Cheri Knight – Star Community Bar (Atlanta, GA)
“Many go out for wool and come home shorn” was the admonition from the Old Farmer’s Almanac on Thursday, March 26. But Cheri Knight had her own oddments of wisdom to share over the course of her striking, if too-short, set that night at the Star Bar.
A singer, songwriter, bassist and tiller of the soil who grows and sells flowers in rural Hatfield, Massachusetts, Knight recently released her second solo album, The Northeast Kingdom, after making a name for herself as a member of the Blood Oranges in the early ’90s. Her folksy songs, by turns seasoned and edgy, speak of family feuds, poison love and homemade sin. And her rather plain but surprisingly robust voice turns out to be the perfect instrument for putting them across.
Backed by ex-dB’s drummer Will Rigby, lead guitarist Eric Lewis, and singer-rhythm guitarist Marlee McLeod, Knight began with the bracing, bittersweet “Rose In The Vine”. Dressed in a pair of striped hip-huggers and a black T-shirt with “Johnny Smoke” blazoned on the front, the diminutive singer looked every bit the chic waif. But as she tossed her collar-length blond hair back and took her steer horn-shaped bass in hand, she sounded as old as the hills and hollers of Appalachia.
In back of a well-received rendition of “Down By The Water” (from her 1996 solo debut The Knitter), Knight breathed a nervous sigh. “Last time I was in Atlanta with the Blood Oranges,” she said, “I had the worst gig of my life. But we’ve played two songs, and we haven’t cleared the room yet, so I guess we’re okay.” With that, she launched into the lilting “If Wishes Were Horses”, followed by “Crawling”, a devastating heartbreak ballad, which was bolstered by Lewis’ wailing pedal steel.
After several more songs from The Northeast Kingdom, including “All Blue”, “The Hatfield Side”, “White Lies” and “Sweetheart”, Knight paused to talk to the audience again. “I grow flowers, and I wrote this song about one of my favorites,” she said, by way of introducing “Black Eyed Susie”. The crowd-pleaser of the evening, the blistering rock workout gave Lewis a chance to show off his considerable skill on lap steel, and likewise afforded Rigby another opportunity to prove he’s one of the great pop pounders.
Knight closed with “The Crying Tree”, her spooky, elegiac composition from her final days with the Blood Oranges. “You never know when your dance is done,” she sang. And by the time the last monstrous chords had withered into clamorous cheers, Knight wore a relieved smile. “Now I have a good Atlanta experience I can remember,” she said.