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Vickie and group jam
Hudson Valley's Best Kept Secret: Vickie Russell's Songwriters-in-the-Round
Story by Kevin Robinson
Pictures by Carol Bliefernich

Related Links: Vickie Russell, Songwriters in the Round

There are several "best kept secrets" in the Greater Hudson Valley, and one of them is Vickie Russell's monthly Songwriters-in-the-Round. Russell, one of the areas most talented up and coming singer/songwriters, hosts a program that allows audience members to look inside the hearts and the brains of four songwriters every month. Past forums have included names like John Hall ("You're Still the One" & "Dance With Me") and Jules Shear ("All Through the Night"), but even the more obscure songwriters consistently surprise me with the level of their writing skill.
Frank Carillo

Songwriter's-in-the-Round is currently being featured one Wednesday each month at the Joyous Lake in Woodstock. The program begins at 8:00 p.m., so even the early risers among us can enjoy the music and still get home at a decent hour. On Wednesday night, November 11th, Vickie opened the show with three of her own originals: "Meaning of Life", "Drawn to You", and "Life Without You." If you haven't heard Russell yet, let me assure you that the $6.00 cover charge for Songwriters-in-the-Round is worth it even if her opening tunes were all you got.
Too Human
Roger Bruno & Ellen Schwartz

But that was just the beginning. This month's guest songwriters were: Too Human (Ellen Schwartz on guitar & vocals, and Roger Bruno on percussion & vocals.), Kurt Henry, Tarryn Waz & Brian Campoli, and Frank Carillo. There are four "rounds" to the evening. In Round One, Russell introduces the guests one at a time, asking each to open with a personal favorite. Schwatz & Bruno chose an "edgy" number entitled "Feedback", Kurt Henry sang "Your Sun and Your Sand", Tarryn Waz & Brian Campoli performed "Rain", and veteran rocker, Frank Carillo got everyone's attention with "Anymore than You Do."
Tarryn Waz & Brian Campoli

In the second round, each guest is asked to tell the audience about how they write. Lyrics first? Or melody? Alone? Or in collaboration with someone else? Then they're asked to perform their most recent composition. The creative process is often mystifying to the right-brained creative individual, but for the linear, left brained among us, it can be far more so. Hearing these gifted writers describe their own process is the next best thing to being there!
Kurt Henry

Round Three is about becoming a songwriter. When did they start? How did they know? Most of this month's guests started very early in life. Frank Carillo, known for his work with Peter Frampton, The Alessi Brothers, and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, started as a teenager and never looked back. But Tarryn Waz became intimidated by the ribbing she got from her peers which made her feel "weird" for writing songs, and abandoned the process until later in life.

In the final round of the evening, the songwriters were asked to tell us where they were playing in the area, and asked to perform a favorite cover song. Each of the guests blew us away, but Too Human's "Rose in Spanish Harlem", and Frank Carillo's astounding performance of "Road to Hell" brought down the house. If there's a better show on the eastern seaboard for $6.00, you're going to have to drag me there and prove it. Vickie Russell's Songwriters-in-the-Round is a Must See. And once you've been, you'll see why this "best kept secret" won't be a secret for much longer.

Photos the copyrighted property of No Bull Productions.

Kevin Robinson is a freelance writer/photographer, and the author of three "Stick Foster" hardback mystery novels. A former syndicated columnist for the Detroit Free Press, his byline has appeared over 100 times in national and regional periodicals. Kevin is a partner at No Bull Productions, and his PR credits include promotion and booking work for several of Kansas City's top blues bands. Kevin can be reached at

Posted on November 13th, 1998

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