Album Review: Chris Knight - Little Victories

Whereas Hank Williams, Jr.'s Old School, New Rules album seemed to blame the President for all of the problems in Rural America, Chris Knight takes a different approach towards blue collar, hardscrabble life with Little Victories. Read on to see what we think of this singer/songwriter's latest

Little Victories is the true soundtrack to America’s recession. About the only response most commercial county artists give to these hard times is thanking audiences for spending their hard earned cash to pay for concert tickets. In contrast, songs like “In The Meantime” and “Little Victories” sound like words from a documentary about Southern white poverty. Knight is ably assisted by John Prine during “Little Victories,” as both men sing like two country boys trying their hardest to make the best of a bad situation. They’re too tired and beaten down to beg for a miracle; they’re willing to settle for little victories, whatever God can spare, instead.

Knight co-wrote “You Lie When You Call My Name” with Lee Ann Womack. It has the feel of a contemporary coal miner’s daughter (as in the artistic role Patty Loveless plays so well). Even though this is a lyric about a betrayed lover, it could just as easily be a political rant from a deceived citizen. The emotion’s almost exactly the same, if you stop and think about it. 

Ray Kennedy, who’s done such great work with Steve Earle over the years, produced this album with the stark, strip mined bare minimum of a bluegrass record. There is lots of mandolin, and various other forms of down home twang. The fantastic Buddy Miller even shows up in a few places to add harmony vocals. 

When you get to “You Can’t Trust No One,” it about breaks your heart. Perhaps it’s the accumulated disappointment that leads up to it, but when Knight speaks bluntly about how everyone mistrusts everybody else, you can hardly blame him. Even though he encourages people to just get along, much  the same way Rodney King once did in Los Angeles many years ago, he also advises folks to pack a picnic lunch AND a gun. We can all eat together, he notes, but we also need to watch our backs. Tragic.

After all’s said and done, you’re left with the sickening impression that little victories are all we all can ever hope to get. And little victories are too little, too late. Knight has always been a stubborn optimist. He may express a gritty reality, but he never sounds like he’s ever going to give up – at least on himself. Sadly, though, Little Victories reveals the underlying message that Knight is this close to giving up completely on society. Maybe it’s the bitter political scene that makes him feel this way. Perhaps it’s just overwhelming dissatisfaction in the human condition. Whatever the case, Little Victories is certainly no victory song. 

It may not be pretty or uplifting, but Knight’s is a voice that must be heard. Don’t count on such truth coming out of Nashville mansions, where life is still good even though it’s not quite so ostentatious. Knight’s like a man with nothing to lose, which means he has no second thoughts about speaking the unvarnished truth. And that’s a huge victory for us all, even though it makes our hearts ache. 

Buy: Amazon CD | Amazon mp3 | iTunes 

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