Monday, September 15, 2008

Chris Knight @ The Evening Muse

This weekend we took a rode trip to Charlotte in order to see Chris Knight at the The Evening Muse on the 13th. For those unfamiliar with Chris Knight, he is an Americana singer/songwriter who writes tales about men - either those that we are trying to be or those we are trying not to be. He grew up in a small mining community of Slaughters, Kentucky and eventually graduated from Western Kentucky University studying agriculture. Based on this experience, most of his work reflects life in either a small town or on a farm. And most of his songs were written in his trailer in Slaughters - don't miss The Trailer Tapes for some raw renditions. After moving to Nashville and playing regularly at the Bluebird Cafe, Knight was able to sign a record deal and released the self titled, Chris Knight. This CD contains two of his most famous songs: "It Ain't Easy Being Me" and "Framed". He followed that CD a few years later with A Pretty Good Guy and in 2003 with one of our favorite CDs period: The Jealous Kind. In 2006 he released Enough Rope and he is currently touring in support of his latest release: Heart of Stone.

It was a jammed house at the Evening Muse and we had to set pickets at the back of the venue. This is an interesting venue - long and narrow with a small stage in front. We had no complaints standing in the back as long as we had easy access to the great beer selection at the bar. Knight started on time and was accompanied by Chris Clark. Both times we've seen the artist, he allows his partner to take center stage during instrumental sections of each song. And Clark displayed his talents on the acoustic guitar, mandolin, and even accordion. What initially attracted us to Chris Knight is that his voice is an authentic reflection of the song's topic; immediately one can imagine the song's hero singing the exact tone and accent as Knight. And as much as we enjoy his songs, the beauty of seeing Knight perform in Charlotte is that we were able to witness the show with a group of guys who actually live these songs. When Knight says, "I'm going to play a song about killing the guy who killed my brother", its not difficult to see that some may relate stronger than others to this theme. The same holds for "Devil Behind The Wheel", "Dirt", "House And 90 Acres", and mostly every song in his repertoire. It may also explain the crowd favorites: "Oil Patch Town", "It Ain't Easy Being Me", "Enough Rope", and "Down The River". He also played several new songs from Heart of Stone; we particularly enjoyed "Maria", "Danville", "Another Dollar", "Crooked Road", "Go On Home", "Almost There" - practically half the CD.

Throughout the evening, each song was authentic Knight - sung honestly and with effective instrumentals. A great show. We have read many reviews comparing Knight to Steve Earle and John Prine - but for us, Chris Knight is his own man - writing and playing songs about real men.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008 The Felice Brothers, AA Bondy, Cold War Kids, Backyard Tire Fire, Ha Ha Tonka

For this week's music from, we downloaded several artists that are touring together this autumn. Of the five, we had only previously seen or heard music from The Felice Brothers. You can read about that performance here. In September, the band is touring with AA Bondy, who is touring with the Cold War Kids in October. We also noticed that Backyard Tire Fire is touring with Ha Ha Tonka in September. We hope we are able to attend one of these shows, because the songs were excellent.

We've heard a couple of the The Felice Brothers' songs previously and have always liked Hey Revolver. The same semi-depressing vein includes Chicken Wire and The Devil is Real. Both songs characterize the distinct sound emanating from the Catskills. AA Bondy will be a complementary partner on their tour. His sound is also sad, but more in the acoustic blues tradition, as he uses both the harmonica and guitar to sing about vampire and convicted man's blues. Oh The Vampyre and Witness Blues were our favorite downloads, but all were easy to listen to - particularly while jogging.

We were vaguely familiar with the next two groups, basically from seeing them scheduled at popular venues. Now we have two new bands to add to our favorites list at Backyard Tire Fire reminds us of Cross Canadian Ragweed - partly rock, partly alt-country - but all Americana. Maybe its a Midwestern thing. Not only is the music great - but they also provide poignant messages. Take the song, Food For Thought. It describes how you can't take what you've bought when you're gone, instead "It Only Matter What You've Done". What a great line. We also really liked the alt-county flavor of I Only Cry When My Momma's Sick and the semi-ballad A Long Time. Ha Ha Tonka is another Midwestern band - but with more of a rock feel than BTF. We were instantly drawn to them after listening to the silly: 12-Inch Three-Speed Oscillating Fan. That continued through Caney Mountain and St. Nick On The 4th Of July. This is one tour we may have to drive great distance to see.