If you came upon Kaki King through her latest record, with its ambient and distorted electric tones, you might be surprised that she would choose an acoustic instrument as her signature model. Older fans know that Ms. King came to fame through her (wo)manhandling of a primarily acoustic instrument. Her idiosyncratic and athletic style of strumming, picking tapping, and hammering her Ovation axe dropped more jaws than her startling good looks. Though her recorded work now favors plugged-in textures, many tunes begin life on her Ovation acoustic, and she still does solo tours where struts her amazing acoustic chops. The new Kaki King signature Adamas guitar from Ovation honors the woman who rejuvenated the art of instrumental solo acoustic guitar playing.
Crown For A King (Queen?)
King has updated the Ovation look in a number of respects: rather than add wood appointments, her model revels in its carbon fiber top, flecking the texture with gold to match the Schaller tuners. The epaulet surrounding the off-center sound holes is white, in stark contrast to the black top and bowl, injecting a tuxedo-style elegance.
A single inlay in the shape of a royal crown sits at the 12th fret (don’t worry, there are side dots for quickly locating neck positions). Though no doubt a play on her last name, the crown could just as easily represent her place as reigning queen of the acrobatic acoustic guitarists. Though King usually performs while standing, the lower bout offers a textured patch that prevents any slippage while sitting—cool!
I often envy gorilla-mitted guitarists, being blessed instead with what I like to think of as artistically slender hands. The Kaki King’s five-p i e c e m a h o g a n y / m a p l e neck is hefty but somehow still comfortable, even for my average-sized paw—of course the classic Ovation low action helps. Despite strings mounted so low that barely touching the strings produced sound, the instrument displayed no signs of buzzing or fretting out, regardless of the aggressiveness of my attack. A flawless fret job and a perfect setup kept the guitar ringing true and in tune when dropping the D string for some swamp picking, or accessing the upper frets for a screaming solo.
Back when playing other acoustics on stage required being stuck behind a mic and dealing with feedback, Ovation made its bones by providing an acoustic guitar that could be plugged into the PA and comfortably wielded onstage with a band. Thus it was no surprise that the Kaki King sounded great when plugged in—whether into a Roland AC-33 acoustic amp or into a computer running Ableton Live. In both cases the O P -P r o preamp and O v a t i o n H i g h O u t p u t pickup provided tone that was warm and natural; this baby could make recording acoustic tracks a walk in the park.
On stage, I appreciated the easy to use, steady tuner and the tone shaping abilities of the Op-Pro’s three-band EQ. The quickly accessible battery too was a welcome change from having to loosen the strings and stick a 9-volt in through a sound hole. Should you ever decide to mic it up, or just play around the house, be aware that the Kaki King’s acoustic sound was excellent, with lots of focused low end, as well as even output at all points on the fretboard.
The Ovation Adamas Kaki King Signature model is a piece of modern art designed by a modern artist and a forward-thinking company, a classy, high-tech tool for advanced music making. Those, like King, who enjoy lowering strings for exotic tunings, will welcome its stability. Any player of any level will enjoy an attractive instrument that can be relied on through travel and weather to provide constant quality performance.