March 2020 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase

The March 2020 VOCAL Showcase took place on Monday, March 9, 2020 at O’Toole’s Irish Pub. The showcase had a Spring theme, so performers were asked to perform at least one song with that in mind.

Joan Smith opened the show with Emergence, a Spring-like love song calling for the awakening of her heart. She followed with Pot of Gold, a search for something more in life, possibly even leading to a leprechaun at the end of a rainbow! The Yes Man is a unique a cappella doo-wop style song, giving it back to the man dangling too-good-to-be-true offers in front of you. Let’s see your credit score and I’ll see what I can do!

Gary Luong, who’s only been writing for a year or so, opened with a really cool heartbreak song, You’re the One Who Taught Me Guitar. His next room-quietening tune was a very delicate Ed Sheerin-ish number, recounting the advice from his father (I’ve Got to Give Back My Love to You). He enlisted the grooving help of a looping machine for his last tune, saying we’re still young and have plenty of time to live out our lives together.

Bill Kaffenberger returned to the VOCAL stage with three of his offerings. Early Spring was written by his friend and local RVA songwriter Steve Antonacci, who recently passed away. This is a really touching song about the promises Spring will bring, and Bill plans to play this at Steve’s upcoming memorial service. She’s So Real describes the girl with a heart a million miles high, and a smile a million miles wide. If only he could get near her to tell her! What am I Doing Here has him sitting on his hands, with no one listening to what he has to say. Things have never been good to him, and probably never will be. You may never strike a chord anywhere near fame, but you can’t give up or you’ll lose the game.

Jim Puckett then took the stage with The Sunshine Knows Your Name, where the warm Spring sun trumps all the bitterness that Winter can throw at you. Lenten Roses delivers on the promise of Spring, with the beauty of the blooming flowers, showing the fruit of your labors. Doesn’t the Rain Still Fall had some really cool images of the sun always shining, the wind sneaking down the mountain, babies always crying, etc.

Long-time member Karen Trump graced the stage after quite a long absence. It was great to hear her stellar roots/folk/blues offerings. God’s Redeeming Grace was reminiscent of the Carter Family, a Spring-ish number about falling in love when the flowers are in bloom. Silver-Tongued Devil was a delightfully dark number about succumbing to temptation. No Spring Chicken is something most of us can relate to. While we’re still quite able in a lot of areas, there’s certainly nothing wrong with hitting the sack at 9:30! Welcome back, Karen!

Martin McNeil brought us some fine British muse with Back in Your Arms Again, asking for his lover to hold and soothe him. Give Myself Up to the Night was a poignant number, crying all the tears at the station, and hitting the road on the 8:39 train. He ended with In My Breakdown, receiving an arrow through the heart from his former lover.

Norman Roscher ended the evening of original music as only he can do. My Bitch Lad was a very irreverent (but tender and loving) tune about a young lad walking through the woods when he was “taken in” by a woman for her personal needs. So was there a loser in this transaction? He then delivered a tune written by fellow “Vocal-onian” Bill Wellons, Gonna Take My Baby Dancing. This is just a really happy, feel-good song about kicking your feet up on the dance floor! Waiting for The Moon is a signature Norman tune from the Dog’s New Clothes era, and is always a crowd favorite!

2019 VOCAL Open Mic,

January 2019 VOCAL Showcase

Norman Roscher

Norman Roscher

Welcome to the first open mic night of the year. While the temperature took a dive into frigidity, the atmosphere in O’Toole’s was warm and toasty for some original music.

Hosting the event was stalwart entertainer Norm Roscher. To kick off the night he exhibited his exuberant piano styling with a couple of his tunes. “Yer Beautiful” was a tribute to an an attractive lady who evinced the qualities of the title in her style of dress and looks. “Apple Wine”, an older song rarely done by Norm, was a wistful journey into a young romance that ended sadly with one participant leaving the country.

Steve Nuckolls

Steve Nuckolls

Next up was another stalwart of VOCAL, Steve Nuckolls, who regaled the huddled audience with a trio of his well written songs. “Saturday Morning With Emmie Lou” Was tale of learning to play along with her (Emmie Lou Harris’s) songs, proudly gearing up for the session with new guitar strings and picks. He followed that with “Each Town Has It’s own Rocky Top” which illustrated how small towns have a great country vibe of people and atmosphere. A song written while running, was next. “When Like Turns to Love” which analogized the transformation of emotions to the weather.

Jeff Wagner

Jeff Wagner

A fairly new member of VOCAL, Jeff Wagner, on guitar, followed Steve. “Wide Open Wyoming” was a tale of two separated lovers who fouhd a way to come together by compromising their geographic differences, in a hurricane, no less. “I Think I Might Forget, This Time” details a desire to get over a past relationship but the singer keeps getting images of her, that won’t go away, and leaves him perplexed. Jeff closed his set with “Who’s Your God” a sort of self explanatory song that asks the listener to think about what they worship.

Keely Burn

Keely Burn

Keely Burn, a younger member of VOCAL, came on stage next with her newly acquired baritone ukulele and tested out her chops on “I’m Not Afraid” a work in progress, but still well done. Next, she performed “Come Down Love” , which she opened with a whistle intro, before getting into the song. This was a plea to an unrequited lover to recognize her and give her a chance at romance with the line “Plant your flag on me”. “Lightning” was the next tune. In this one, she seems to be mad at a love interest for being jilted, somewhat amazed at quickly emotions can change.

To round out the night, Norm returned to play a few more of his songs. In his more bawdier manner, the first song was “Mr. Calls Got Big Balls” followed by a co-written ( Pam McCarthy) tune “Idle Time” and closing out with a standard of his”So Long Baby, Bye Bye”.
Once again, a great night of music was provided and enjoyed by all present.

Happy New Year from VOCAL.

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 February 2011

-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.

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!