Island Mele: ‘Key’ by Victoria Vox

Jun. 11, 2013 | 0 Comments

REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / jberger@staradvertiser.com

‘Key’

Victoria Vox (Obus Music)

Victoria Vox, currently a resident of Baltimore, Maryland, is of interest to “Island Mele” because of her interest in ukulele.

0611 voxAfter taking the quintessential Hawaiian instrument to pop and alternative audiences outside Hawaii for the past decade, she’s switching gears with a project that emphasizes her versatility as a songwriter rather than the ukulele itself.

Vox explains in the liner notes that she spent a year writing what she calls “the Original 52 Song Project,” and then partnered with producer Geoff Stanfield to select 11 tracks for the album. Ukulele is prominent on some; larger orchestrations with horns, drums and keyboards are used on others.

“Let It Go” takes Vox into Taylor Swift territory with a spare acoustic country-style arrangement and a hint of a southern accent in her voice. Romantic context is also not a question as Vox describes the problems of trying to reach someone who has a “Guarded Heart.”

Dark tones percolate through others. “Daffodil” notes the fleeting life of blossoms and speculates about their thoughts in memorable style; lyrics and instrumental arrangement mesh effectively.

A song titled “Empty Apologies,” also dark in mood and tone, stands out on all counts — lyrics, melody, instrumental arrangement and Vox’s delivery. Should anyone still think of her primarily as a ukulele player the lyrics of these songs show that she is equally talented as a lyricist.

Vox’s ukulele becomes more prominent as the album plays out. Putting live strings (violin, viola and cello) behind the basic “duet” of Vox and her ukulele adds soothing textures to “Crazy Love” and makes the song a mesmerizing requiem for another fading relationship.

“Remember the Music,” a whimsical look at living with forgetfulness, returns the ukulele to its familiar role of providing strummed accompaniment to cheery or humorous lyrics. “Ship Goes Down,” the only instrumental, is an eloquent reminder of the melodic textures that can be created with the instrument’s four strings.
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John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at jberger@staradvertiser.com.

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