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For the past 20 years Chris Knight has carved his own niche of a cantankerous mix between classic country, folk, and southern-tinged rock’n’roll. A staple to most folk, Alt-country, Americana or whatever other hack description dujour you’d like to insert to describe music that cuts through bullshit and galvanizes listeners. Knight gives the outlaws that tickle in their midsections whilst attracting country purists alike. He oozes Kentucky, in both attitude and songsmithing, a touchstone for modern day troubadours from the Bluegrass state like Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers, Chris Stapleton, and countless others outside the immediate geographical area
Almost Daylight is Knight’s first record in 7 years. Produced by longtime musical brother-in-arms Ray Kennedy, the album features a few guests on top of the quintessential storytelling songs Knight never fails to bring to light. The record opens with a barn burner stomp in the form of “I’m William Callahan”, reintroducing the seemingly weary drawl in which Knight delivers the story of Mr. Callahan’s travails and tribulations. What’s a country record without steam trains and whistles a’blowing song to set the mood? Nothing is the answer. The added instrumentation on Almost Daylight waves a high flag. Like “Send It on Down” with the luscious B-3 organ right under Knight and guest vocalist Lee Ann Womack like a magic carpet ride to Gospel town—a one way tip to redemption, in one form or another.
All fears of Knight being infected by Nashville’s current breed are steadily laid to rest. Almost Daylight is classic Chris Knight, keeping his edge but rounding off others as should every man as he grows wiser with years, pleasures and pains. You can’t fake this. It’s not the latest Americana band who was an indie rock staple in their hometown until they heard an Isbell record. Although that seems to be the influx in this “scene” to date, Knight is an originator popping back up to show y’all how it’s really done. Listen back to Knight’s self-titled debut circa 1998 and other than a couple more levels of voice gravel and wiser songwriting, the recipe hasn’t changed. And neither it shall.
A nod to production, the sequencing of this record is a stand out. The aforementioned opener is the keystone but the album closer is the flagpole. John Prine and Knight shuffling lyrics back and forth on a harmonica-laden chord progression singing about their “Mexican Home” is a fitting end to a healthy helping of Kentucky grit. Much like Prine, its Knight’s knack for storytelling that sticks to your ribs, “Trouble Up Ahead” is exemplary work in that regard. Just a man minding his own business that seemingly can’t steer clear of disparage while looking for the daddy of a lost love to commit his own repentance of sorts, albeit violently perhaps. Almost Daylight touches on all aspects of the human condition. It’s sweet when it needs to be, tough as old beef jerky in parts, and still wide openhearted to explore love, loss, and putting it all back together. God bless, Chris Knight, and may the dust never settle. Here’s “The Damn Truth”…
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