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Kendra Meinert column: Vox digs deep for material for new album

9:06 PM, Apr. 17, 2013  |  Comments
Victoria Vox shows off her ukulele-driven new album during area CD release shows this weekend.
Victoria Vox shows off her ukulele-driven new album during area CD release shows this weekend.
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Victoria Vox did something last year she hasn't done in her 10 years as a full-time musician.

She grew a garden.

The Green Bay native took a year off from touring in 2012 - turning down the 125 dates she does annually - and stayed home in Baltimore, where the hiatus from the road not only had her digging in the dirt but "digging deeper'' as a songwriter, too.

She wrote 52 songs during that time and then had to choose 11 for her new album, "Key,'' which came out earlier this month. It was a drastically different approach to her typical working pattern, which is to write a dozen or so songs and put out a record every other year.

"I wanted to focus on the music and give myself a break from touring. Recharge the batteries,'' she said last week from an Amtrak train headed to the Pacific Northwest to kick off her CD release shows.

The result of giving herself an opportunity to explore her songs is an album that is deeply personal and from the heart.

"It's a really beautiful and moving album. It's definitely not what people expect out of the tone of the ukulele ... I don't want to say it's too serious, but it's just really lush and sounds great.''

Vox recored with producer Geoff Stanfield in Seattle. They agreed on seven songs from her cache of 52 right up front, and then Vox fought for the others she wanted to make the cut.

"Key'' finds her playing ukulele, bass, drums and an actual trumpet (not be confused with her signature "mouth trumpet,'' which she played on the "Late Show with David Letterman''). Known for the happy, fun music she makes on the ukulele, the new album is a departure from that, challenging the logic that it's impossible to write a sad song on the instrument.

"I beg to differ,'' she said. "There are some upbeat moments (on the record), but mostly I would say it's moving and raw and really emotional. ... It's not a downer. I would say it's a beautiful record.''

She was 24 when she started playing the ukulele, and now at 34, she has grown with it, she said. "Key'' is a testament to how she has matured as both a songwriter and a person.

Vox, who spent time in India in February and has dates booked into October, is eager to come back to Northeastern Wisconsin to show off the album during a series of concerts through the weekend. With family in Green Bay, she gets home several times a year. Her first stop for a taste of home? "Usually Kavarna,'' she said.

"Key'' is available at The Exclusive Co. and at www.victoriavox.com. (Check out her line of underwear, including women's panties that say "Uke Can't Touch This.'')

Concert news

The Riverside Ballroom has a pair of singer/songwriter nights booked for May.

First up, it's Milwaukee guitar great Willy Porter, a frequent visitor to the venue, in support of last fall's "Cheeseburgers and Gasoline'' on May 16. Green Bay's Mike Casey opens. The following week, Michael McDermott, who has opened and or shared bills with Todd Snider and Paul Thorn at the ballroom, gets his own gig on May 22. The Chicagoan, whose latest album, "Hit Me Back,'' includes liner notes from Stephen King, will be joined by his wife Heather Horton on back-up vocals and violin. Galynne Goodwill opens.

Tickets for each show are $20 advance general admission and $25 reserved at the Riverside box office. Or you can catch both shows for one $35 general-admission ticket.

Phillip Phillips' concert on May 9 at the Weidner Center is now officially sold out. While the hall is not the city's first venue that comes to mind for touring acts, when it lands one, they tend to be memorable, including a near sellout by John Mellencamp in 2011 and a fabulous acoustic show by Bryan Adams in 2010.

There's some quality national acts turning up in unexpected spots in the week ahead, beginning with Ruth Moody on Saturday night at the Luxemburg High School Performing Arts Center. The Canadian singer is best known as a founding member of folk group The Wailin' Jennys and for appearances on Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion,'' but she'll be playing music off her recent solo album, "The Garden'' and her upcoming "These Wilder Things.''

The Hollands! open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 at www.totalgatesolutions.com, the PAC box office, 512 Center Drive, Luxemburg, from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and at the doors.


Freedy Johnston brings his 1994 hit "Bad Reputation'' and other power-pop gems to Arketype's Grace Atrium, 612 Stuart St., Green Bay, on April 25. The singer/songwriter, proclaimed Rolling Stone's "Songwriter of the Year'' in 1994, splits his time between Madison and New York City. He'll be joined by Lisa Germano and Savannah Smith for the 7 p.m. show, which is 21 and older. Tickets are $15 at www.ticketstaronline.com and (800) 895-0071.

Gigs

It's not every week there's a beer release party, but Hinterland will celebrate the release of its new White Cap brew Thursday night with specials on pints of the White IPA, a 6 p.m. talk about it and an acoustic performance by brewer/singer Gary White at 8:30 p.m.

Catch the Wisconsin Area Music Industry's newly inducted hall of famer pat mAcdonald in his duo Purgatory Hill, with Dirty Deuce, at 10 p.m. Saturday at Phat Headz.

Fresh off the Anthrax tour the night before, thrash metal band Exodus does a special headlining show at Green Bay Distillery on April 25. Tickets are $15 in advance at www.greenbaydistillery.com and $20 at the doors.

The Features, who have a self-titled album dropping May 14, return to the Crunchy Frog on June 8.

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