Kalai may be a musician who goes by just one name, but his music covers many styles. In his sound are bits of Ben Harper, pieces of Paul Simon and dashes of Michael Franti. Kalai takes these influences and combines them into something all his own using his finger-picked guitar chops and a voice that can go from a guttural growl to a pristine falsetto in seconds.
His star has been on a slow rise since 2001's Acoustacism. Since then, the Hawaiian-born, Alaska-based musician has toured the country many times over and released three other full lengths including last year's Crows Feet. Major labels have knocked on Kalai's door, but he has instead chosen to go the indie route, saying that, so far, he has yet to see a major label offer that would benefit him much.
Kalai is frequently compared to another guitar great, Django Reinhardt. The comparison is made not only because of Kalai's monster-sized bag of guitar tricks, but because he also has issues with his hand. Born with a hemangioma (an abnormal build-up of blood vessels), a botched surgery resulted in a painful, deformed left hand. And though he plays with all but the tips of his fingers wrapped in bandages, the man can still play guitar with the best of them.
This summer, Kalai made his network television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live, an appearance that showcased Kalai's talent and made people sit up and take notice of his music.
Add Boise to the list of those taking notice as Kalai brings his show to town. Fans of soulful, acoustic-based music should find plenty to love.
Nov. 7, 5 p.m., FREE, Record Exchange, 1105 W. Idaho St. 7 p.m., $15 advance through Ticketweb, $17 at the door. Reef, 105 S. 6th St., 208-287-9200.