Kaki King first started getting attention about five years ago as a short, young woman who could play the guitar like a brilliant maniac. Her style, inspired by the late Michael Hedges, was as much about pounding percussively on the instrument as it was about strumming strings. Watching her was a little like watching Eddie Van Halen playing acoustic guitar while possessed by the spirit of jazz drummer Max Roach.
She could have had a lucrative career just playing shows for the subscribers of guitar magazines, but instead King turned into a well-rounded artist. Her 2006 album Until We Felt Red placed the emphasis on her singing and songwriting. Since then she’s put the guitar pyrotechnics at a minimum and plays in a more restrained, atmospheric style. At times she sounds like Pinback, at times like underground indie-pop heroes the Pastels, and at times like Mogwai.
King has also been collaborating a lot, appearing on albums by the Foo Fighters and Tegan and Sara. Most recently she recorded a mini-album with the Mountain Goats, otherwise known as indie-rock genius John Darnielle. The Black Pear Tree EP finds the duo playing on such songs as “Thank You Mario but Our Princess Is in Another Castle.” King sings and plays drums and glockenspiel on the simple track. That may be a weird thing for a guitar virtuoso to do, but a truly gifted musician knows to just get out of the way when you’ve got a song as beautiful as this. It’s certainly the most heartbreaking number ever inspired by an old-school video game.
The Mountain Goats also perform.
KAKI KING, Belly Up, Tuesday, October 28, 9 p.m. 858-481-8140. $16.