Chris Knight tells stories about the down and out, the desperate, the unlucky and folks generally off societies grid and influenced by his childhood growing up in the tiny mining town of Slaughters, KY – and here in the tiny downstairs Tap Room at the Knitting Factory a near capacity crowd came to bear witness to their lives in song.
Dismissed by critics as the poor-man’s (so to speak) Steve Earle, Knight has his own stories and they tend to be more direct, more sparse and grittier then Earle would pen. Knight is also not afraid to show his redneck roots in song and onstage which Earle, with his newfound Liberalism, seems uncomfortable with is not outright embarrasses with his Texas heritage.
This cold New York eve Knight covered songs from his entire catalog, “Enough Rope” from his last release from last year by the same name, is followed by the question “Are there any PETA people here tonight? I love animals, I just don’t take any shit off of them.” Knight joked and then breaks into “Bridle on a Bull” which features the lyrics “If your mule don’t want to plow/Talk to him with a two-by-four/And if he still don’t want to plow/Talk to him just a little bit more/And if he just don’t want to listen/Haul him off to the dog food store.”
In fine Southern and country music tradition Knight told many stories about how his songs came about. He tells a story of how his song Devil Behind The When (from the CD “The Jealous Kind”) involving the hiring of a religious drummer demonic birthday card.
Next is asong of the recently release “The Trailer Tapes” (Thirty Tigers) was about “I big city boy coming to the country and stirring up trouble. Yeah, I know this is going to go over big here in New York City. Laughs and gawfaws all around. The song kiils in it’s menace and heat. “Rita’s Only Fault” from the same release follows, about a former beauty queen’s revenge after a husband’s abuse was somber and heartfelt.
The crowd was almost dead silent during the solo guitar accompanied songs (despite the loud rock band playing on the upstairs stage), but once the songs were over the crowd is clapping and whooping as much as any Mason Dixon dive (with better beer.) I met some boys a few sheets to the wind who had driven all the way from Connecticut to see the show. “We had to come seee our boy.” the tall, lanky guy with a trucker cap beamed.
Knight the tells the story about a shoe in Switzerland when a local fan came up to him after the show and asked if he was okay after what happened to his brother. Knight had performed “Down The River” (from the CD “A Pretty Good Guy”). The song tells the story of two brothers that go fishing and the older one is murdered as revenge for a pool hall brawl.
The fan said “I hope your alright since that happed to your brother.” Knight then deadpans in his Kentucky drawl “If I can make people think these things are happening to me, I’ve done my job.”
He’s got me believing.