For only the second time since March 2020, (April 2023 being first) the May 15th VOCAL showcase was held live at O'Toole's Restaurant. This event was billed as an open mic night for all who wished to perform members, or not.
Rona Myers Sullivan came to the mic first. She acquitted herself as a well seasoned guitarist with the following set list: "Wherever I Am" a song that was self reflexive, and after a failed relationship, has the singer deciding her best option was to follow herself in the world. "Three Forks" told the tale of what happens in a small town such as pettiness and stressing situations, causing the singer to state: "I’ll never go back there again." Next song "Beside The River" recounted living along the banks of river and how the waters flowed with memories of the past. In "Deep Waters" the singer recalls how "everything about you" caught her by surprise through her lover's eyes. Rona closed her set with "Who's Crying Now".
Matt Manion, long time VOCAL member, followed with a twosong set, accompanied by John Ellis on electric guitar. "O Rolling Sea" recounted memories of a trip to Rhode Island with his family and enjoying time at the beach. His guitar work emulated waves rolling in to the shore with timed intervals of strumming, "Thank You Chuck Berry" was a tribute song to the late performer using some the Berry's famous guitar licks in the song's music.
Gary Shaver on keyboard, presented two songs that showcased has deft finger-work on the keys and echoed with a classic country sound. "It's A Crying Shame" was the sad tale of a lost love that still resounds in his mind even after she has changed her name to her new lovers. In contrast: "I Stand Amazed By Your Love" recounted just the opposite, all sweetness and good feelings from his amour.
Next up: Carter Jordan with a singular song "Different Roads" A tale about going separate ways after a breakup.
Featured performer of the night, Jeff Wagner, started off his set with "The Reckless Kind" going into detail living life by throwing caution to the wind, taking chances and their consequences. In "Hurricane Wind" he sings about a couple who left a peaceful somewhat solitary life to enter the world and gets rebuffed and blown around by what it as to offer. In the end, they decide to return to their solitary life. "Kindness Man" is a touching portrait of Jeff's brother who left an indelible mark on him setting up examples of how to treat people who have trouble dealing with adversity and hard times, and thus: the song's title. "Rattlesnake" gives us chilling picture of a woman who plays men for what she can get by dressing provocatively, in snakeskin outfits, hanging out in bars and teasing them with her attributes. "There's Still Songs We Need To Play" reminds us that the human condition is an unending source of creativity if we stop and dig into our feelings and thoughts. The singer says there is much yet unrevealed about life. Remembering the past, times we laughed, times we danced, times we made love, are all the subject of "Sometimes" a song that reminisces about times in a life gone by. To close his set, Jeff presented "Sometimes A Fire Can Stop The Rain" which gave examples of how contradictory life can be.
Many of the attendees were happy to finally see each other in the flesh after a long separation due to the pandemic. The response to the performers bodes well for continued success at VOCAL's live showcases.
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-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.
The “curtain” opened on the August 16th, 2010 Showcase precisely at 8:05 p.m. Jeff and Stephanie Boarman, a husband and wife musical team and long-time VOCAL members, set about to entertain the good-sized crowd with an eight-song set. Describing their music as “Americana”, they opened with a gentle tempo train song entitled “Bittersweet”, with pleasing vocals by Stephanie. A tongue-in-cheek honky-tonk tune followed: “I’ll Toast to Your Sobriety” which featured the lyrics “I ain’t here to think, I’m here to drink, I’m right where I’m supposed to be!” Jeff’s delivery of this tune had the audience grinning and chuckling, and featured expert mandolin work by Barry Lawson.
A minor sonority framed the song “Miner’s Prayer”, telling of a father’s hope that his infant son not have to live the life of a miner. “Cappuccino Cowboy”, the set’s only waltz, told of a cowboy’s new life (and diet!)r his son to not follow in his footsteps. chucklinged to be!”. g vocals by Stephanie. a toungue-in-cheek honky as a married man. Stephanie sang of a man “broke and branded” and how “she did it single-handed”. Clever concept and writing!
More minor sounds from the duo in “Don’t Take My Baby Away”, a lover’s lament, followed by a switch to major in the witty “Baby, How About You?” This duet, a male-female discourse, speaks of the man’s practicality and the woman’s seductive approach. The audience responded with generous applause to yet more of Jeff and Stephanie’s fine writing.
“My Kentucky Flower” was given an up-tempo bluegrass treatment, speaking of “hillbilly justice” and included the warning “don’t mess with Daddy’s little girl!” Jeff mentioned this song was once pitched to superstar Ricky Skaggs. “He swung…and missed!” said Jeff, drawing laughs from the songwriters in the crowd. Once again, Barry Lawson’s fine mandolin work greatly added to the song.
“Bury Me in Kentucky” painted a picture of a beautiful rural area and closed the first half of the show. After a warm round of applause showing their appreciation for this trio, the audience responded with even more as the Boarmans were presented with the
Co-Songwriters of the Year Award from VOCAL.
Doug Patrick, the evening’s featured act, left no time for the crowd to even fasten their seat belts, instead launching into his first song with nary an introduction! The familiar “Make It Work” opened his nine-song set and featured backup from the Boarmans, Barry Lawson on mandolin, and long-time ‘Vocalonian’ Larry Cody on bass guitar. Larry would be on stage for the entire performance, as others would come and go throughout the evening.
“Full Time Love” featured the same lineup laying down a good backbeat, and told of a fickle woman trying to get a relationship into high gear. Sharing the spotlight, Doug brought up his good friend Eddy Kitchen to sing a self-penned song titled “Good Loves Can Die”. This tune captured the essence of what many call “pure country music”.
One of my favorites followed: “Put Him in the Lineup” tells the story of a young “Tee Ball terror” from the viewpoint of a proud grandfather. This tyke is a switch-hitter like Pete Rose, a slick fielder a la Brooks Robinson, “can run those bases like Willie Mays”, and “can hit the tater for a country mile”. A pure bit of genius from the pen of Doug Patrick!
Louis Millhouse and Gary Shaver grabbed trumpet and clarinet respectively and lent a hand on the song “New Orleans Nights”, another well-known and well-loved song from Doug’s catalogue. A highlight of the evening followed: Kelly Kennedy’s lead vocal of Doug’s new song “Till the Boys Come Home Again”. Her delivery mesmerized the crowd as she sang of two families connected by marriage, each with men fighting on opposite sides of the Civil War. Andy Cleveland’s fiddle tenderly underscored the song’s message.
Continuing with the Civil War theme, Doug offered “One Lone Georgia Pine”, a moving story of a soldier’s exploits on the battlefield and his final resting place. The war cycle was completed with “Molly”, a quick waltz describing a soldier’s love for his wife. One lyric was especially powerful: “when the fighting gets heavy, you can hear grown men cry”.
The closer was Doug’s ode to the famous Virginia racehorse, Secretariat. “Watch That Red Horse Run” told of Big Red’s feats at Churchill Downs and beyond. While the rest of the field was “hotter than a Maytag range”, Secretariat was “cool as ice” and set a record clocking in at “one fifty-nine and change”. Doug did justice to the horse’s great career with this well-written song. Many who lent musical support during the evening squeezed on to the stage for this final tune.
The VOCAL Showcase has been a mainstay of our group and the Richmond music scene since July 1991. We are proud of its longevity and the many talented members and appreciative fans who make it possible. Here’s to songwriting and VOCAL’s upcoming 25th Anniversary in July 2011!
– Gary Shaver
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!
Showcase 220 was a new adventure for all of VOCAL as we crossed the mighty James River to bring original songwriting to a favorite Richmond spot, O’Tooles Restaurant & Pub. Jim Uzel, Gerry Laverty and Louie Millhouse christened the new location and kept a full house entertained with a fantastic selection of original material. The showcase was on November 16, 2009.
We couldn’t be more thankful at this time of year than to have a wonderful new room for the showcase. We are now presenting our original songwriters in a wonderful room at O’Tooles Restaurant & Pub. With a tasty menu, a friendly staff, and a large, open room for the performance, VOCAL couldn’t ask for more from a host. Join us next month at 4800 Forest Hill Avenue in Richmond for another musical, and culinary adventure!
Jim Uzel took the first performance spot and gave the enthusiastic crowd a nice sampling of his extensive songwriting catalog. Jim has self produced a lot of material over the years as well as participating in songwriting with friends such as Gary Shaver and even produced a boxed-set a few years ago that has original art work on the cover. Jim’s set list included ‘The Drifter’, ‘Deep in the Night’, ‘My Summer Dream’ and ‘Spirits in the Rain’. The subject matter for his songs often touches on the spiritual and the emotional as with this set. His nice, inspired guitar work is paced and carefully crafted to match the mood of the song. Thanks to Jim for a great start to the evening.
Next on the bill was Gerry Laverty. Without a doubt, Gerry has shown over the years that poetry and songwriting often go hand-in-hand, and along the way he has earned fans among his peers. In the November Showcase, Gerry had a set list that included many of the favorites from his years of songwriting. He kicked off the set with ‘Bad Seed’, then followed up with a classic ‘Jerusalem’, which searches for peace in the ancient city. Gerry then showed his ability to cross genre with his wonderfully bluesy guitar work in ‘Blues in the Nite’. The bending of the guitar string in the ‘Blues in the Nite’ riff is so sweet, it keeps your ear longing for more. Gerry kept the mood mellow, but focused on the longing that comes when you’re separated from someone you miss so much, in the song ‘Lonesome Blue Eyes’. This song is a favorite of many fellow songwriters and is a wonderful blend of melody, lyrical fluidity and inspired poetry. The set closed with ‘I’ve Been Worried so Long’ and another classic Laverty composition about a mysterious woman ‘Zion Crossroads’.
The featured performer for the evening was Louie Millhouse. Louie brought in a great line-up of guest performers including Gary Shaver, who played piano for most of the set, and Louie’s daughter Nancy, who represented the rhythm section on bass guitar. The set list included compositions from both Louie and Gary Shaver and the musical styles included jazz, ballads, pop and rock. The first song, ‘Marauder’ has a very latin or Spanish feel to the guitar rhythm and is a wonderful addition to the many styles we hear on the showcase. ‘The Stone’ is a Gary Shaver composition and a fantastic representation of Gary’s songwriting abilities. The night was full of surprises including the song ‘And I Always Will’ where Louie performed a duet with guest singer Robyn Kim. Robyn’s smooth, light voice was a nice counterpoint to Louie’s male lead. After the duet, Louie brought out his flugelhorn for another Gary Shaver composition ‘Tutti’ which is a nicely done jazz instrumental.
Louie then turned the mood to a cool, jazzy, funky thing with ‘Lonely Waters’ featuring daughter Nancy on a funky bass line, Louie on some nice jazzy electric guitar chords, and Gary Shaver on flute. Louie’s vocals were smooth, low and smokey as the band rolled through the song. From the jazzy to the near impossible, Louie took the crowd on a humorous, outlandish ride, with more syllables than you could believe would fit in one song titled ‘Doctor McBoogie’. The good doc is a proctologist by day and a hot trombone player by night, whose best cure is packaged in a musical note! You have to hear it to truly appreciate it. The mood was taken back to an easy, mellow tone on ‘Now That We’ve Said Our Goodbyes’, by Gary Shaver. ‘We’d Better Leave it Alone’ is a country-pop sounding song, starting with an a-cappella including Robyn Kim, the song also featured Gary on lead vocal. Louie then gave us another glimpse of his sense of humor and revealed who has a nice looking mom, with ‘Kara’s Mom is Hot’. This unique dedication, based loosely on a true story from a family trip, has a calypso or island rhythm and won’t let you go without singing along or at least tapping a toe. Then Louie let us go with the beautiful imagery of Key West with his song ‘Marathon’.
The evening was a great success thanks to so many volunteers and performers. Special thanks to Jim Uzel for sound services and once again to Dave Pollard for his assistance in setting up the showcase at our new location. Larry Cody produces the table tent cards for the showcase and Matthew Costello handles web services for VOCAL. Extra special thanks to Bud Brinkley, photographer for being on the scene to provide photography services. See you next month!