Highlighting the best: Songwriters Showcase II

The music was under way by the time I arrived at Starr Hill for the second installment of the Songwriters Showcase. I got there in time to catch the last few tunes from Irishman Paul Kasey, a talented singer whose simple strumming style complements his natural voice.

Following Kasey came local talent Ezra Hamilton. This man's voice is a gift. I'm awestruck every time I hear him. Hamilton was the only artist Friday night to absolutely silence the audience with his songs. Among them, a cover of Dave Sickmen's "Latenight Kitchen" nearly had me in tears. The combination of Sickmen's brilliant lyrics and Ezra's voice is unforgettable, to say the least.

Craig Honeycutt was up next. Honeycutt went old school on the audience with his first song– "My Way" by Frank Sinatra– something of a strange twist. But he followed that dinosaur with a set of originals, many of which carried a psychedelic element at the end with added heavy delay and reverb. I found myself zoning out to his music, oftentimes missing the verses and then being drawn back in by the choruses.

Andy Waldeck followed Honeycutt. Andy has always been an inspirational songwriter, and his performance Friday was no exception. His solo set included a few oldies from his Earth To Andy days, but the highlight of the evening occurred when he introduced his new backing band, The Civilians.

I wouldn't expect anything less of Andy than to recruit the best session players in the area for his new project. Joe Lawlor on guitar, Geoff Sprung on bass, Nate Brown on drums, and Tevis Marshall on keys compose his line-up. Their tunes are the epitome of songwriting, with timeless subject matter and flawless transitions.

Unfortunately, because they performed last, the audience had begun to thin a little, but it was the early-leavers' loss. Luckily, The Civilians plan to hit the studio soon to record their efforts. I'll be one of the first to the store when they debut.

Songwriters' Showcases vary, but this one was a great success. I'm always happy to see the talented musicians of Charlottesville have a chance to shine for appreciative local audiences.

I'll keep my fingers crossed that the Songwriters' Showcase continues with its already established tradition of bringing out the best.