Country songwriter makes his own Southern gothic-Rolling Stone

As Flannery O’Conner immortalized the natives of Milledgeville, Georgia, in her short stories, so singer-songwriter Chris Knight brought to life the denizens of Slaughters, Kentucky, on his visceral 1998 debut. He picks up the thread on that album’s excellent follow-up, A Pretty Good Guy. Knight’s no-frills, meat-and-potatoes vocals paint a vivid picture of local badasses, desperate stick-up men and hardscrabble survivors. His previous life as a strip-mine inspector no doubt introduced Knight to many of his Pike County neighbors, who inspired his richly drawn, moving vignettes. Knight has found a simpatico collaborator in producer-guitarist Dan Baird, whose cronies put the flesh on the song’s bones: Tammy Rogers’ mournful fiddle and viola, Tony Harrell’s sonorous B3 organ and accordion, and Rust Young’s atmospheric lat steel and banjo all ad pathos to the proceedings. Ultimately, though, it’s Knight’s way with a melody and his unforgettable character (the doomed wife of “North Dakota,” the vengeful brother of “Down the River,” the small-town shitkickers of “Oil Patch Town” that make you want to spend plenty of time with A Pretty Good Guy.