand Amazed’ is Gary’s self-described ‘happy song’, which he dedicated to a friend in the audience.

Jim Uzel’s portion of the set included songs with a seasonal theme.  Jim’s songs ‘Spirits in the Rain’, ‘Christmas Love’ and ‘Gifts of a Child’ were accompanied by his resonator acoustic guitar, which sometimes provided a haunting feel to the melody.  It was good to have Jim on stage again.

Darryl Ellyson stepped up to the microphone next with some great time tested songs as well as one song written since his November showcase performance.  ‘I’m Not Afraid’ is a favorite of mine, with a powerful, moving melody, strong vocals and intense lyrics.  The rest of the set included ‘You and Me Baby’, ‘I Don’t Know’ and Darryl’s new song ‘Pushin’ Against My Heart’.

Gerry Laverty closed out the evening with some of his most popular songs.  ‘Details of Castrophe’ started the short set, followed by the song ‘Lonesome Blue Eyes’ which is a fanatastic song that is an instant favorite with the first listening.  ‘I am a House’ was inspired by the sudden death of a friend.  ‘Zion Crossroads’ is another crowd favorite and sample of Gerry’s ablilities with creative, poetic songwriting.

Thanks to our performers for making the holiday season ever more enjoyable with their talents on the showcase stage.  The showcase event and coverage was made possible by a team of VOCAL volunteers made up of Larry Cody (tent cards), Matthew Costello (web updates), Gerry Laverty (photography) and John Ellis (sound services).  We thank all those who come out in support of live, original music and we hope that everyone can join us again next month for the longest running, original music showcase in Central Virginia!

VOCAL Showcase November 2008

It was a cold, windy night in Richmond, Virginia as the showcase stage was set up and the equipment turned on to warm up.  Our performers were ready to go to keep the pre-holiday spirits up and present some of the best original music that VOCAL has to offer.  The showcase counter flipped to 209 and the performers tuned up for a night of great music.  It was November 17, 2008.

As always, we like to take a moment to thank Richbrau’s TapHouse Grill for hosting the showcase every 3rd monday of the month.  Join us at 1212 East Cary Street in historic Shockoe Slip for great food, home brewed beverages and live entertainment from Virginia’s songwriters.

The evening’s first performer was Justin Brown.  This was Justin’s first Showcase appearance, but he is not a stranger to the stage having performed in his former band Plaid Rose.  Justin also enjoys recording his own material in his home studio.  Joining Justin on stage was a great local harmonica player from the band Barrelhouse, Tom Mayer.  Justin and Tom are both members of the River City Blues Society www.wegotblues.com where they work to ensure that the blues tradition is kept alive in Virginia.

Justin kicked off the evening with a Beatle-esque tune ‘Lead Me On’ followed up by ‘Whiskey Towne’.  The song ‘Footsteps’ was written by Justin right after graduating High School and moving out into his own home.  ‘Mississippi Railroad’ is a tune penned just six months prior to the showcase and a song with a steady, driving rhythm that reminded me of a train chugging down the line.  The next two songs were written by Tom Mayer and they were heavy on the blues!  ‘All My Wife’s Relations’ was a somewhat humorous and lyrically interesting song with the line ‘…of all my wife’s relations, I like my self the best…’.  The song ‘Blue Eyes’ was an upbeat number with a theme that things are not always as they seem.  Tom’s harmonica work filled the TapHouse with the spirit of the blues, ringing out sweet riffs just dripping with feeling and grit.  Justin and Tom closed out the set with ‘Shake the Dew’ and ‘Turn Your Damper Down’.  Thanks to Justin for getting the evening off to an inspiring, blues driven beggining!

VOCAL was pleased to welcome back a Showcase regular and a great local song writer.  Darryl Ellyson has a songwriting and performing history going back at least twenty years including performances in different local bands.  Since becoming part of VOCAL, Darryl’s songwriting has been quite impressive with the ability to turn out many catchy, well written songs of many styles sometimes completing songs in a single day.

Darryl started off his set with ‘Raindrops Fallin” and ‘Final Hour’.  The second song highlighted Darryl’s ability to convey an emotional, soulful feel.  ‘I’m Gone’ is a new song written two weeks before the showcase.  ‘Teardrops Cover my Pillow’ has a lyrical meter and melodic structure that really allows Darryl to show the power of his voice – it’s a light-hearted, blues inspired song.  The country-blues song ‘That’s Just the Way Love Goes’ uses the lower ranges of Darryl’s voice and demonstrates his songwriting talents with the line “…remember the good times, forget the bad, that’s just the way love goes…”.

Darryl continued the set with a second new song ‘It’s So Hard’ followed up by ‘I’ve Got to Walk On’ and the rocking blues number ‘Been Out Travelin”, where Darryl’s vocals were strong and powerful.  The set wrapped up with ‘Tell Me Baby’, ‘I’m Not Afraid’, ‘I Don’t Know’, ‘Broken Dreams’, and ‘When I Get Home’.

We must thank the volunteers that make the showcase happen each month.  Larry Cody provides the table tent cards to inform the audience, John Ellis provided sound services and we thank Matthew Costello for keeping the showcase information on the website.  And, of course, thanks to each performer who made the showcase a great musical affair.  And thanks to all who support the performers.  Join us again the third Monday of next month for the best in original songwriting and performing on the VOCAL Showcase!

The VOCAL Blog

In the interest of catching up with meeting activities and having an opportunity for members to add resources and experiences, we are launching the VOCAL Blog.

The goal is to open up on avenue for our members to share their knowledge and professional opinions. We hope you’ll offer some insight into the craft and business of songwriting.

To register as a contributor, click on “Register” under Meta in the column on the right.

We reserve the right to monitor and remove inappropriate postings.

Be well.

Matthew

Costello Music

A blog for and by the members of the Virginia Organization of Composers and Lyricists