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Kaki King


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Mainly acoustic, instrumental guitar with alternative, pop, rock, and folk, and jazz influences

Status:

Most recent release, The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body (2015)

See also:

Kaki King's site

Kaki King's Bandcamp page

Comparisons:

Michael Hedges, an acoustic Jimi Hendrix

Covers/own material:

Own

General comments:

definitely reminiscent of some of Michael Hedges' less windham-hill moments. (brni @ kappamaki . com)

"She is to the acoustic what Hendrix was to the electric." That's the summary by the LA Weekly of 24 year-old Kaki King. People are blown away by her guitar work, and they can't believe that she is just one person who uses no loops on her guitar. You WILL be hearing of her, get in on the ground floor before she gets so popular that the venues are too big for comfort. (raven@igc.org)

Comments about live performance:

as a matter of some thousands of miles and great heaping lacks of money prevented me from making it to the tin angel, i consoled myself by tricking some friends into taking me to a show by someone of whom i had not heard. astute readers will promptly lambaste me as a Bad Student of the Guitar, since apparently one cannot open a recent issue of a guitar magazine (not even the ones with large hairy tattooed men on the covers) without being overcome by the clamor of praise for ms. King. good thing, i suspect, that i was oblivious, 'cuz if i had read some of that before seeing the show, i would have had different expectations, and simply been one of a herd of guitar nerds (some of them large, hairy, and tattooed) who were there to see some GIRL whack a guitar into utter submission.
     instead, hapless and unprepared, i saw a talented composer and musician playing an intriguing blend of fingerstyle jazz, "new acoustic", celtic, slack key, and country. admittedly, she is perky and petite, and does pound on her fretboard with all ten fingers (tipped by some scary nails) in a frenzy any large hairy tattooed metal maniac would envy (drummers take note as well—she often keeps cross rhythms thumped against the body of her guitar). but, though the guitaristic gymnastics were both impressive and entertaining, the performance would not have rated a mention here if the music weren't good. (sadly, this point seems to be largely missed in the press coverage i have since read...) in particular, compared to the tracks from her first record, the stuff she is playing "noodles" less, and develops some extended thematic and harmonic structure.
     the most obvious comparison is to the lamented Michael Hedges, both in the death-defying fingermanship, and the happy blend of influences. her most recent album Legs to Make Us Longer is produced by David Torn, which is 'nuff said. live, for the most part, she played acoustic guitar, though she switched to lap steel through a looping pedal for one piece, and played a niftily modified nylon string koto-style for another. she closed with "my insect life," her only vocal piece, sung in a sweet small voice over more looped lap steel and acoustic guitar. in concert, it had a notable Lisa-Germano-like effect (only accentuated by some minor technical glitches); alas, the recorded version is a bit more tame. in fact, in general the record lacks some of the fire (vis the large hairy tattooed men all agog) of the live performance, but then again that's to be expected.
     anyway, that's that — she's worth seeing if the opportunity presents itself, and fans of guitar should check out the new album. (1/31/05, bossert@suddensound.com)

La Guitara—Triple Door—11/16/05
If anyone has a chance to see La Guitara, Patty Larkin's traveling showcase of female guitarists, you should not miss it. I've been a fan of Patty's for years and have only seen her once, so I was most excited to see her again. But the other guitarists (at this stop they were Muriel Anderson, Mimi Fox, and Kaki King) really impressed me. The show started and ended with the women playing a couple of pieces as a quartet (including Patty's "Bound Brook" and "Louder"). Kaki King had a variety of styles (some of which are like Michael Hedges) and different guitars and effects. She's really fresh, and I think she deserves the reputation as an original performer she's earning. (11/27/05, JoAnn Whetsell)

Recommended first album:

Legs to Make Us Longer

Recordings:


Everybody Loves You

Release info:

2003—Velour Recordings—VEL-0302

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Kaki King—guitar

Produced by:

Kaki King

Comments:

A very enjoyable album, reminiscent of Michael Hedges, but not derivative. A lot of the tracks are very melodic, and some are more experimental/noodly, but overall it's very accessible to people who aren't very into solo guitar records. My guess is that it's pretty engaging as well for people who are. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Legs to Make Us Longer

Release info:

2004—Red Ink/Epic—WK 92426

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Kaki King—guitar

Guest artists:

David Torn—additional drums (3); bass (4); string arrangement (4); piano (4, 11)
Will Calhoun—drums (3)
Conrad Korsch—upright bass (3, 11)
Erik Friedlander—cello (4)
Joyce Hamman—violin and viola (4)
Hector Castillo—additional bass drum (4)
Ben Perowsky—drums (4, 11)
T. Xiques—additional cymbals (11)

Produced by:

David Torn

Comments:

I like Kaki King's debut album, Everybody Loves You, but for me her second album, Legs to Make Us Longer, is where she really gets going. The songs all feel like complete compositions unlike some of the exploratory pieces on Everybody Loves You. Overall they're more dynamic and more percussive, and not just the 3 songs that feature additional performers. The playing is very assured; she really attacks on this album. Stylistically there's a lot of variety. The song "Playing With Pink Noise" is a good one to check out as an example. The video is widely available on the internet (and is also included on the CD) and also gives a sense of play and fun that the album exudes. (JoAnn Whetsell)

...until we felt red

Release info:

2006—Velour Recordings—VEL-0604

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Kaki King—guitars, baritone guitar, acoustic guitar, lap steel, pedal steel, bass, bass drum, brushes, bells, a bowl of corn, harmonium, shakers, vibes, tuned disc, array m'bira, distortion, piano swells, accordion, synth bass, drums, vocals

Guest artists:

John McEntire—vibes, dulcimer, Wurlitzer, drums, synth, programming
Matt Hankle—drums (2)
Dan Brantigan—flugelhorn (3, 6)
Fred Lonberg-Holm—cello (8)
Katie Cassidy—harp (9)
Dan Mintzer—drums (9)
Kelli Rudick—array m'bira (10)

Produced by:

John McEntire; additional production on tracks 1-3 and 9 by John Clifford Lane

Comments:

More experimental and not quite as accessible as the previous two albums. There's more extensive use of vocals and supporting players and instruments. The album is more complex, more atmospheric/moody, more jazz-influenced. But it's a mostly successful transition from solo artist to collaborative musician. I generally prefer the instrumental tracks, and overall I like the second half of the album better—especially "Second Brain," "Soft Shoulder," and the terrific "Gay Sons of Lesbian Mothers." (JoAnn Whetsell)

Dreaming of Revenge

Release info:

2008—Velour Recordings—VEL-0804

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Kaki King—acoustic, electric, slide guitars, lap steel, pedal steel, bass, keyboards, drums, percussion, tears, vocals

Guest artists:

Malcolm Burn—keyboards, piano, bass, percussion, electric guitar, harmonica
Craig Santiago—bass drum
Dan Brantigan—analog EVI
Yuval Semo—keyboards, string arrangement on track 6
Elissa Cassini—first violin
Funda Cizmecioglu-Goetze—second violin
Youyoung Kim—viola
Jane O'Hara—cello
Bora Yoon—violin
Dave Treut—clarinet, drums
Kyle Sanna—string arrangement on tracks 9 and 10

Produced by:

Malcolm Burn

Comments:

Kaki's best album to date. ...until we felt red was a transition album, and with Dreaming she's arrived. Her singing is more assured, and her guitar work is as solid as ever. This is a great album all the way through. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Mexican Teenagers EP

Release info:

2009—Velour Recordings—FRYCD386

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Kaki King—guitars

Guest artists:

Dan Brantigan—EVI
Matt Hankle—drums

Comments:

Kaki King starts out going for hard rock on this instrumental EP, but then backs down a bit, so while some of the sound is more abrasive than I usually go for, it's still very much her. I enjoy this little foray into unexpected territory. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Junior

Release info:

2010—Rounder Records—11661-3283-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Kaki King—vocals, guitars and keyboards

Guest artists:

Dan Brantigan—EVI, horns, piano and keyboards
Jordan Perlson—drums
Malcolm Burn—bass and piano
Matt Hankle—drums (4)

Produced by:

Malcolm Burn

Comments:

Not quite as good as Dreaming of Revenge (my favorite), but still a really good album, one that bears the influence of some of the edgier territory she explored on the Mexican Teenagers EP. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Glow

Release info:

2012—Velour Recordings—VEL-1206-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Kaki King—guitars, percussion & things

Guest artists:

D. James Goodwin—additional sounds
Dan Brantigan—EVI (2)
Richmond Johnston—bagpipes (10)
ETHEL—strings (1, 5, 7, 12)
      Ralph Farris—viola
      Dorothy Lawson—cello
      Tema Watstein—violin
Patti Kilroy—violin (1, 5, 7, 12)
Ralph Farris and ETHEL—string arrangements and orchestration (1, 12)

Produced by:

D. James Goodwin

Comments:

Glow has quickly come to rival Dreaming of Revenge as my favorite Kaki King album. The single best word to describe it is color; it's just full of color, a wide range of them. It's her first all instrumental album in years, but there are new sounds, including strings on "Great Round Burn" and Celtic influences on "King Pizel," one of my favorite tracks. It's eminently listenable; I have literally played it over and over, back to back. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Further info:

Kaki King worked with Michael Brook and Eddi Vedder on the Golden Globe-nominated score of the film Into the Wild.

Kaki King recorded two tracks ("Bari Improv" and "Ritual Dance") for the August Rush soundtrack (2007) and appears in the film as a guitar-playing hand double.

Kaki's version of "O Holy Night" appears on the Christmas Calling compilation (2003). Songs from her studio albums appear on the compilations Acoustic Heart 2: The Passion & Romance of Acoustic Guitar Masters (2004), La Guitara: Gender Bending Strings (2005), and Imaginational Anthem: A Guitar Anthology (2005).


Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2015-05-31 19:37:02.
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