Kenny Knight is a prime example of the underground music world expression of “just because you’ve never heard of them doesn’t mean they’ve never accomplished something.” Inspired by the Beatles to write his own songs at the age of 11, Knight joined a couple of different bands—including the 1960s iteration of Black Flag, who had reached cult renown for their performance in honor of George W. Romney’s presidential campaign at the time of their golden age—served his country as a U.S. marine, and worked at his father’s auto body paint shop before settling down into his own skin as a solo singer-songwriter in Colorado. The one album that he would ever release, Crossroads, was developed in part with cousin Sylvia of the ‘50s and ‘60s band Bev and Sylvia, as well as steel guitarist Sandy Dodge. Despite never becoming a mainstream success, Crossroads became a small bit of a cult sensation, now being re-released by Paradise of Bachelors a solid 35 years after its original 1980 debut.
Unadorned folk-flavored roots rock at its most refined, giving a good listen to Crossroads in the current era would be just enough to transport an audience on a nostalgia-bound ride through the breezy Americana stylings of an era defined by bands and soloists like the Grateful Dead and Jackson Browne. With a gentle means of wrapping his vocal around a lyric, Knight maintains an ace storyteller’s perspective on each song of his that he handles on the record, deftly displaying a myriad of emotions within a singular, vibrant verse. Where production value falls in due part thanks to the advancements of 21st century technology, the heart invested into the album’s construction does not. Whether intentional or not, Knight defines ‘80s folk and country songwriting and performance with brooding subtlety, calculatingly, though warmly, taking the cold grips of lost dreams and found reality by the reins and running with them.
As a previously undervalued representative of the music of an era gone by, Knight’s Crossroads is amongst the best, though to depict it only as a record that totes the best qualities of a bygone decade would be undervaluing its worth, now that it has been allowed to age and subsequently redefine itself, as a whole. With an era of bombastic folk/rock having come and arguably gone, for the most part, on mainstream radio in recent times, Knight not only represents what had come before the modern reconstruction of folk music, but does his own part, in resurrecting Crossroads, in deconstructing it and bringing the parts back together as something a little more recognizable.
Even the aforementioned production not being quite so polished as a modern day record would be serves its purpose not only in representing an era, but in defining that the most important part of the entire genre is its heart, which, beyond the fancy crescendos and cadences of popular folk music of today, is what it really all comes down to. A redefining of the master would have done Crossroads a disservice here, no matter how it may alienate a few younger listeners from honoring it with an initial listen. Essential tracks include the sorrowful song of fading love, “Jean”, “To Be Free”, with its psychedelic sonic change-ups and wistful sentiments, and album closer and western ode “America”, which Knight had specifically learned banjo for.
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