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| Chris Knight,
Label: Drifter's Church Productions
Chris Knight is the embodiment of what John Mellencamp aspired to be: equal parts Springsteen, Earle, and Dylan, adding up to one badass singer/songwriter. With gruff vocals and poet's touch, Knight is a convincing chronicler of rural America. His fourth album, Enough Rope, is a gorgeously spare testament to the struggles of modern pastoral life.
The picture Knight paints is pretty bleak, with the shrinking homestead of "Dirt" (listen), the loneliness in "Rural Route" (listen), the old-age isolation of "Old Man" (listen), and just the general dead-end existence summed up in the closing "Enough Rope" (listen).
Yet even the bleakness carries an unmistakable, almost Steinbeck-ian nobility. Witness "William's Son" (listen), a follow-up to "William" from Knight's eponymous 1998 debut: I know it ain't right to feel this way / But I'm kinda glad my dad got blown away / I know he grew up hard and he grew up mean / But me and my sister was not to blame / We spit in your eye and stand our ground / Just to keep our head from hanging down / We ain't gonna hide and we ain't gonna run / Hell y'all know me, I'm William's son.
Knight is quick to point out that this album isn't as lyrically harsh as his previous efforts. And that may be true. But even love songs like "Saved By Love" (listen) and "To Get Back Home" (listen) are tinged with desperation, and the lovelorn yet lovely "Cry Lonely" (listen) encapsulates solitary despair in this post-zipless age: You cry lonely and I come running / I come to your rescue, chase your blues away / You cry lonely but you really don't want me / And I won't be there one of these days.
Knight is a Kentucky native who once worked in the mines of Appalachia. While he's stayed in the Bluegrass State, his largest audience is here in the Lone Star State. In fact, Knight has become such a fixture that Gov. Rick Perry officially declared him an honorary Texan in 2003.
With an early radio hit in "Jack Blue" (listen) and surely another coming with "Cry Lonely," here's betting we see even more of Knight as he tours the state in support of the excellent Enough Rope.
Reviewed by Patrick Nichols (email)
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