Heart of Stone adds to Chris Knight's already impressive collection of hardscrabble songs reflecting life in rural, small town America. In the dozen tunes here, the Kentucky native explores, with an unflinching honesty, the lives of troubled ordinary folks. There's the meth-maker in "Hell Ain't Half Full" who sees a world where there's no law, no love, and "God wasn't paying much attention at all," and the working man in "Another Dollar" who realizes that "I'll never make enough money to get me what I need." The title track spotlights a man who was abandoned by his dad and now worries that's he turning out like his father. Knight has a knack for populating his songs with small but telling details, like the winter coat in "Miles to Memphis," that a man thinks his estranged wife might need, or the guy in "Something to Keep Me Going" (another tale of lost love) who holds on to his ex-love's photograph while admitting "I don't know why I don't throw it away." Two of Knight's finest efforts here are "Danville" and "Crooked Road," a pair of rough-hewn story-songs that rival John Prine's best. The former is a harrowing tale about a woman escaping from her abusive husband -- whom she calls "the devil's little brother" -- but Knight also weaves in how the woman's hometown believes she's to blame (because "it's half filled with people with his last name") as well as her sadness over not being able to see her mother's grave. "Crooked Road," another subtly complex narrative, concerns a coal miner's hard life, where "things have turned out a little worse than they should." Besides talking about his difficult life, the song also delves beneath the coal miner's skin and gets into his soul. In fact, Knight delves more deeply here into his characters' psyches and concerns himself less with describing the bar fight body counts. "My Old Cars," for instance, uses memories of old cars to trigger thoughts of an old love. This disc also finds Knight turning up the guitars a little more and giving his songs a harder edge to go with his hard-edged lyrics. Part of this rockier approach might be due to the presence of ex-Georgia Satellite Dan Baird as producer and guitarist (he also produced two of Knight's earlier discs Pretty Good Guy and Jealous Kind). The opening track "Homesick Gypsy" is a rather standard "life on the road" number that's juiced up by some raucous roadhouse guitar work. Similarly, the electric guitars on "Hell Ain't Half Full" (one of the several co-writes here with top Nashville tunesmith and another returning Knight collaborator Gary Nicholson) provide the tune with added grit. After over a decade of troubadouring, Knight's body of work places right up there with the John Prines, Steve Earles, and James McMurtrys of the Americana singer/songwriter scene, even if he isn't as well known as these brethren. Heart of Stone, another excellent example of Knight's terrific talent, offers a vividly written gallery of characters struggling with the hardships and heartbreaks that life has dealt them.
Performance CreditsChris Knight Primary Artist
Dan Baird Drums,Electric Guitar,Tambourine,Background Vocals,Slide Guitar,Soloist,Musician,Guitar (Baritone)
Michael Webb Piano,Accordion,Hammond Organ
Michael Grando Drums,Musician
Technical CreditsDan Baird Producer,Audio Production
Ben Strano Engineer,Contributor