Tag Archives: James Lester

VOCAL Showcase April 2011

An intimate and attentive crowd gathered at O’Toole’s for the April, 2011 showcase. James Lester opened the show with his fine bluesman-ship. I Like Your Love is an uptempo bluesy number – I’m usually kinda shy, but you have a way of bringing me out of my shell every time you hug me. Circus Blues is a “near-bluegrass” song – something hasn’t been right since the circus came to town – she’s been going out alone and hanging out with the clowns. Now the clown is knocking at our door – should I stay or should I go? Coatesville Blues is a drinking song searching for four-leaf clovers and other things to turn your life around. It only takes a buck and a little luck to get by in this town, but I need the doctor to give me something to take these blues away. Generation Blues is a contrast of life from yesterday and that of today – my dad told me to save for a rainy day, but I pray for a sunny day. There’s plenty of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but Jesus is nowhere to be found. Satisfried is the story of a man with a great wife who has a good job and knows how to cook. She makes me feel like a king on my throne – I’m satisfied, satisfried. Blues Sky Blue was co-written with Steve Yates. This tender love song tells how his woman makes all his blues go away – I love my odds with you, in a formation of two, you turn my blues sky blue. Why I Sing the Blues was in an alternate tuning that sounded really cool. I get so depressed watching the news – everyone’ fighting ‘cause God is on their side. Whatever happened to a positive vibe? The “addiction” song Lame Pony told us I don’t want no woman don’t know right from wrong – she tried to hold me under her ball and chain – the tears came down like pouring rain – I gave her a lot of money, but it was not enough – I’m gonna take off walkin’, the pony’s going lame. James’ next tune was an instrumental called “E Thang”. Drinking Again was a sad tale about a woman walking out on her man – the last time I saw you was when you walked out the door – you don’t love me anymore – I can’t win – here I am drinking again. It’s All About Money says there ain’t a damn thing funny about the sad situation I’m in – my congressman doesn’t care about me, so my campaign contribution is in the mail. Deva (short for deviant?) is about a bad cat that’s always trying to kill things. Why can’t you just get along – why do you have to be jealous of all the other cats? James ended his set with the country-flavored Make My Day. As I watch you pack your bags, I wonder if we could have a last lusty fling. One more roll in the hay sure would make my day!

Matt Manion then took the stage, opening with a couple of numbers reminiscent of the 70’s. Don’t Remember Thinkin’ took him back to when I don’t remember thinking of the hassles we’d been through – in my state of loneliness, things seemed to be brand new. The Crossroads travelled back to the early days of the Crossroads Coffeehouse in the basement of St. James’s Church – the wooden chairs, coffee and cookies, and guitar players. Going to the Crossroads – I wanna play, I wanna sing, just put me down for anything. Nesmith and he grew up together but apart along parallel paths – raised in the country, but off to Richmond you roamed – I’m sure glad I reached you. God’s Rhythm asks God to help me find my rhythm, find my beat, shake this clumsy body, move these wooden feet – I can feel you in the floorboards – let him work things out.

Matt then invited Valerie Rourke onto the stage, and she performed two lovely a cappella numbers. If You Should Go is reminiscent of Patsy Cline – if you should go, I won’t come after you, or try to hurt you – now you have gone, but I’ll never know why you decided to leave, and I only torture myself when I believe you still think of me. Valerie left us with Torn in Two, which tells of one who is undecided on whether to stay or leave – one side of me loves you so, the other hates you because of how you treat me. My friends all say I should leave you, because you will never change – my heart thinks different, so what am I to do?

Matt returned to the stage with two fellow Vocal-onians, John Ellis (guitar) and Norm Roscher (“sin” thesiser). The thoughtful and dreamy Old Rolling Sea was inspired by body surfing (Norm was surfing his keyboard) and told of the power, depth, and age of the sea. You can feel and taste the salt spray just thinking about it! Don’t Need to be Perfect states that I don’t need to be right, macho, or bright, I just need to be me. Man’s Man is a call for a man who’s not afraid to take me by the hand and be a loyal friend to the very end – don’t care if he’s shy, don’t care what people say – if they talk, I don’t give a damn! John Ellis joined in with his smoking electric guitar on this number. Matt ended the set with Sit Down for Standby, an all-too-familiar story about trying to get home on a standby flight. John & Norm joined in again for this tune. We’re all just travelers stuck in the same boat – if I don’t get a flight, I don’t get home.

Submitted by Steve Nuckolls

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 July 2009

It was a hot summer night when we kicked off Showcase #216, but inside the TapHouse, there was a cool blast of sound waves emanating from the stage!  The crowd filled the better part of the venue, and as some of the dinner crowd left, more folks filed in to see what was cookin’ on the stage.  James Lester with special guest Tom Mayer (from Barrelhouse) gave a harmonica infused dose of sweet blues, then Matt Manion gave a great set of folk and rock.  And to keeping it all rolling along, VOCAL’s guest MC for the evening, Louis Millhouse, kicked off the music and introduced our artists.

What would great music be, without a great venue to set the atmosphere?  Join VOCAL at Richbrau’s TapHouse each month for the perfect environment to experience freshly prepared meals, fine crafted micro-brew beverages and well crafted songwriting.  You’ll find us at 1212 East Cary Street in Shockoe Slip every third Monday of the month.

Louis’s song ‘Marathon’ was a great way to begin the evening and a sampling from his showcase appearance scheduled for later this year.  With a sweet acoustic rhythm and the warm, sandy imagery of living in the Keys with a drink in hand, Louis had the crowd swinging in the breeze of his tropical rhythm.  After warming up the crowd with this tropical excursion, Louis introduced the first performer.

James Lester wasted no time getting the crowd worked up as he kicked off his set with ‘I Like Your Love’, a bluesy number that gets feet to stompin’ and heads-a-boppin’.  Alternating between his own songs and the songs of his guest, Tom Mayer, James turned the microphone over for the next song ‘Home Cooking’, a tune featuring Tom’s vocals and harmonica.  Throughout the set, Tom’s harmonica was present on each song and what a treat it was for the ears!  Whether on James’ songs such as ‘Lame Pony Blues’ and ‘Where’s My Baby’ or Tom’s songs ‘The Night is Closing In’ and ‘All My Wife’s Relations’ the duo put on quite a fine sampling of guitar based blues, spiced up with a heavy dose of hot harmonica licks.  James gave quite a performance on the fretboard alternating between strumming and finger-style playing, with each song leaving your ears begging for more.  Tom really let it rip on ‘Lame Pony Blues’ where he laid down a harmonica solo that nearly set the roof on fire!  Lyrically, the duo served some low-down blues such as ‘The Night is Closing In’ as well as some comic relief with the songs ‘All My Wife’s Relations’ and ‘Where’s My Baby’.  VOCAL thanks James and Tom for bringing their blues skills to the showcase stage.  Look out for the next showcase performance from this duo.  You can also keep up with them on the web at www.myspace.com/jameslesterblue and www.myspace.com/barrelhouserva .

When the first set was over, it seemed a shame for the music to end, but there was no reason to worry about that with the evening’s featured performer Matt Manion.  Sharing his style of acoustic music, Matt carried the audience through an evening of folk and rock songs that used many themes including the difficulties of work life and the thoughts of personal reflection, wrapped up in lyrics that were sometimes somber, sometimes humorous and sometimes poetic, but always thoughtful.  Starting off with a blend of humor and maybe horror, ‘The Royal Roach Hotel’ was Matt’s telling of a not-so-wonderful stay while working in the oil fields of Louisianna.  Keeping on the theme of rough work experiences, ‘Power Play’, had a bit of a Punk feel to the rhythm, which served the lyrics well as the song addresses the frustration that can exist in some work environments.  ‘Forget Yourself’ was a very reflective song with an easy, calming melody.

Matt had surprises in store for the audience as he called John Ellis to the stage to accompany with lead electric guitar on ‘Losin’ My Hair’, a humorous, but somewhat introspective song about one of life’s struggles.  Next Matt brought Gary Shaver to the stage on clarinet and Norman Roscher on keyboard along with John Ellis on lead guitar to add ambience to his poetic and inspiring ‘O Rolling Sea’.  Norman’s keyboard work added a nice ambience to the song, which evoked images of the ocean waves that Matt used in his recorded version.  With Gary on the clarinet, the song had more depth thanks to the wonderful tone of his instrument and the delicate, swelling runs he used to accentuate the mood of the song.  Thanks to Matt and his guest performers for providing a unique interpretation of a very unique song.

Matt finished up his set with a few more songs including one that has a 50’s Doo-Wop feel to my ears, with lyrics about strength in love ‘Man’s Man’, and a great song for any Matt Manion performance ‘Don’t Need to Be Perfect’.  Thanks to Matt for a great set of creative, original musical variety.

VOCAL would not be the great organization that it is without a great group of volunteers helping out.  Thanks to Matt Manion for providing the sound system for the evening and to John Ellis and Matthew Costello for sharing soundman duties.  Larry Cody is kind enough to provide table tent-cards for each performance to inform our listeners about the evening’s performers.  Matthew Costello also keeps our website up to date and handles most of our photography work.  But it would all be for naught, without an audience to perform for, so thanks to all who show up or otherwise support our songwriters.  We’ll see you next month! 

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 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!