Review Summary: It's Victor Wooten's "A Show of Hands" for acoustic guitar minus the stupid lyrics.
I mostly remember Kaki King’s Everybody Loves You from my car, playing it as I drove through San Francisco on one nice afternoon, checking out Chrissy Fields. The calm, beautiful music meshed perfectly with looking out at the bay, ignorning the parking lot. The music was good, that's all I could say. The guitarwork showed talent, the songs were nice, but the music was just good. And I found myself going to that CD quite often forrelaxing company to my life . I usually listen to this CD on the move, so I hardly recognize the names of the songs. It can be peaceful (“Night After Sidewalk”), happy and carefree (“Happy As a Dead Pig in the Sunshine”), or chaotic like in the quick parts of “Carmine St.” I love and recognize each song though not by name. All of them seem so simple, but then you remember Kaki King is doing these crazy guitar acrobatics-harmonics, thumping the body of the guitar, tapping the frets, whatever. And it’s rather awe-inspiring. Then I go back to listening to the music.
Kaki King openly admits to ripping off Preston Reed. She learned her scratching, popping, slapping style of acoustic guitar from him. I have only heard a little Preston Reed, and that little sample was still only after a three-hour night of sleep on someone’s floor. But from what I remember, there are very striking similarities. They play guitar the same way, in an unorthodox fashion. Because of that, it’s easy to stamp them as very similar. But the music on Everybody Loves You is wholly enjoyable, the focus is on the songs. It just also has the technicality to back everything up.
For her debut album, Kaki King does all the music, all the bass lines and all the percussion-with her guitar. And it sounds cool when she does it, the fret tapping, the thumping against the body of the guitar. She deftly scrapes and slaps the guitar strings. Sometimes it’s a little off, like in the title track. The guitar sounds a little weird and kills the entire mood of the song, this happens a few other times, but usually the songs work very well. It’s really fun to listen to her work the guitar. I’m sure it is even more fun for those who play acoustic guitar.
The album does a good job of showcasing her ability to play guitar, but that is not what stays with you. Sure she’s good, you can tell that from the opening urban thumps of “Kewpie Station.” The question is, how does she keep things interesting when she isn’t blowing us away with her technicality? And this is why I don’t care how much she took from other artists. All of the time, Kaki is telling a story with her music. She can do so with simple, slow picking as well as with all the tricks she uses. Kaki King uses the techniques she learned from Preston Reed and such to create a song. The harmonics and bass/guitar at once that King does in “Carmine St.” seems natural, not like she’s showing off her talent. And when she does simple chording, it’s still interesting. So what we’re left with are some very good songs, very good songs most of us could never dream of playing.
Something I found out while looking up Kaki King is that she started by playing on the New York subway. And the subway makes it into her music. The songs start softly, they’re tender and quiet. But they can crescendo at any time as the subway enters a tunnel. This is when the slapping and scraping comes as Kaki plays into a frenzy just to be heard. It’s kind of cool.
The hidden track, after a pause at the end of “Fortuna” showed what would come for Kaki King. She knew she would be tied to the crazy things she could do on acoustic guitar. So for the hidden track, she busts out an electric guitar and she sings. She doesn’t sing words, she sort of meows like a cat and stuff. And the song still works. Recently Kaki’s been touring with a full band, something entirely different from this CD. As long as she possesses the songwriting abilities shown on Everybody Loves You, it doesn’t matter what Kaki King does.
Recommended Tracks: Carmine St., Close Your Eyes & You’ll Burst Into Flames, Fortuna