-by Matt Manion
Collaboration between VOCAL members was on display February 21, 2011 at February’s VOCAL Showcase at O’Tooles Restaurant. Headliner Steve Nuckolls was joined on stage by fellow VOCAL members John Ellis and Larry Cody. Gary Shaver, who opened the evening, brought up Norman Roscher and friend Alan Cole, and surprised a few songwriters in attendance by performing their songs. Bill Kaffenberger, who was originally scheduled to perform, was unable to make it, but hopefully Bill will join us for a future showcase.
Gary, at his keyboard, opened his set with two of his own love songs. The first contained the refrain “my love is somewhere between her and you”. Gary’s performance caused one member of the audience to comment that Gary sounded like Floyd Cramer, the American Hall of Fame pianist who was one of the architects of the “Nashville Sound”. Gary followed it with a song about lovers who look back on their affair, the only thing left being “words on a page, yellow with age.”
The wood and brick interior of O’Tooles came alive for the next number when Gary invited Norman Roscher up to the keyboard to perform a rollicking Norman song called “Roamin’ Eye”. Gary blew alto sax as Alan Cole added tenor sax, and Norman sang in his distinctive, rich, gravely voice “…can’t put a leash on them dog-gone roamin’ eyes.”
Gary then announced that he was going to play a composition written by his friend Frank Lucas, who was in the audience. Alan added sax over Gary’s keyboards and showed how lovely and complete just two instruments can sound. Frank seemed pleased at the unexpected surprise.
Falling scales and deft fingerwork highlighted Gary’s next song, which he said sat unfinished for 10 years at the end of his piano bench. Expressing the struggle of human communications, he entoned “we’re just lost at sea, if you won’t talk to me.” And later…”let’s not sink too deep, just believe in me.”
Gary had another surprise up his sleeve. This time he honored Jim Uzel, another VOCAL member in the audience, by performing a Uzel composition. A sad, last song to a once lover, the lyrics tell the story: “…now that our love is gone, all that’s left is a sweet, sweet love song.” The song ends with a beautiful chord change.
Gary dedicated his last song, a Shaver original, to Marg, who was enjoying the music at a nearby table. A heartfelt love song, Gary sang “…and I stand amazed by your love”, and “…I thank you, my darling, for lifting me up”.
John Ellis served as MC for the evening and announced that Steve Nuckolls would be up shortly. After a brief interlude, Gary introduced Steve, who introduced his first song: Simunye.
Steve explained that the inspiration for Simunye came from a trip Steve and his wife Janice took to Africa. They had ridden an hour on horseback to a Zulu village which had no water or electricity. A reunification effort was going on at that time after a civil war, and “Simunye” can be translated as “we are one” or “we are one with this land”. John added guitar to this moving song, and member Larry Cody added harmony from the audience during the chorus.
Next was one of Steve’s newer songs, the genesis of which came this past New Year’s Eve as he was out running. “My Prayer of Thanks” is an expression of appreciation of each day, with the recognition that it could be our last. Steve dedicated his next song, “Grayson Lady”, to Ethel. It was an uptempo song with images of forests and hills.
John added guitar, and Larry plucked the bass, for Steve’s next song, “Making My Getaway”. The three musicians fell right in together and their instruments and vocals blended as if they had just come off the road after a long tour. During “When the Flag’s Half-Mast” that followed, a member of the audience commented “That Larry Cody can keep some time. He’s just got a good ear.”
Next up was “Sunrise” featuring Steve’s high, clear tenor sailing over the guitars. John’s lead was perfect, sounding almost like a banjo. A hopeful, gorgeous, song with lyrics “…you know there’s always a sunrise”.
“There’s something about your love that keeps me on the ground…” sang Steve for his next tune, followed by a song he described as a “true story told second hand”. One audience member commented that Steve hits those high notes like Dan Fogelberg. Coincidentally, Steve joked from the stage “I think I’ll do one with my high voice.” Steve ended his set with his “At Home on the Back Roads” and “Living Out This Love” rounding out a great set for the appreciative audience.
A fine evening of original music, made finer by the collaboration between our members and friends. Please join us for the next VOCAL showcase April 21 and watch for our newsletter for details.