Tag Archives: Bill Wellons

VOCAL Showcase October 2010

VOCAL Showcase Review – October 18, 2010
231st consecutive showcase!

Markiss Blowfish (Mark Branch) and Chuck Kerwath opened the show with a wonderful dose of blues to please the crowd. The two musicians met through VOCAL and have collaborated since then, with Chuck recording Mark’s new CD “Come Along With Me”. Chuck accompanied Mark with a cool “dobro-ish” acoustic slide guitar on their first number “Hard Times”. This song was the 2010 VOCAL Song of the Year (when your bag’s unpacked, nothing to eat, holes in your shoes, paying child support, hard times indeed!) “Betty Lou” followed with Chuck on lead acoustic guitar (she’s from the South – my kind of girl – what am I supposed to do? – she had a glow – with blue eyes). The duo followed with “Tumbleweed Rag”, an instrumental with Mark on harmonica and Chuck tickling the open strings of his guitar. This was a free-spirited number, and I could picture myself traveling down a peaceful country road with this song playing in my ear. The title track “Come Along With Me” was next, which was reminiscent of a B.B. King style – I’ll buy you diamonds and rubies, lunch and dinner with fine wine – meet me down behind the old oak tree. “Messin’ With Her” tells us he couldn’t eat or sleep all week because he’d been messin’ with her – they had been very discreet, found a place to be alone, until he came home… They finished out their set with “Honey-Do Man” with Chuck doing the honors on lead guitar again. Don’t ask me to do all these things – spend all my money, honey – don’t tell me to take my pressure pill or to turn the other cheek.

Russell Lawson then took the stage, joined by Dave Berry on fiddle and guitar. Russell treated us to some fine homespun tunes with topics ranging from prison songs to tunnel collapses (not while tunneling out of prison…). He led off with “Certain Freedom”, a “minor-key prison song” about a murderer on death row dreaming about a certain freedom once his debt is paid. “At the edge of moonlight, out past the razor wire, freedom’s like a river racing quiet through the night, far beyond the walls of tempered steel and stone around the place that murder made my home”. “Whole Lotta Gone” brings us a John Prine-ish tale of a cold-hearted former lover who turned from good to bad – “I thought that I could change you and I got what I deserved”. “Days Gone By” is a somber reflection of a loved one with a troubled life, with hope waiting in the wings, a story many of us can relate to – “get on your knees and lift your voices high, ‘cause there’s a place above where every tear is dried”. Dave swapped his fiddle for the guitar on “Swell”, a story of being overwhelmed by someone’s love, to the point that you’re fearful and cannot comprehend its power “if you would love me just a little, my heart might never touch the ground, but you pour in me like a river, so deep I feel I’m gonna drown”. Yes, you can get too much of a good thing! “Church Hill Tunnel” recounts the story of the collapse of the railroad tunnel that ran to Church Hill in Richmond, where many workers rode the rails to the end of their lives. The tunnel was sealed for safety, but the story is still alive and well. This song won 2nd place in a recent lyric contest in American Songwriter Magazine, quite an honor for Russell! Russell’s wife Katherine joined him on his last “country breakup” number, “Where are Your Tears”. As we’re on the verge of a breakup, where are the tears you said you’d shed if it ever came to this? Was your love really true, or were you faking it all these years? “I could change the wine, but I couldn’t quench your thirst”. Russell and Katherine ended the song with some beautiful a cappella harmony!

The headline performer, Bill Wellons, then took the stage, and was joined by John Ellis on guitar, Larry Cody on bass, and his son, Todd, on drums. “Long, Long Time Ago” recounts the good old days when things were more carefree and innocent (The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, the Age of Aquarius had not yet arrived). In light of today’s new stories, those good old days do seem like long, long ago. His next solo piano piece was untitled, but I felt I could be listening to a movie score or taking a helicopter ride through a pristine river valley with the feeling it conveyed. “Some Other World” brought out John Ellis on guitar, and the synthetic French horn sounds from Bill’s piano. This is an optimistic story of hope, where it would be great if “everyone cared, no one was angry, no one scared”. “Hurricane” followed with the band of John, Larry, and Todd. This is a colorful blues song about life along the river “my mom gave birth to me in this room, my daddy and granddaddy were born here too”. “Lickety-Split” was an up-tempo instrumental that I thought was reminiscent of the Allman Brothers of my yesteryear. Those familiar tones were pleasant music to my ears! Jack the hound dog was featured in “Doggone Blues”. He chewed up my sweater, peed on the petunias, doesn’t come when I call him, and even bit the FedEx man! Bad dog! John Ellis played some bad-dog electric slide guitar worthy of harmonious hound-howling on this song! John Ellis’ song “Blues # 1” was featured next, with Larry “Stanley Clark” Cody on the driving bass. I detected possibly some AC/DC influences in this song, and perhaps a dash of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”. “The Old Folks” is probably my favorite Bill Wellons song. It openly deals with the effects of war, but it is not an in-your-face protest song nor a lethal “call-to-arms” anthem. It simply tells it like it is, the “old man sitting in the old folks home, his wife got sick, now he’s all alone”. Their son Sam won a lot of medals in Viet Nam, but that damn war took their boy away. The next number, “Better Stay in Tonight”, is an all-too-familiar story about someone who feels like a prisoner within their own house – “lock the deadbolt, draw the drapes, the government just makes this worse”. I’d move out if I could – I hate this neighborhood. The finale was “Dueling No-Banjos”, another hard-driving instrumental featuring John on lead guitar, Larry on bass, and Todd on drums. Bill delivered the organ sounds of some of the early Allman Brothers tunes, and they really rocked the house with their closing number. The crowd called for more, but the group had exhausted their repertoire, so we’ll just have to wait until their next performance to satisfy our appetite!

– Steve Nuckolls

VOCAL Showcase June 2010

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!

-Norman Roscher

VOCAL Showcase December 2009

VOCAL’s holiday showcase was number 221 in the longest running continuous showcase in Central Virginia! It was much more than a typical showcase with 10 performers, a standing room only crowd and a festive atmosphere.  The festivities were almost brought to a halt by a surprisingly large winter snow storm two days earlier, but with passable roads, the showcase went on without a hitch!

While the music is the reason for having a showcase, the December showcase was much more than a musical exhibition.  The night came together because of the generosity of our supporters, the hard work of our performers, the spirit of our audience!

We were all glad to be back at O’Tooles restaurant at 4800 Forest Hill Avenue in Richmond for the second showcase at this great location.  It’s a wonderful venue for music, food and to celebrate a festive time of the year.  

Part of the evening’s festivities were giveaways for the audience.  CD’s were donated by The Taters, Marna Bales, Dave Pollard, Norman Roscher, Cy Taggart, Gerry Laverty and Pops Walker.  We cannot thank these folks enough for their generosity, wich added a lot to the evening’s excitement.  During short intermissions spread across the evening, drawings were held for the audience members who received boxed sets of the donated CD’s.  We also must pass along a huge thanks to Gary Shaver for bringing along the tickets for the drawing and generally helping with the giveaways.  Matt Manion was invaluable in his assistance with the giveaways for the VOCAL members in attendance.

The music was the main point of the evening, but there was so much packed into this one evening, it would be impossible to fit it all into one article.  Gary Shaver was on hand to play with fellow songwriters such as Bill Wellons and John Ellis as well as performing some of his own work.  Rose Ann Robbins did a spoken word performance of one of her poems, adding a unique touch to the evening.  Other performing songwriters included Steve Nuckolls, Norman Roscher, Matthew Costello, James Lester and Don Pinkleton with son Robbie.

The Taters wrapped the night up in a great big bow for the holidays, with a thirty minute set that included tried and true, tasty Tater tunes, as well as some cover songs including a grand jam of Feliz Navidad that included most of the performers from the night!  It was such a great time.  The night just flew by and everyone was in great spirits heading up to Christmas.

Thanks to Larry Cody for producing the evening’s flyers, to Matt Manion for his continued assistance with anything that is needed and to all the fans, listeners, members of the public and anyone within listening distance!  We’ll see you in 2010!

VOCAL Showcase June 2009

Showcase 215  was a big night for music and an incredible display of VOCAL talent.  A fantastic crowd showed up to hear the wonderful performances by Dave Pollard with Triad and to hear the unique sounds of Bill Wellons.

Each month, VOCAL hosts at least two original artists on the showcase stage at Ricbrau’s TapHouse.  Come join us each 3rd Monday of the month at the TapHouse for the company of some fine songwriters and performers along with some of the best micro-brew and fine culinary creations.  Don’t forget to check out the VOCAL podcast each month on the blog.

The evening’s MC was John Ellis, who began the festivities with his rock-and-roll song ‘In My Place’ about the person who enters a relationship without ever giving it a chance.  After the completion of the performance, the crowd responded with a great cheer and enthusiastic applause.

After John’s performance, the evening was turned over to Bill Wellons who performed a solid set of piano based songs, some sad and mournful, and some of them upbeat and fun.  The song ‘Best Friend’ had a wonderful line ‘…I’ll get the leash…we’ll go out walkin’ just you and me…’ reminded me of one of my old friends who has passed.  ‘She’s Still My Baby’ had a great feel to it as Bill’s fingers tickled the ivories and the song said ‘…she says she’ll kill me, but she ain’t killed me yet’.  The mood then turned to reverent contemplation as Bill reflected on the stories of some elderly persons in ‘The Old Folks Home’.  Top tapping and a more joyful spirit took over as Bill played ‘Heartsick Blues’.  Bill closed out with a hot little instrumental ‘Lickity Split’ that had somewhat of a Ragtime sound to my ears.  Thanks so much to Bill for a wonderful performance.  You can learn more about Bill at his recently launched website www.billwellons.com .

Then, without much delay, our featured performer Dave Pollard took the stage with fellow performers Dale Payne and Vickie Payne as the trio Triad.  And from the first song of the set ‘Processional (Joyce’s Theme)’ to the last, Triad gave the crowd an incredible performance.  Dave is a wonderfully creative musician on the acoustic guitar, producing interesting riffs or melodies that add a lot to the song’s sound.  Combining his guitar skills with the talented accompaniment of Dale and Vickie Payne, Triad produces a full, rich sound that captures the audiences heart and imagination.  The vocal abilities of the trio were on dispaly in the second song of the set ‘Lucky’, which had some amazing vocal harmony.  ‘Rock Me in the Cradle’ from Dave’s CD Ocracoma,  was a welcome favorite for me, bringing back memories of other Dave Pollard performances.  ‘Church of the Mind’ is from the CD Perfect Poetry, and is an inspirational song about being able to believe what you believe wherever you find yourself.  ‘Leavin’ Town’ is another instrumental from Perfect Poetry, which was followed up by a Dale Payne creation ‘Dear Ann Marie’ a tender ballad that included wonderful vocal harmony by the trio.  Dave’s song ‘Reach Out Your Hand’  was written for his sister at a time when he wanted to encourage her to reach out to people for support.  Triad closed out the night with ‘Pictures of You’ and ‘Goodbye’ – one from each of Dave’s two CD releases.

Be sure to check out Dave’s website www.pollardmusic.com for appearances and contact info.

Thanks one more time to Dave Pollard and Dale Payne for running the evening’s sound stage.  We wouldn’t be what we are without volunteers, so thanks to Matt Manion for his continued assistance with showcases, Larry Cody for the table tent cards and Matthew Costello for photos, web development and the Podcast audio production.  And what would a performance be without an audience?  So thanks to all who turned out to support our performers!  We’ll see you next month!

VOCAL Showcase Podcast – Dave Pollard – June 2009

Give a listen to the new VOCAL podcast featuring upcoming Showcase Headliner Dave Pollard:

Dave PollardComing up on June 15

  • The VOCAL Songwriters Showcase at the Richbrau Taphouse & Grill.
  • Dave Pollard
  • Bill Wellons
  • MC, John Ellis
  • 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm 
  • Click here for directions

See you there!

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!