Chris Knight doesn’t like to say much. Won’t chat about his worldview or engage in conversations on his creative approach. For 15 years, 7 acclaimed albums and a hard-nosed career that’s been hailed as “where Cormac McCarthy meets Copperhead Road”, Knight has always let his music do most of the talking. And on record – as well everywhere across America, from roadhouse taverns to major-city concert halls – his songs have had plenty to say. But with his new album Little Victories, Chris Knight has taken the discussion to a whole new level.
His first album of new material in 4 years, Little Victories is a record of blunt honesty, elegiac truths and the raw rural poetry of an artist who’s come into his own and intends to stay. And for a performer who’s been compared over the years to Cash, Prine, Earle and Nebraska-era Springsteen, Knight now stands alone as a singer/songwriter that has carved his own idiosyncratic sound and sensibility out of the dirt road American dream. Little Victories not only sounds like a Chris Knight album, but the best Chris Knight album yet.
“I don’t ever get in a big rush about things,” Knight says. “I can tour pretty good on what I got. I took my time, like I always do. Write a song every now and then. I don’t like to talk about politics, but I do write what I’m thinking about.” And if many of the songs on Little Victories seem to take a hard-eyed look at the current socio-economic climate, Knight – the former strip-mine inspector who still lives in the backcountry coal town of Slaughters, Kentucky (population 200) where he was raised – is upfront about their origins. “About 2 years ago, we had a big ice storm here in Slaughters that just devastated the whole area,” he says. “We were out of power for close to a month, cooking in the fireplace and living by candlelight to survive. Things slowed down to nothing. When we were finally able to head into town, we saw lines of cars for miles outside the gas station. There were hundreds of people outside the hardware store who had nothing even before the storm hit. They weren’t prepared for the situation or for each other. I watched their behavior and reactions, and that’s when I started writing a bunch of songs I knew would be a part of this record.”
Little Victories also marks a reunion with producer Ray Kennedy, who’d engineered and mastered Knight’s seminal Enough Rope and two Trailer Tapes albums and is well known for his work with Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, John Mellencamp and Lucinda Williams. “Chris wanted to make this record with his road band,” explains Kennedy. “And as we were tracking in the studio, the sounds I was sending back through the headphones were pretty tough and edgy. It made everybody crank their amps up higher and dig a little deeper. The sound of any record is about attitude and how it goes down, and much of this record went down like a rock record. Other than a few overdubs, it’s pretty much recorded 100% live.” This organic approach gives the album an acoustic/electric texture that is both urgently gritty and fiercely expressive, with Knight’s twang-rich vocals to match. “Chris digs deepest of all on this record,” Kennedy says. “It’s the content of his voice as well as the character of the songs. And when you listen to