John kicked off his acoustic-electric set with A Band of Silver, born from overhearing a conversation of a couple discussing the style and purchase of their wedding band. Needless to say, the stone/metal/shine/cost of the ring is nothing compared to the love it should represent! Honestly (featuring really catchy guitar licks) is the tale of the feelings and emotions you experience at the end of a relationship that didn’t go well. Sometimes you just need to let off the steam. He next treated us to his signature tune The Stranger, where he deviated a bit from his usual delivery of this song with a subdued acoustic vibe rather than a driving electric guitar. In this tune he recounts various relationships that were doomed for failure, hence the stranger to love. John ended his set with Autumn Hours, which also has some really cool guitar licks to draw the listener in, dancing around the lyrics of preparing for a cold winter while clearing your mind with cool peaceful nights. Great set, John!
Ken, a new VOCAL member, then took the stage and treated us to an eclectic variety of tunes. It’s no secret that the love of family is the source of most of his inspiration. Lost Myself in You is a beautiful love song about falling in love with his wife. Goodspeed You Home is another tribute to his wife recounting the time she was traveling and he was home alone with the fireflies and the sunset. Song For David is a very heartfelt song written in memory of his brother whom he dearly loved. Gonna Roll All Night is the reaction to seeing that special look in her eye and not knowing exactly what to make of it (we’ll roll to the left, roll to the right, maybe we’ll roll all night!) Let Me Be There was a tender love song written about his daughter’s birth thirty years ago and which he finally finished with her wedding last year. There were some beautiful images here, always wishing for blue skies but knowing there will be rain, wishing for happiness but knowing there will be pain. The writing of a good song takes time! In Virginia was inspired by an old mill in Hanover County but goes on to describe many of the wonderful treasures in the Commonwealth, such as Shenandoah, Blue Ridge Mountains, Chesapeake Bay, and Mt. Rogers. Diversity is a funky/catchy tune telling us to look beyond the black and white and the prison that enslaves our mind, and instead focus on the beauty within. It Always Beats for You is another song written for his wife at the time their daughter “left the nest”, asking her to put her head on his chest and listen to his heart beating madly for her. Lockdown is another funky groove co-written with Jim Puckett about “Lady Covid” floating in the air, in-between the sheets, etc., a plague topic that we can all relate to! The Road is a minor-keyed number about the churning and grinding, wheels turning, feeling like the road is driving me. Can’t Find The Sunshine For The Rain is a love-gone-south number about hearing distant thunder and seeing the Heavens open up and pour out the truth, reminding me of my love with you. Excellent job, Ken!
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Our VOCAL Christmas showcase took place on December 19th, and 6 songwriters, some new to our group as well as tried and true VOCAL veterans, banded together to carry on our traditional annual event.
Glenda Creamer was up first. She opened with "Love Came Down At Night", a light waltz filled with Nativity imagery. Next up was a melodic study just waiting for the right words, loosely titled "Song With No Words". She followed up with "After Christmas", its lyric urging the listener not to give up hope when the holiday season loses its glow. Glenda rounded out her set with "Christmas Cookies" - lots of cookies and lots of calories!
Next up was Roy Kauffman. Roy opened with "Dream of Me (Woodstock to Hollywood)", giving us images of memories of love left behind on the highway. His nostalgic set continued with "I'm Not Gone", reminiscing on departed friends. Roy concluded his set with "Any Other Way", an ode to appreciating what one has.
Dave Drouillard, one of our new VOCAL members, offered two songs this evening. The first, "American Flyer" gave the listener images of post-war America and a lonesome railroad as it made its way past winter on the Great Lakes. His second offering was "Unsung Carol", a child's heartfelt expression of the Nativity, and of faith.
Longtime VOCAL member John Ellis was up next, with two songs as well. "Autumn Hour" was a reflection on transitional themes between fall and winter. "Me & My Baby On a Cold Winter Day" was a sassy, romantic, Christmas blues.
Another or our newest members, Eric Gaines was next to perform. His first song, "Black Dog", used a strong, well developed lyric to deal with the darker side of love. His next song, "Iron Bound", spoke of a commitment as strong as steel and chain. Eric rounded out his set with an ode to commemorate his return to music, entitled "Coming Home To You."
Our final performer of the evening, James Lester, favored us with three of his original works. "Spending Christmas With You" was filled with traditional Christmas warmth, while "Christmas Boy" was a jazzy, romantic holiday number. His fnal song, "Piedmont Blues", was a study in the blues, Piedmont-style.
Wishing one and all a safe and prosperous 2023!
In November VOCAL presented three singer-songwriter members in a program simulcast on Facebook and Zoom. Chaired by VOCAL President Matthew Costello, the showcase began with some sample songs by each of the participants while waiting for the live viewers to assemble before their devices.
Once done, the showcase started off with John Ellis who amped up his Taylor guitar and began with the instrumental "Chimes" which was complemented by a nice run of arpeggio chords that suited the title. This was followed by "Sweet Blues" a sad reflection of lost loving. Next came "Honestly" a more honest title would not have sufficed to describe the lyrical content of this song. "You gave me very little of yourself", "unending agony" were a couple of the lines and the kicker was the singer saying "you can go to hell". "Winter Solstice" is a staple instrumental in John's repertoire and this tune rang out with some big chords perhaps describing the darkness that the title suggested. "Autumn Hour" included some picturesque lyrics of the changing season and the declarative by the singer "I find my tranquility" in this time of year. Closing out his set was "Band of Silver" extolling the virtues of an inexpensive wedding ring preferring to offer this rather than a gold one as "there's no such thing as a second had wedding ring, (when) a band of silver will do".
Steve is a long time VOCAL member and a frequent performer on the showcase. Tonight he offered some old and new material less often done. "Lines of Love" is a tender tale of the connection between two people in love and their means of communication in silent but meaningful glances. Picking up hitch hikers can be a dangerous thing. But, when its Eugene, as Steve tells us in "Much Obliged" it can be an entertaining ride. Full of stories he always ended his travels with the phrase "Much Obliged" no matter who was taking him to his destination. Next " The Gosson Mines" was a cautionary tale to youngsters about the dangers of getting too close to the people who worked the mines and sawmills. Something new, " A Week To Over, Time" described the mundaneness of work as the singer proffered "daydreams are my lifeline" as an escape from the boredom of it all. Closing out his set, was "What If She Likes It". His set offered a nice contrast to John's with less rock musical overtones and more soft pop tones.
Jeff has been in VOCAL for a couple of years and has played his songs for the members in meetings and in a previous showcase. He has more of a folk sensibility. Tonight he began with "House Burning In The Town Tonight" a tale of a traveling musician who vacillates between being on the road and being at home, mostly away from those loved ones at home. This was followed by "Sacred Mountain" a song full of descriptive images of being out in the desert landscape, as something like a rejected lover might feel, living in the sagebrush, under a red sky, cold nights and out where the coyotes howl. Redemption seems like a far away mountain. Aging has it drawbacks, for sure, but it can be fun, as well as Jeff tells us in "The Old Guard" which is a self reflective song in which he and three of his buddies star. They hang out together and each one has a life talent that distinguishes them one from the other, but they have one thing in common: they "Suffer no fools or cheap whiskey". "Sometimes" "how I miss that Joy and pain" gives us an overview of a relationship and the good and bad that can accrue over the years. "Reckless Kind" pictures a lifestyle of difficult choices that put the singer in jeopardy as his life comes on "like a big red storm". Last song in the set "The Devil Claims Your Soul" is a tale of an out of luck cowboy who can't get it together as in this line:"the wind calls your name, but, plans you made are like broken bottles on the barroom floor" Heavy duty stuff.
Three different singers, three different styles of music, great variety.
If the video below doesn't play when you click it, follow this link to watch it on Facebook: October 2022 VOCAL Showcase Facebook Live
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
-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.