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.

July 2019 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase

The July 2019 VOCAL Showcase took place on Monday, July 15, 2019 at O’Toole’s Irish Pub. Quite a few loyal original music lovers appeared for the performance.
Roger Lee Fink, a relatively new VOCAL member, kicked off the show with several of his intriguing tunes, many of which are Spanish/Flamenco-influenced. His ‘30’s era Epiphone archtop certainly added to the character of his performance! Spanish Leather Irish Lace had a really cool minor-chord Tango vibe that drew us in. He even cleverly worked in the words “Transcendental Meditation” in his rhyme scheme. False Start had a rock/funk feel, telling us that sometimes you just have to start all over again in life! I Gave My Heart recounts a love like a hurricane, just waiting for the storm to pass. He then delivered the bluesy Feet in The Stirrups (your eyes could hypnotize, tell me what to do). If Times Don’t Get No Better echoes the plight of many people today, just barely scaping by in life. The Spanish-flavored No Return longs for a moonlight walk on the beach instead of staying inside this boring house. Lost Valentine was another soothing Spanish/Flamenco-feeling tune, while Looking for A Foot to Fit the Shoe was a John Prine-ish number about feeling about as low as my shoes. I should be through with all these dues I’ve paid – I’m looking for a foot to fit the shoe! He then delivered Don’t Spoil the Show, followed by Love Is Just So Magical (I only get to see her once a week – wish I could go back to that house we used to live in). Rainbow Over Waterfall was sort of Tango-ish that was channeling Emerson, Lake and Palmer in my ears – love will be the death of me! Roger closed out his set with Can’t Win For Losin‘, another fusion rock/funk talking about the risky business of cruising in the fast lane.

Longtime member Matt Manion then took the stage with several of his familiar tunes along with some new ones. Don’t Stand by Me says if you’re the trumpet player who only dates married women, don’t even think of being next to me! Sit Down for Standby recounts the woes of being delayed in the Heathrow airport, and longing to get back to the good old USA. Life Can be Funky Down on the Pamunkey is a really cool, colorful song about all the natural beauty/wildlife along the Pamunkey River. It Didn’t Really Matter had a Don McLean feel, describing a reunion where folks were mustering up the courage to get onto the dance floor. No No No can’t believe the hassles we’ve been through, and even though I was lonely and desperate for company in the past, I have to tell him “no” today. Sometimes I Feel Like the Last Man on Earth is a quite complicated (but intriguing) wordy/chordy tune which was channeling David Bowie to me. After recently seeing Weird Al Yankovich, Matt decided to put his personal spin on a couple of standards. Moon River became June Cleaver, and Yesterday was transformed into Scrambled Eggs, supposedly the placeholder lyrics Paul used when originally writing the song. Cool vibe, Matt! Now I want to hear the June meat “Cleaver” Halloween song! Necessary Trouble/Good Trouble is a call to action to get out, stand up, and have your voice heard! I Don’t Need to be Perfect is a positive message about being satisfied with who you are, and not pretending to be something more. Matt demonstrated some mighty fine falsetto in this tune. After trying to leave the stage, the audience begged for me, so he brought out the first song he ever wrote back in the 70’s dealing with living a life of solitude. I was almost hearing some Jethro Tull combined with CSN&Y. Great job, Matt!

Another very fine evening indeed for original music lovers!

June 2019 VOCAL Showcase

Performers:
Matthew Costello
John Ellis
Dick Upton (with Mirek Formacek)

The June 2019 VOCAL Showcase took place on Monday June 17, 2019 at O’Tooles Irish Pub.  It was a night of excellent musicianship and inspired lyrics.

Matthew Costello

Matthew humorously introduced his first song “Driving” as “a Showcase virgin song” in that he has never performed it at the Showcase before.  The lively number, a collaboration with Roy Kauffman, addresses a former lover who’s “driving the young boys wild.”

“Dark-eyed Mystery”, Matthew’s second selection, slower than the first, was a beautiful song of romantic longing.  This song was also a collaboration with Roy.

The third song in the set, “What Would You Do if You Knew”, describes a situation most, if not all, of us have experienced:  being attracted to another person but not feeling comfortable sharing that information.  The lyrics include “Watching you from across the room, wishing it was me that made you laugh…”, “If you knew that I’m scared to tell you how I feel” and “What would you do if you knew?”  The song included Matthew’s expressive picking on the strings and percussive slaps on the body of the guitar.

The rhythmic love song “Matter’s to Me” followed, with lyrics “I’ll be there, so don’t be late” and “You’re all that matters to me.”

Matthew ended his set with crowd pleaser “Digging for Elvis”, another Kauffman collaboration, a funny and startling song about a fanatical Elvis fan obsessed with The King!

John Ellis

After thanking O’Tooles for hosting the Showcase, and Larry Cody for creating the VOCAL Showcase table announcements, John treated the crowd to “Blues #1”, a rock instrumental that came from John’s experimenting with his first home recording system.

“I’ll be There for You” followed.  John was inspired to write the song when a friend of his was losing her beloved dog due to illness.  It’s a song of support with a wide range of dynamics and a haunting use of harmonics during the lead guitar solo.

John introduced his third song, “The Stranger”, as a little darker, bluesy rock number.  Lyrics include “Love is a stranger, I can’t get to know…..How can I find, what I’ve never known…..Love is a stranger to me.”  It’s quite effective in capturing the frustration of wanting but not yet finding love, and sounds like it’s coming from the depths of the soul of a man who can almost taste it.  John’s pre-recorded tracks added depth and fullness as he played and sang live with the tracks.

John finished his set with the upbeat rocker “In My Place” about letting go of a lover who kept her heart locked away.  “You never said you loved me…..go find what you’re looking for.”

Dick Upton (with Mirek Formacek on guitar)

Dick announced at the beginning of his set that he had three (3) new songs…..including one that he finished that morning.  Mirek Formacek provided lead guitar during the set as Dick played keyboard, guitar and sang.

Dick began on keyboard with a bluesy number entitled “Driftwood”.  “Standing on the levee, watching the driftwood float by….”  Dick’s soulful, deep, rich voice gives his music a gritty southern authenticity.

“Why I Do What I Do” followed, with Dick again on keyboard.  A moving, powerful song, it was slower and more meditative, about a relationship.  It contained the lyrics “I’ve been thinking about you….I’ve been thinking about you and me….. I’ve been searching for a long, long time… to find a way to ease my mind.”  Mirek added captivating lead guitar to Dick’s keyboard and vocals.

Dick switched to guitar for “Like When We First Fell in Love”, a song about wanting to rekindle the original spark in your lover’s eyes after being a relationship of many years.  “I wanna get back to when we first fell in love.”

The bouncy “Drive Me Crazy” references “…the long, long legs…” that drive the singer to distraction.  “You can drive all the way to L.A…..you always drive me crazy.”  Next, “Put Down the Bottle” featured Dick’s fingerwork on the acoustic guitar that meshed nicely with Mirek’s fine electric guitar work.

Dick returned to the keyboard for “My Spiritual Home”, which Dick wrote in a Key West Tiki bar.  The song evoked images of seagulls, the shoreline, the moonrise and contained the lyrics “Give me cool water to sail on, warm sand to walk on, a bar I can lean on.  For I might keep to myself, but I’m never alone in my spiritual home.”

Dick and Mirek finished their set with “Going Down to Georgia”, an upbeat bluesy piano tune that highlighted the duo’s natural interplay as accomplished musicians.

An outstanding night of original music!

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.

April 2019 VOCAL Showcase

The April 2019 VOCAL Showcase took place on Monday, April 15, 2019 at O’Toole’s Irish Pub. This event served as the 2nd quarter open-mic, but only our loyal members appeared for the performance.

Norm Roscher

Our master of ceremonies, Norman Roscher, kicked off the evening on keyboards with three of his fine tunes. Gonna Take My Baby Dancing is a really cool fun song written by fellow member Bill Wellons. She says we never go out anymore, and even though I’m no Fred Astaire, I’ll do it my best to show her a good time! When I See Your Face is a lovely tender love song that simply radiates good vibes and happiness. Norman does a mighty fine job of conveying this uplifting sentiment with this tune. Kazooka (aka The Family song) was played sans kazoo. It’s about a man who is just so happy to have his family that he wants to play the kazoo. He’s gonna have a baby soon, gonna give her a silver spoon.

Jeff Wagner

Jeff Wagner then took the stage with four of his heartfelt songs. Borderline is about someone doing the 9 to 5 deal working for the man while also pursuing his dream of songwriting, almost semi-pro. All of a sudden he’s pushing 30, then 49, then 59. He thinks it may be time to put in another verse for the next decade. I’m Trying to Make You Proud of Me is a story many of us can relate to, where we constantly find ourselves saying and doing things our parents said and did. Try Just a Little More is an ode to the man who feels like he should go the extra mile for his wife, to let her hear the wind and see the shore to feel her heart and soul. Sometimes is a new song in the sad genre, reminiscing about an old flame. We go everywhere from the dance floor to sleeping under the western stars. We can think of the wonderful memories but can never go back!

Matthew Costello

VOCAL President Matthew Costello opened his set with the crowd favorite Digging for Elvis, a song that simply begs for audience participation. Everything But Love Was a Waste of Time was a co-write with the late John Hartman, who wrote the lyrics. Reminiscing of a bitter sweet relationship, I travelled down many roads and have many miles behind me – I may have lied when I said farewell. What Would You do if You Knew is a relatable theme, wondering what would happen if we were able to speak our mind, if we were the ones who made you laugh, etc. He then delivered the clever story A Meaningful One Night Stand, where he’s tired of all the mornings after and urges that get out of hand. Finally, he meets Ivey, who has his baby, so he must give her his name!

Doug Patrick

Doug Patrick then took the stage with four of his finely-crafted songs. Why Don’t You Put Him in the Lineup is a really cool tune about asking the manager to put the kid into the ball game. He doesn’t deserve to just sit on the bench – he can pitch like Brooks Robinson, run the bases like Willie Mays, and hit that tater for a country mile! I Think I Really Done it This Time is a song of regret for spending that one night with the lonely woman. Is that such a terrible crime? One Lone Georgia Pine is my favorite from Doug, and definitely a true song from the heart! His great-great-great grandfather’s cousin went off to the Civil War, was wounded, and then eventually killed in battle. Buried in Georgia, he was returned to his Kentucky home several years later. A seed from a Georgia pine had fallen into his coffin, and sprouted and began to grow in Kentucky, needless to say the only Georgia pine in that state! You can’t make this stuff up – what a cool story. He ended his set with a very timely Leave it Like We Found It, just in time for Earth Day. This is a very fitting story in today’s “environment”, where we need to leave this place better than we found it.

Jim Plunkett

Jim Plunkett ended the show with his fine work accompanied by harmonica. A Story’s All It Is tells us what it would be like if we were living on the fringe, on the other side of the bars. Your dad always told you to stay away from me, but you certainly do look good in orange! Wayward Curse took honorable mention in a recent American Songwriter lyric contest. I could have gotten my way if you hadn’t gotten yours first, would’ve tied the know if it hadn’t come undone. Friend of Mine was a heartfelt number about a guy down on his luck who lost his job and his wife, and was found down by the interstate. Bought a gun for self-defense, but it’s now in a yellow bag for evidence. I Slept In, a true story, is a reminder that sometimes just taking it easy and not getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of life is the better road to take.
Another very fine evening indeed for original music lovers!

VOCAL March 2019 Songwriter Showcase

The March 2019 VOCAL Showcase took place on Monday, March 18, 2019 at O’Toole’s Irish Pub and was a mighty festive event!
VOCAL President Matthew Costello opened the show with several of his signature tunes and others that were somewhat obscure. “You’re All I Ever Need” is being satisfied with that special someone, and “What Would You Do if You Knew” asks what would happen if I were to speak my mind? “A Meaningful One-Night Stand” is a crowd favorite with an interesting plot. “I Wanna Catch a Ride on Her Train of Thought” is another Costello favorite, conjuring up train sights and sounds on the way to finding a loving relationship. This also elicited lots of audience participation with clapping and “woo-ing”. “You and I” is a very tender love ballad, while “Rock and Roll” is a rocking Chuck Berry-ish number. He then performed the uplifting and optimistic “Faith Will Find the Way”, leaving us with a feel-good message. Matthew finished his set with the quintessential “Digging for Elvis”, his most defining song, which was accompanied by enthusiastic audience vocal harmony!
Norman Roscher and The Clackwells then took the stage with both boisterous and tender numbers. “You and Me Baby” is a very lively number and crowd pleaser that included a full rhythm section and washboard. “Did I Hear You Say” was a very tender song written by Glen Habl, which they performed in Dog’s New Clothes (blue sky and sunshine with you all day). “Sweet Nectar” is the story about growing not herbivores, but certain “herbs” in your fields. They grow so tall and green! “The Train” was another tune written by Glen Habl that took us down by the banks where the river flows, followed by “Down by the Railroad Tracks”. You don’t dare go down there ‘cause that’s where the monster lives! Gary Shaver accompanied them on sax on that number, as well as on “I Don’t Play Doctor Any More”, a signature Norman tune. “Roaming Eye” also featured Gary on sax, followed by a high-energy “Someone’s Drooling Somewhere”. The crowd-pleaser “I Live in my Hat” followed, which had the crowd rocking. “If I Ever Get to Heaven” is a poignant number asking if “being only me” will guarantee a ticket to eternity with my friends. “You’re Beautiful” involved willing crowd participation with the “Bip bob over the top baby you’re beautiful” chorus. “I’m a Fool” is an ode to living a simple life, wondering why I chose this road in my life. “Within Your Eyes” followed, describing how he saw the light in her eyes. “You Got It” is another high-energy tune featuring the great Gary Shaver on sax – you got it, you know it, you love it! “The Clackwell’s Theme Song” then followed, which I had never heard before, identifying the unique names of the clan. The group ended with “Boobs”, the ultimate song of Norman’s that brought out the best harmonies from the audience. Way to go, Clackwells!

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.

December 2018 VOCAL Songwriter Showcase

The December 2018 VOCAL Showcase took place on Monday, December 17, 2018 at O’Toole’s Irish Pub. It was a very festive evening with quite a large turnout.

John Ellis opened the show with a holiday-themed “Me and My Baby on a Cold Winter Day”, a bluesy number advising us on how to stay warm on a cold winter day. “I’ll Be There for You” is a testament to dedication and loyalty to your loved one, while “You Put Me in My Place” shows the opposite perspective of a relationship.

Matt Manion then took the stage with a wonderful holiday poem he wrote when the power went out. He was prepared to write a Christmas song, but the “unplugged” poem is what emerged. He then delivered a rocking “Thank You Chuck Berry”, sparked from a John Lennon quote. If rock-and-roll had another name, it would be Chuck Berry!

The one-and-only VOCAL stalwart Don Pinkleton then pinkled our fancy with a really cool song “I Wanna Be Somewhere it Snows”, a unique story angle of a working musician somewhere out west in the Baja desert. With Christmas lights on the cactus, it’s hard to really get into the Christmas spirit. A fine treat indeed to see Don back on the stage with such a fine song. He then delivered a darker holiday tune “Mrs. Claus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”. She doesn’t make cookies or treats, and would rather hang out in her condo in Redondo than spend time with Santa at the North Pole.

Jeff Wagner then treated us to some talented writing with “I Knew You’d Never Come Back Home”, a not so “home for the holidays” theme, but probably one that some folks can relate to. The Christmas lights are gone, I took the wreath off the door, and threw the candles on the floor. Here’s a lump of coal hurled in your direction on this Christmas day! He then delivered a really cool song “Snow Drift”, about a cowboy spending Christmas Eve in a lion camp in the Rockies. It’s a lonely gig and not for everyone – they found him the next morning in a snow drift, with an empty whisky bottle frozen on his lips. “Christmas in 1963” brought back memories many of us can relate to, including train sets and an orange in your stocking. I can remember prying out the orange to get to the pecans and walnuts buried underneath!

Relative newcomer Jim Puckett then took the stage with “Beautiful Christmas”, a Thanksgiving wishbone-pulled dream of spending Christmas with a lover amidst the fresh snowfall. Hopefully it was a dream come true! He then brought out some stellar guitar licks on the bluesy “It Won’t be Christmas Again Until You’ve Got Me Wrapped up in Your Loving Arms” – I can taste your Christmas lips on mine! “It Doesn’t Have to be Christmas” is a very profound number that we can all take away, that it doesn’t have to be Christmas in order to be nice, polite, kind, generous, etc. What an inspirational message!

The very talented duo Carey Colvin and Granger Helvey returned to the showcase with several numbers, including several holiday tunes. “The Christmas Elf” was a take on the Elf-on-a-Shelf, and you better keep an eye on him, as he definitely has one on you! “It’s Christmas Time” brought out all the preparations for Christmas, with holly, cookies, gifts, etc. “Ten Thousand Arrows” isn’t a holiday song, but is very interesting and well-delivered, a signature song of theirs. They then led the group in a singalong of The Monkees “Then I saw Her Face”, followed by several Christmas carols, such as “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”, “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree”, and “Jingle Bells”. It’s always great to be Christmas-treated by Carey and Granger!

A great time was had by all in this holiday showcase!

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.

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