Music

Chris Knight: Enough Rope

The coolest thing is that this might not even be the album of his career.


Chris Knight

Enough Rope

Label: Drifter's Church Records
US Release Date: 2006-07-11
UK Release Date: 2006-07-11
Amazon
iTunes

There's really not a lot wrong with Enough Rope, the new record from country-rocker Chris Knight. He is wise like Willie and smart like Hag and hits the heart like Mellencamp used to and growls like Springsteen used to; he's got populist cred coming out his earholes and his stories are (mostly) pretty great and his melodies are (mostly) memorable and (almost) everything is played with guts and backbone. I loved his last one and this one is probably even better.

But if I had some leeway, I wouldn't lead off with "Jack Blue". It's a gutsy heartsy storysong all right, tracking the progression of a tough barroom brawler who realizes that violence might not be the answer to life, and it sounds pretty damned Chris Knight-ish. But it fails as a story (the climax of the song takes place offstage, we never learn what it is that makes him realize he had to change his ways), and the chorus is kinda way-too-easy ("Don't go lookin' for trouble / It'll find you anyway". Eh).

See, I would probably have started off with "Rural Route", which is much sneakier and subtler. Our protagonist tries to return to the small town in which he grew up: "I'd go back, but I can't go home / The river is up and the road is closed / And there ain't no telephone in my mother's house / And all the lights are out / Down on the rural route". That's some poetry right there, boy, that's what that is. The sound never exactly breaks into rock and roll, but the attitude is all there and the banjo kicks enough butt for any purpose you might have.

Alternatively, Knight might have wanted to put "Too Close to Home" up front. It's a natural single, so why not have it right there where the people can hear it? This time, our guy is separated from his wife and kids, but everything keeps hitting him "too close to home", which is ironic because he's too far away from home. Okay, this seems a little too-too, but it's all in the details, man: people at a restaurant sharing their family photos, a baseball hitting his windshield when he pulls off the side of 40 East (and you better believe that Chris Knight ALWAYS names his highways). And the chorus has a bigger hook than the one on that dude who was chasing Peter Pan.

But I guess "Jack Blue" is better as an opener than "Dirt", because that song would just be taken for granted if it hit leadoff, and "Dirt" is a song that cannot be taken for granted. It's a populist rant against so-called progress, written from the point of view of a small-town guy watching a factory cover over his grandfather's farm. This has been done a million ways in country music, but not lately like this, because usually guys like this are all happy about factories coming to small towns so they can have jobs. But our narrator is bitter and angry and frustrated, the way he should be: "I sit down by the highway, I hear them big Cats growl / Where the quail gonna fly to? Where will the rabbits run now? / I watch 'em tearin' all to hell what used to be my church / Tearin' up my grandpa's land / They're treatin' my grandpa's land like dirt". It reads just fine here, but you have to hear the martial cadence of the drums, the slow sting of the guitar, the furious, puzzled, defeated way Knight sings his words. Clearly a song of the year, maybe THE song of the year so far. A truly stunning performance.

Not sure about the slower stuff, though; "Saved by Love" is pro forma blah-blah that sounds like Knight doesn't think much about radio hits but wanted to write one anyway. It's soft and it's slow and it's muddleheaded (the guy had a not-so-great life before she came along, but he was in bad shape, but he wasn't, but he was?). But it's really the only whiff here out of 13 songs, and it still manages to stick in the memory anyway.

But Knight is best when he rocks the eff out. "Bridle on a Bull" is tough country blues that punches where most songs slap; "Up From the Hill" features a chorus of "Rock and roll! / Driving wheel / Down from the valley and up from the hill". The most recent song that the band playing at the mysterious bar in "River Road" knows how to play? "Bad to the Bone." Lyrics like that are no joke, kid.

Neither is Chris Knight. You know what the coolest thing is, though? This might not even be the album of his career. I'm waiting for the next one like you don't know how.

8

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image