He’s the next Steve Earle. No, make that John Prine. Bob Dylan? John Hiatt?
In no other genre than singer-songwriter are comparisons so routinely made about new kids on the block. So it is upon the arrival of Chris Knight, a Kentucky-bred hillbilly rocker with a poetic streak and a penchant for gritty tales from the battlefields of everyday life.
Until the hype and luster wear off the comparisons are inevitable, especially since Knight tills no new ground here; you don’t get the feeling that he’s a singular genius who views the landscape through a unique prism. But that’s what they said about John Cougar Mellancamp, who hails from just up the road in Indiana, and all he did was bang out solid senders from the heartland that kept growing on you.
Similarly, this impressive debut is an infectious slab of earnest, dirt-under-the-fingernails, Americana rock’n’roll, with sharp wordsmanship, compelling storylines and rich textures, executed by a band that kicks like day-old moonshine.
Fortunately, in their effort to swell out the sound for the marketplace, the producers didn’t distort the essential spare, edgy qualities of these songs.
Start with the acoustic opening to “It Ain’t Easy Being Me” and go tot he ruthless riff on “Framed”, to the country-rock twine that bundles up “Bring the Harvest Home” and “Something Changed”, to the Neil Young-ish rural stomp of “House and 90 Acres” and the coiled guitar snap of “Hammer Going Down.” The latter is the set’s highlight, and it boils over with an extended jam featuring guitarist David Grissom, Joe Ely’s longtime compadre.
Singing about lovers, losers, truckers, desperadoes, divorcees and prostitutes and setting them against rivers, farms and dead-ends towns is nothing new in American singer-songwriter letters. Bu a new veneer on clich�s is often enough to get you through and album – and them again and again until he clich�s wear away and the dang disc starts breathing on its own and has you dancing across the room.
Welcome a promising new talent, in hope that in time the comparisons might fade.