Posted Tuesday, Jan. 9, 8:56 p.m.
Haven’t we all heard this before? An acoustic guitarist with incredible skill, an innovative style, and virtuosic musical ability…sounds like the same old story. Well, this time, it’s not. After two solo-acoustic albums (one with Velour Records, the second with Sony Records), Kaki King is back for another go-round with “…Until We Felt Red” (Velour). When asked why she had decided to no longer record with Sony, King replied, “Everyone I had ever known at Sony was fired, so I had no one to call anymore.” This time, she’s brought a full range of instruments with her, including an electric guitar and her own voice.
In fact, between herself and producer John McEntire, all of the instruments on the album were taken care of. “The change was just natural. It seemed that I just wasn’t feeling it anymore when I stuck with the acoustic. I just wasn’t eager,” says King, about her surprising shift to electric guitar.
Some musicians are forever altered by this transition (Bob Dylan, to name one), but King has seamlessly expanded herself and her craft. Not that her craft was lacking in innovation before (see: her performance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien on YouTube)…her percussive, yet flowing style of playing has gained her the respect of many major names in the musical community. Her style, often likened to that of Preston Reed, was found “on her own,” says King. “I just had the desire to be different.” Different is definitely something she has accomplished.
Kaki King’s unusual finger-picking roots, however, lie both in Atlanta, George, as well as the depths of the New York City subway. During her stint on the subway platforms, she says she really learned to hone her performance technique. “It helped me to develop my stamina and concentration in a relatively harsh environment,” says King of the experience. Now, years later, she has played the late-night TV shows and dingy major-city clubs, but has one major regret. “That shirt I wore on Conan,” she says with a sigh. “I should have worn the sexy black one.”
It would be almost impossible to stick Kaki King’s art into a single musical genre, but if forced it would seem most appropriate to create one for her. Her revolutionary and evolutionary techniques can only be described as Acoustic/Electric which, while seemingly impossible, makes for a sound that truly engulfs the listener. Listenable, danceable, and (in her live performances) extremely entertaining, King provides the audience, whether listening or watching, with the complete package “…Until We Felt Red” is a passionate journey, and King’s self-exploration shows through not in faults or negative results, but in an album full of emotion for both artist and audience. While she may have strayed from her comfort-zone, “…Until We Felt Red” is a leap forward from her previous two albums (“Everybody Loves You” (2003) and “Legs Make Us Longer” (2004)), not that it needed to be. If she continues along her current path, Ms. King has a lot more exploring to do, and a lot more of herself to give to us.