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Spotlight: The last of a dying breed

Ray Kennedy Photo Legendary singer and song writer Chris Knight is considered the last of a dying breed.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Legendary singer and songwriter Chris Knight to perform in Roswell

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

Famous Americana singer and songwriter Chris Knight is set to perform at The Liberty Club, 312 N. Virginia Ave., on Sept. 15 at 8 p.m. He stops his tour in Roswell in support of his upcoming record Almost Daylight, which is set for release on Oct. 11 via the Nashville-based entertainment company Thirty Tigers.

“It’s hard to know how people are gonna react,” Chris Knight says about Almost Daylight, his ninth album and first new recording in over seven years. “I’ve written songs about a lot of different things going all the way back to my first record, and some folks still think ‘somebody kills somebody’ is all I write about. Maybe that’s why I was bound and determined to get these particular songs on this album. If people like them, then we’ll be fine. But I wasn’t gonna do it any other way.”

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With the release of Almost Daylight, this native son of Slaughters, Kentucky (population 238) is eager to get back on the road and perform these songs for the faithful, including those in Roswell.

Meanwhile, Knight — who was originally inspired by the likes of American singer-songwriter John Prine and Steve Earle — now finds himself influencing a new generation of artists who revere Knight’s idiosyncratic talent and attitude. “There’s all kinds of different ways to make music, but this is the way I chose to do it,” Knight said. “If I don’t have something worth saying, I’m not opening my mouth, which is probably why I took seven years to make this album.”

And for an artist who has always defied expectations, Knight’s next chapter indeed feels like the dawn of a new day. “I haven’t suited everybody, but every time I get a new fan, it tells me I’m doing something right,” he said. “I think my previous records have set a precedent, if only for me at the very least. I just want people to think this one stands up to everything else I’ve done.”

For the past 20 years, Chris Knight has only made music his own way. He’s released eight acclaimed albums, played thousands of electrifying live shows and built generations of fervent fans from Texas honky-tonks to Manhattan rock clubs. He’s been hailed as “the last of a dying breed … a taciturn loner with an acoustic guitar and a college degree” (The New York Times) and “a storyteller in the best traditions of Mellencamp and Springsteen” (USA Today). Bottom line, he’s hard-earned his reputation as one of America’s most uncompromising and respected singer/songwriters. And now with Almost Daylight, Knight delivers the most powerful — and unexpected — music of his career.

Almost Daylight is very much a Chris Knight album, familiarly featuring vivid pictures of rural characters, desperate men and hardscrabble survivors. At the same time, it’s unlike anything Knight has done before, with formidable testaments to compassion, redemption and even straight-up love. It’s an album both tough and tender, as bare-knuckled as it is open-hearted. “I do think there’s a cohesiveness to this album,” Knight explains in his thick Kentucky rasp. “The title is key, I suppose. Through all these songs, you could find a theme about seeking shelter.”

Produced, mixed and mastered by Grammy Award-winner Ray Kennedy — best-known for his creative partnership with Earle for more than 30 years, as well as producing Knight’s Enough Rope (2006), Trailer II (2009) and Little Victories (2012) albums — Almost Daylight also sounds like no other Knight record, with scorching guitars by Georgia Satellites’ founder and two-time Knight album producer Dan Baird, rich background vocals by Chris Clark, Siobhan Kennedy and Lee Ann Womack, and deeper instrumentation than ever before.

“Chris had been playing some of these songs on the road and started developing ideas before we got to the studio,” Kennedy said. “He and I talked about keeping the Appalachian factor with banjo, fiddle, harmonica and mandolin where it felt right. It was significant that Dan was involved, as he’s the man who can play guitar with the right feeling for Chris. The background vocals really brought the fire, and this lead to ideas for piano, Hammond B-3, accordion and Wurlitzer electric piano. Everything evolved from the performance of each song and I let the songs dictate what they needed in order to evolve into an album.”

“I was determined not to do any acoustic songs on this album,” Knight said. “I wanted it all to sound edgy and raw, but to feel big at the same time. We kept trying different approaches until I felt we landed on what worked. The thing is, some of my songs might take a year of writing before I even think they’re ready for recording and I fretted about every one of these. I’ve never put a cover song on any of my records before, but there are two covers on this one. And I think it all fits together pretty good.”

The album opens with “I’m William Callahan,” a defiant outcry fueled by equal parts pride, memories and searing guitar. “Crooked Mile” is classic Knight, a piercing take on outsiders bound by love, while the poignant “Send It On Down” is a plaintive plea for salvation. There are tales of small-town despair, ominous rural menace and melancholic break-ups.

The title track might be the most unexpected Knight song of all, an unapologetic paean to the power of love. “That’s probably my favorite song on the album. It’s closest to the truth. I’m killin’ people with love now,” Knight said and laughed. The album offers many surprises, including a guest vocal performance by Prine on his 1973 classic “Mexican Home.”

For more information, visit thelibertyinc.com or call 575-627-2121.


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