If you are headed out to Challis, Idaho for the Braun Brothers Reunion Festival, make sure you don't miss Chris Knight on August 7th. And if you aren't making the trek, you should definitely get acquainted with the music of this original singer songwriter.
For fifteen years, seven albums and a career that’s been hailed as “where Cormac McCarthy meets Copperhead Road”, Knight has always let his music do most of the talking. And on record, as well everywhere across America, from roadhouse taverns to major-city concert halls, his songs have had plenty to say. But with his latest album Little Victories, which was released in September 2012, Chris Knight has taken the discussion to a whole new level.
Little Victories is a record of blunt honesty and the raw rural poetry of an artist who’s come into his own and intends to stay. For a performer who’s been compared over the years to Cash, Prine, Earle and Nebraska-era Springsteen, Knight now stands alone as a singer/songwriter who has carved his own sound and sensibility out of the dirt road American dream.
“I don’t ever get in a big rush about things,” Knight says. “I can tour pretty good on what I got. I took my time, like I always do. Write a song every now and then. I don’t like to talk about politics, but I do write what I’m thinking about.” And if many of the songs on Little Victories seem to take a hard-eyed look at the current socio-economic climate, Knight – the former strip-mine inspector who still lives in the backcountry coal town of Slaughters, Kentucky (population 200) where he was raised – is upfront about their origins. “About 2 years ago, we had a big ice storm here in Slaughters that just devastated the whole area,” he says. “We were out of power for close to a month, cooking in the fireplace and living by candlelight to survive. Things slowed down to nothing. When we were finally able to head into town, we saw lines of cars for miles outside the gas station. There were hundreds of people outside the hardware store who had nothing even before the storm hit. They weren’t prepared for the situation or for each other. I watched their behavior and reactions, and that’s when I started writing a bunch of songs I knew would be a part of this record.”
The album’s eleven songs are among Knight’s finest. There’s busted luck in “Lowdown Ramblin’ Blues”, hardcore tenacity in “Nothing On Me” and bad tempered love in “You Lie When You Call My Name” (co-written with two-time Grammy winner Lee Ann Womack). Buddy Miller provides guest vocals on the ominous commentary of “In The Mean Time” and the ornery regret of “Missing You”. “Jack Loved Jesse” is a raging tale of criminal destiny co-written and featuring blistering electric guitar and vocals by former Georgia Satellite and frequent Knight producer Dan Baird. “You Can’t Trust No One” emerges as an unsettling paean to small-town American cynicism and anger, and “The Lonesome Way” is a gut-punch of slide-guitar, violin (courtesy Tammy Rogers of The Steeldrivers, who appears throughout the album) and bullheaded regret. The humble acoustic remorse of “Out Of This Hole” is Knight at his most plaintive, and the crushed dreams of “Hard Edges” carry a banjo-tinged melancholy. And if the title track not only finds Knight at his most cheerily optimistic (for Chris, at least), it also features vocals from his lifelong musical hero John Prine. “When I was 16, I got a John Prine songbook and learned about 40 of his songs,” Knight explains. “Used to play them for the kids in study hall at school every day. About 20 years later, I finally got to meet him when I opened a few shows for him. He asked me to come out and sing “Paradise” as part of his encore, and I got to play the blonde Martin guitar that was on the cover of his first album. I sent him Little Victories and he liked the song enough to be on it.” Chris treasures the moment when the two first listened to the playback of their distinctive twangs rasping joyfully together on the chorus. “‘Prine turned to me and said, ‘We sound pretty good together. Just like Phil and Don Everly.’”
So after fifteen years, eight albums and a still uncompromised reputation as one of the best singer/songwriters in America, what has he learned from it all? “I’ve learned that I’m pretty lucky to do what I do and make a living at it,” he says. “I’m really proud of this record, and it’ll be fun to play these songs live. For people who like my music and maybe even for someone hearing me for the first time, I think they’ll find songs on here that mean something to them and they can hang on to. I don’t want to talk about it too much, but I think people are gonna be surprised.” And for Chris Knight, that’s victory enough.
For more information on Chris Knight visit his official website.
Chris will be performing at the Braun Brothers Reunion Festival on August 7th. For more information visit here.