Chris Knight With Special Guest Kevin Abernathy
From the venue:
â€œItâ€™s hard to know how people are gonna react,â€ Chris Knight says of Almost Daylight, his ninth album and first new recording in over seven years. â€œIâ€™ve written songs about a lot of different things going all the way back to my first record, and some folks still think â€˜somebody kills somebodyâ€™ is all I write about. Maybe thatâ€™s why I was bound and determined to get these particular songs on this album. If people like them, then weâ€™ll be fine. But I wasnâ€™t gonna do it any other way.â€
For the past 20 years, Chris Knight has only made music his own way. Heâ€™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. Heâ€™s been hailed as â€œthe last of a dying breed...a taciturn loner with an acoustic guitar and a college degreeâ€ (The New York Times) and â€œa storyteller in the best traditions of Mellencamp and Springsteenâ€ (USA Today). Bottom line, heâ€™s hard-earned his reputation as one of Americaâ€™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 itâ€™s unlike anything Knight has done before, with formidable testaments to compassion, redemption and even straight-up love. Itâ€™s an album both tough and tender, as bare-knuckled as it is open-hearted. â€œI do think thereâ€™s a cohesiveness to this album,â€ Knight explains in his thick Kentucky rasp.â€œThe title is key, I suppose. Through all these songs, you could find a theme about seeking shelter.â€
Produced, mixed and mastered by Grammy-winner Ray Kennedy - best-known for his 30+ year creative partnership with Steve Earle as well as producing Chrisâ€™ 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. â€œChris had been playing some of these songs on the road and started developing ideas before we got to the studio,â€ Kennedy says. â€œHe 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 heâ€™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.â€
â€œI was determined not to do any acoustic songs on this album,â€ Chris explains. â€œI 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 theyâ€™re ready for recording and I fretted about every one of these. Iâ€™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.â€
The album opens with â€œIâ€™m William Callahanâ€, a defiant roar fueled by equal parts pride, memories and searing guitar. â€œCrooked Mileâ€ is classic Knight, a piercing take on outsiders bound by love, while the poignant â€œSend It On Downâ€ is a plaintive plea for salvation. There are tales of small-town despair (â€œI Wonâ€™t Look Backâ€), ominous rural menace (â€œTrouble Up Aheadâ€) and melancholic break-ups (â€œEverybodyâ€™s Lonely Nowâ€). Chrisâ€™ cover of Johnny Cashâ€™s â€œFlesh And Bloodâ€ - which originally appeared on the Dualtone 2002 tribute albumDressed In Black - is a poignant interpretation of Cashâ€™s ode to devotion. The plainspoken positivity of â€œGo Onâ€ is one of Knightâ€™s most life-affirming songs, while â€œThe Damn Truthâ€ is a ferociously clear-eyed look at our current cultural divide. The title track might be the most unexpected Knight song of all, an unapologetic paean to the power of love. â€œThatâ€™s probably my favorite song on the album,â€ Chris says, â€œbecause itâ€™s closest to the truth.â€ He then quickly adds with a laugh, â€œIâ€™m killinâ€™ people with love now.â€ The album closes with yet another surprise; a joyfully raucous duet between Knight and longtime fan John Prine on Prineâ€™s 1973 classic â€œMexican Homeâ€. â€œI love that song, but it took me 15 years to find a way to do it,â€ Knight says. â€œI kept playing around, changing the vocal key and finally landed on the spot. Iâ€™ve been singing it my kitchen table for the last few years, and when we were down to the last song, I knew this should be it.â€
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. Meanwhile, the singer/songwriter who was originally inspired by the likes of Prine and Earle now finds himself influencing a new generation of artists who revere Knightâ€™s idiosyncratic talent and attitude. â€œThereâ€™s all kinds of different ways to make music, but this is the way I chose to do it,â€ Chris says. â€œIf I donâ€™t have something worth saying Iâ€™m not opening my mouth, which is probably why I took seven years to make this album.â€ And for an artist who has always defied expectations, Chris Knightâ€™s next chapter indeed feels like the dawn of a new day. â€œI havenâ€™t suited everybody, but every time I get a new fan it tells me Iâ€™m doing something right,â€ he says. â€œI 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 Iâ€™ve done.â€
KEVIN ABERNATHY has been hailed as â€œthe best undiscovered singer-songwriter in America,â€ his 2012 release Some Stories called â€œa masterpiece,â€ his songwriting and story-telling compared to such legends as John Prine and Steve Earle.
Abernathy takes each accolade in stride, then puts his proverbial shoulder to the wheel and gets back to work.
In just over a decade, heâ€™s released eight CDs (from 2006â€™s Better Days to last yearâ€™s Family Hour), always going stylistically down whichever path his muse leads him, rockinâ€™ it out when he wants to rock it out, acoustically introspective when he doesnâ€™t. It makes no difference - each of Abernathyâ€™s musical identities is just a different approach to his art, different strokes on a canvas, always thoughtful (and thought-provoking), always well-crafted and finely-tuned, always written with a true writerâ€™s love of words and phrasing.
The writing part all came later, though. It was the guitar to which a young Abernathy was first drawn, locked away for hours in his room in small-town Madisonville, Tennessee, wearing out his Van Halen albums. It was his lead guitar virtuosity which took him to San Francisco in the early-eighties, livinâ€™ the dream in a hard-rock hair band. It was during the down times, between the parties, that Abernathy began his love affair with songwriting. And it was this love affair which drew him back to Tennessee, and eventually to Nashville, the Holy Land for those who dream of turning words and music into portraits and stories.
Abernathy moved to Music City with his â€œKnoxville Girlâ€ Christine, now his wife of over twenty years (their three daughters have their own band, The Pinklets), in 1993. Shortly after arriving in town, he got the lead guitar job in the Shapeshifters, a rock quartet formed and fronted by Brian Relleva, whom Abernathy credits with sharpening his own songwriting skills. The band released a critically-acclaimed CD (1998â€™s Alienated), and, Abernathy says, â€œplayed a lot of gigs and had a grand time,â€ but dissolved after five years.
To say that â€œwhen one door closes, another opensâ€ doesnâ€™t quite do justice to the effect of the dissolution of the Shapeshifters on the trajectory of Abernathyâ€™s career. He and his now-growing family left Nashville, moved back to East Tennessee, and the songwriter set out to establish himself as a solo artist.
His sideman days were over, and he hasnâ€™t looked back.
In the years since, heâ€™s become a mainstay on Knoxville radio and a fixture of the East Tennessee live music scene, playing both solo and with his band, known simply as â€œKAB.â€ (You figure it out). Heâ€™s done shows with acts as diverse as Robin Trower, Lucinda Williams, The Band Of Heathens and Delbert McClinton, proving again and again that his appeal runs the gamut, that good, honest songwriting is not limited to style or genre or demographic.
Itâ€™s just how Kevin Abernathy rolls. And rocks, when he wants to.
At Eddie's Attic