CD Review - Chris Knight "Little Victories"

The difference between good and bad country music usually comes down to how the story's told. Bad country songwriters deal with all the standard themes - lost dogs, cheatin' wives, worrisome fluctuations in the GDP - like a condescending sixth grade teacher: see Jack lose his low-paying factory job, see Jack lose hope, see Jack open a meth lab, see Jack carted away to do 10 in the pen while his "pritty little daughter" stands by watching. Good country music writers tell the same story, but make sure the character's Sisyphean struggle has a bit more gravitas than the songs that rely on rhyming "honky tonk" with "donkey donk." In other words: good country songwriters know how to turn a phrase or two.

Chris Knight confirms his status as one of the good ones with "Little Victories," his eighth release since his debut back in '98. "Sometimes I wonder where my next dollar gonna come from," he sings over a mandolin and guitar intro on In The Meantime, "I keep my head up, if sumptin' falls out of the sky," portraying the always positive perspective of the man who's still down and out.

In You Lie When You Call My Name, Knight says "what you are, you shout so loudly, I foresee your every move" as he sings a song of love gone bad while on the album's title cut, Little Victories, he manages to tell an entire life story in just four lines:

"I got the Honda 125 runnin', took the back roads to the store.
'Bout 35 degrees but it sure feels good to not be walkin' no more.
I got some milk, bread and baloney, some Little Debbies and some Mountain Dew.
Sometime when I ain't got the groceries, gonna see what this thing can do."

Musically, "Little Victories" is in the tried-and-true Chris Knight style: the melodies are easy enough to sing along to (as they should be), and his voice has the gritty edge of a man who spends winter in a cabin, skinning deer and chopping wood.

Musically, the arrangements are heavy on the mandolin and guitar, paying respects to everyone from his original inspiration, Steve Earle, to the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Neil Young and John Hiatt. Which is to say, if you like them (or any of Knight's previous records), you'll dig "Little Victories."

This review originally appeared on Country Standard Time.

Michael Verity is a writer, photographer and producer based in Portland, OR. He's regular contributor to Relix, American Songwriter, Country Standard Time and Acoustic Music Pinboard, among others.

He lives on a farm with his wife, two cats, three kids, four dogs and several thousand albums that never seem to find their way into alphabetical order.

See his portfolio at MichaelVerity.com and read his music blog at Fusion 45.

Views: 1010

Comment by Daniel T on January 2, 2013 at 9:45am

Made my top ten for 2012. The title track is such an "optimist in the face of defeat" song that I truly feel terrible about myself if I start to complain about anything.

Comment by Michael Verity on January 2, 2013 at 10:00am

Hi Daniel: Thanks for the comment. I feel much the same way when I here that song. Lots of other good ones on the album, as well. MV

Comment by Jim Moulton on January 7, 2013 at 1:14am
Has he really gone country,I only reviewed his like 1st or 2nd CD, and it had a real Kentucky bluegrass theme to it, many years ago,will have to check this out, you have many interesting blogs.
Jim
Comment by Hal Bogerd on January 7, 2013 at 9:48am

Agreed. My album of the year for 2012.

Comment by Alan Wagman on January 8, 2013 at 6:04am

Kinda feel like this is not his best.  Starting to sound repetitive.  Nothing here to equal "Enough Rope."

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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.