Kari Dokken
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Kari Dokken

Jacksonville, Florida, United States | SELF

Jacksonville, Florida, United States | SELF
Band Folk Acoustic


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"From Roots Music to ‘80s Pop Hits, Spindletree Does It All"

The first time I went to see this acoustic duo they didn’t even have a name. Four months later Kari Dokken and Dan Hall are calling themselves Spindletree. They have their own fancy logo on buttons, a website (www.spindletreemusic.com), and have logged plenty of hours in and around South Walton. When I caught their act before, they did some really inventive renditions of ‘80s stuff like Madonna’s Like a Prayer and Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time.

Happily, the scope of their songbook has not suffered from these “legitimizing” efforts. They still walk that not-so-fine line between the well-known—John Lennon’s Watching the Wheels, Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain, Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game, John Denver’s Take Me Home Country Roads—and the obscure (neofolkies the Weepies). There’s a nice original song by Dokken entitled Disaster. Hall sings Decatur from Sufjan Stevens’ acclaimed Illinoise disc and Jesus, Etc. by Wilco. For a moment I regret trading in my copy of the Jeff Tweedy and company’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot CD, but I like Spindletree’s version better.

“I come from a jazz and indie-rock kind of background,” Hall says. “Kari’s the one that makes the ‘soup.’” Kari, who insists she’s no “music snob,” likes just about everything. She seriously considered working up a rendition of Hannah Montana’s Best of Both Worlds when I suggested it.

Dokken strikes me as a performer who would absolutely refuse to sing any song she didn’t believe in. “That’s pretty much true,” she says. “Even if it’s a pop song, it’s gotta have some meaning behind it. That’s kind of what music is all about—expressing yourself.” She grew up listening to everything but current music. The first singer who really made an impression on 23-year-old Dokken was Patsy Cline.

Tonight, Dokken and Hall express themselves at Grayton Beach’s Gravel Road restaurant, the kind of intimate venue where people walk up to the musicians and initiate conversations right in the middle of a song. They are completely unplugged, and sometimes it’s hard to hear the vocals over the clanging of silverware and glasses. But these two clearly enjoy what they do—they bounce and tap their feet, smile and laugh, bruise their thighs with tambourine slaps…never stand still.

Dokken credits Bob Steeno for awakening her musical passion. “Nine months ago I decided I wanted to learn how to play guitar, and he gave me lessons,” Dokken says. “But he told me I had to sing, too, and learn one song a week. He would get me onstage with them at Pandora’s—I fell in love with it.” Dokken actually started much earlier but wasn’t allowed to do solos in her high school chorus. “I was told I had a ‘background’ voice,” she laughs.

“She has a phenomenal voice,” Hall says. “To me, there’s no song she can’t sing. It’s a good foundation to work from.”

Dokken also has a natural gift for phrasing other writers’ songs to fit her style. “We try to make a song our own.” I feel obligated to clear up any questions as to whether she is related to a certain front man of a certain semi-famous El Lay hair-metal band that shares her name. “He’s a distant cousin of mine,” she says of Alone Again singer Don Dokken. “I never met him. He’s like a weird relation—three times removed. I did get a free oil change once because of the name!”

The female half of Spindletree handles rhythm guitar duties pretty well, but it’s Hall who displays the truly fine fingerpicking tendencies. He grew up in Tennessee and has played all his life, though he insists he never made a dime from it until he moved here. “Everyone’s supportive here, unlike Nashville where it’s cutthroat,” Hall says.

As Spindletree’s second set winds down, Kari sings the old gospel song Wade in the Water. It’s the most satisfying thing I’ve heard all night, until Hall wraps things up with his version of the Buggles’ MTV-initiating Video Killed the Radio Star. I never really thought of that as a song before now. And I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time, either. I can’t wait to see what Spindletree does next. - Chris Manson


Still working on that hot first release.



At a glance Kari Dokken will likely draw you in with her beauty and contagious smile but below the surface is a deeply intellectual, timeless songwriter. She sings with a range and tone that is exceptional, writes clever lyrics that will touch your heart, and plays the strings off a guitar. Kari truly has a unique picking style, percussive strumming, two-handed finger tapping technique, and intricate chord progressions that present a quality sound every single time. She has an innate ability to combine virtuosity on her instrument with an equally non-stop and impressive vocal technique which separates her from most pop or indie singer/songwriters. In any performance , she will share emotion and honesty, sweet, yet raw, whether she is belting a tune or breaking your heart with a sultry tone, her voice is all her own!