409

Kaki King: Legs to Make Us Longer

By

Sign in to view read count
Kaki King: Legs to Make Us Longer Kaki King plays the drums. Oh, I know, on the inside sleeve of her latest CD, Legs to Make Us Longer, she quietly lists her instrument as "guitar." And stumbling unawares into the preamble of one of her live shows, you might reasonably assume (before you hear anything) that you're about to get an evening of sensitive folk profundity. After all, that does look like an acoustic guitar in her lap. But these are carefully constructed illusions. Once you close your eyes and open your ears, you realize that King could be playing the entire percussion section in her very own symphony orchestra.

Which makes a certain sense: King was a drummer in her high school band, and while in college aspired to provide the backbeat for various groups in the New York indie rock scene. At some point she made the transition from one instrument to the other, but clearly never lost the percussive sensibility.

There have been others who have specialized in the kind of guitar-drumming that King does particularly well, of course. Stanley Jordan is often credited with starting the style, which is sometimes called "tapping"—a term that means the fretboard (and sometimes the body of the guitar) is struck (or "hammered") with the tips of the fingers. And a whole passel of hard rock icons screwed up their faces god-knows-how-many times in the eighties trying to get the hyper-masculine stadium version of this just right. King herself cites a number of more obscure (and I would say more interesting) influences: Preston Reed, Michael Hedges, Leo Kottke, Nick Drake, and Elliot Smith, among others.

Let's get the technical considerations out of the way. First, one has to admire the fact that King's tapping is done on an acoustic guitar (anyone who has ever picked up one of those knows how painful that must be). Also, she's a remarkably sensitive, dynamic player. (For all his technical skill, Eddie Van Halen—one of the best known of the passel mentioned above—has always been, in my opinion anyway, musically monotonous. A lot of notes, sure, but they're all pretty loud, aren't they?) Further, King's repertoire of skills is broad: in addition to the styles mentioned above, she can also play lap slide ("Can the Gwot Save Us?"), fingerpick ("Doing the Wrong Thing"), and even sing ("My Insect Life").

But what is most unique and notable about King may have nothing to do with all of this. Aside from the obvious (the fact that she is a woman playing an instrument that tends to be dominated by infamously obsessive men), it's worth noting that she doesn't succumb to the one thing that often stymies other virtuosos: she can actually write a good tune (everything on this record is a King original). Her compositional style is an interesting hybrid: partly bursting with punk energy, and partly reflective of the dark moodiness that must have characterized her New York City subway performances in the days after September 11. And, indeed, that image may be the ideal summation of her artistry; it suggests a musician perfectly suited to her time.


Track Listing: Frame, Playing With Pink Noise, Ingots, Doing The Wrong Thing, Solipsist, Neanderthal, Can The Gwot Save Us?, Lies, All The Landslides Birds Have Seen Since The Beginning Of The World, My Insect Life

Personnel: Kaki King, guitar

Title: Legs to Make Us Longer | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Epic Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Second Act CD/LP/Track Review Second Act
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 23, 2017
Read Imaga Mondo CD/LP/Track Review Imaga Mondo
by Troy Dostert
Published: August 23, 2017
Read Port Of Call CD/LP/Track Review Port Of Call
by John Sharpe
Published: August 23, 2017
Read May I Introduce To You CD/LP/Track Review May I Introduce To You
by James Nadal
Published: August 23, 2017
Read Honey And Salt CD/LP/Track Review Honey And Salt
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 22, 2017
Read To the Bone CD/LP/Track Review To the Bone
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 22, 2017
Read "Lockout Station" CD/LP/Track Review Lockout Station
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 1, 2017
Read "Kucheza" CD/LP/Track Review Kucheza
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: January 1, 2017
Read "Better Left Unsung" CD/LP/Track Review Better Left Unsung
by Doug Collette
Published: December 10, 2016
Read "The Imperfect Sea" CD/LP/Track Review The Imperfect Sea
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 4, 2017
Read "Mirror, Mirror" CD/LP/Track Review Mirror, Mirror
by Glenn Astarita
Published: January 3, 2017
Read "Afro-Caribbean Mixtape" CD/LP/Track Review Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
by Mark F. Turner
Published: June 27, 2017

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.