"I'm really excited about this show at the Map Room," says Charleston-based musician and singer Annie Boxell. She fronts her full band at the West Ashley venue on Sat. Jan. 12 — a rare collaboration for a melodic group which has been on the scene for years. "It's basically a reunion gig with the original Vicious Circle lineup of me, Marty Parker on guitar, and Jeff Mangum on drums," says Boxell.
"Reunited ... and it feels so good!" she sings. "Jim Algar [ex-Red Hitt] will be playing bass with us down the road. The set will be an eclectic mix of songs. The style of the songs change around a bit. One is distinctly gospel-sounding, another is minor-key blues ... other stuff is hard to describe."
The tall-standing Boxell moved to Charleston from Utah in 1995, attended the College of Charleston on a volleyball scholarship, and formed the Vicious Circle in 1998. With them, her playing and singing leaned toward a '70s-era pop-rock style, along the lines of Carole King, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, and Joni Mitchell.
"I play a lot of my originals at my solo shows, but it always sounds better when I have the weight of the full band behind them," she says.
A self-taught pianist with an affection for the smooth and soulful side of pop, Boxell uses her unusual playing style — a warmly understated, lilting mix of chords and melody — to find great depth and authority as a bandleader and soloist. She has been "viciously working" on a new album (tentatively titled American Original), recording most of it in bedroom studios.
"Some songs are very percussive and arppegiated ... although I hesitate to use musical terminology to describe some of the songs, for fear of sounding like an idiot in front of my real music friends," she laughs. "Marty's great. He is a left-handed, upside-down genius. He recently moved to Atlanta and then back here, so we haven't had a chance to play. Jeff is kind of the backbone of the band. He's a stellar human metronome. He's been with me the whole way. He understands my process and works with it. I can completely let my guard down and work quickly for that reason."
In addition to the Vicious Circle gig at the Map Room on Saturday, she regularly performs at several other spots around town. She and guitarist/bassist Jim Algar perform every Tuesday at 7 p.m. on Sullivan's Island at Atlanticville Restaurant (2063 Middle St., (843) 883-9452). She also performs solo sets on the baby grand piano every Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. at the elegant Alair Bistro (920 Houston Northcutt Blvd., (843) 856-9915).
On her own, she can swing gently on an old blues standard or a Bob Marley or Beatles hit, then swerve into a loungy version of the "Marine Corps Hymn." The occasional "naughty" or vaudevillian tune sneaks into the set as well. Eclectic, indeed.