Sunday, November 23, 2008

Live: Chris Knight at Mercury Lounge 11.22.8

Scott Miller once described Chris Knight as 'country as a chicken coop'. At the time, even though I knew Miller was a dyed-in-the-wool Virginian, I thought that came off a little condescending. Then again, I am a Yankee, albeit one who is half-Texan. That unnecessarily elucidated, Scott ain't lying. Steve saw Knight on some CMT type program recently and described him as Cro-Magnon, and he ain't lying either. 

Not that Chris Knight is dumb (or that he couldn't dispatch me to the afterlife in a hundred simple ways). He has an Agriculture degree and worked for his home state of Kentucky for years before his songwriting career bore fruit. While his own releases haven't been huge successes sales-wise, he's had a gang of the songs from those records covered by artists from Montgomery Gentry to Gary Allan, affording him a comfortable living, especially if you still live in Slaughters, KY. 

The Chris Knight demographic is not a Northern one for the most part, and as a result we get him in NYC once a year, at best. With gas prices and the economy being what they are, they are almost always solo shows, but this one happened to be a duo show with a stunt guitarist. Wonderfully enough, the set was an early one and billed as "An Evening With" without an opener. God Bless The Mercury Lounge. The lovely Essie saw fit to comp me and I arrived as Knight and his sideguy took the stage. 

Knight is not exactly John Prine when it comes to stage banter. The first minute or so was filled with plinking into a tuner. He may have grunted hello, but pretty much launched into his first five songs without hesitation. When he did pause and some woodchuck called out a request, he acknowledged the shouter by grinning and offering, 'we got a new song for you called shut the hell up'. This is not a man who suffers fools or foolishness gladly. The set went maybe an hour and a half or so, featuring most of the new record, Heart Of Stone as well as some dips into early tunes like House And 90 Acres. The set was pretty well received by the bridge and tunnel redneck set that ventured out. They drank heavily and sang along loudly with most songs, cheering extra loudly for the ones that featured the enforcement of the Second Amendment.

Knight shows North of the Mason-Dixon Line are a rarity, and the sparse crowd may very well make it another year or so before we see him again, but check out his webpage here to find out when you might see him next. He's also got a MySpace, amusingly enough. I would venture that he's not administering that himself. The new record, Heart Of Stone is a hell of a good record, perhaps the best since his first. Pick it up here and get off the couch next time he comes through town. 

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