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A Pretty Good Guy

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Album Review

Ah, the return of true redneck rock. Chris Knight, who received more than a few kudos for his self-titled MCA debut, is back with a dirtier and more satisfying effort now that he's been allowed to record exactly what he wants. A victim of the MCA (and every other major label) "let's-throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks" theory of ripping off artists and insuring profits no matter who gets hurt, Knight proves he's better off without them. For those who haven't heard Knight, he's got the same rowdy, earthy, Saturday night sensibility that Jerry Jeff Walker blessed us with in the 1970s, the raucous rock & roll smarts of the Faces, the poetry of John Mellencamp all graced with the swampy blues mark of Tony Joe White. It's a damn shame the cat won't be played on the evil empire's radio stations, but given the networking of the alterna-country enthusiasts and the occasionally visionary American programmers, he might get a nod. If Knight was allowed to make a video and his records — especially this one — were to get played on the air, he'd make someone beside himself a cool million or so. The cat's got it all in spades: a vision that rides as far as the border of his own town, a wistful romance for the everyday, and a pissed-off streak that honors every American male with dirty hands and scuffed shoes. The set opens with the gambler's lament "Becky's Bible," with guitars charging through the center of the mix, so loud that Knight has to emphasize everything to be heard, which is good because his words are not to be ignored. Dan Baird's production (the Georgia Satellites guy) is tight, raw, and immediate. He equalizes everything at around ten and a half. Any man who starts a song with the words "empty beer bottles rattle on my pistol on the seat of my Chevy pickup truck," you know he means business. He isn't shooting anybody, but he's scared, rock & roll scared, trying to leave a trace, trying to find a placer just to live inside his own shoes. "Oil Patch Town," is an elegiac anthem to the crazy innocence of high school glory days that weren't so glorious. Knight's brutal; he doesn't paint anything romantically or make it darker than it has to be. He understands the power of both country and rock & roll to carry the message as long as the message is pure, simple, and direct. He doesn't get in the way, and therefore is a hell of a storyteller. One listen to the chilling "Down the River" is enough to make the weak-kneed — or those who deplore violence — go elsewhere for their listening pleasure, but Knight makes his stories, no matter how brutal, white-knuckle rides through the dark side of the imagination. He does so without judgement, reporting the facts as he dreams them just as they are. Baird's electric guitars and Rusty Young's lap steel bring drama and pathos to the stark lyric and drive the tale over the edge into rock tragedy. The way Baird and Knight use fiddles and banjos in tracks like "North Dakota" brings back the feeling of the Band's gothic Americana with Garth Hudson serving as multi-instrumentalist. The dirty-water Dylan-inspired blues-rock of "Highway Junkie" is a stomper. With its open E slide guitar slinging and wrangling greasy poetry, it feels like the Faces' "Loose" and Dylan's "Highway 61" brawling at the local truck stop. In all, Knight has made a far better record this time out — and his first one was pretty damn good. The songs feel more like him and less like Nash Vegas and they have a looser, more heterogeneous feel as the big guy gets to stretch his blues heart and flex his rock muscle in what is at heart, the body of a country singer and songwriter.


Born: June 24, 1960 in Slaughters, KY

Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Chris Knight is a singer/songwriter from the tiny mining town of Slaughters, KY, whose self-titled debut album invited comparisons to Steve Earle and John Prine. Knight started on his musical journey at just three years old when he requested a plastic guitar for Christmas. At 15, he became more serious when he began teaching himself dozens of John Prine songs on his older brother's guitar. After earning an agriculture degree from Western Kentucky University, Knight went to work in land reclamation,...
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A Pretty Good Guy, Chris Knight
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