Slaughters KY | Country
Chris Knight doesn’t like to say much. Won’t chat about his worldview or engage in conversations on his creative approach. For 15 years, 7 acclaimed albums and a hard-nosed career that’s been hailed as “where Cormac McCarthy meets Copperhead Road”, Knight has always let his music do most of the talking. And on record – as well everywhere across America, from roadhouse taverns to major-city concert halls – his songs have had plenty to say. But with his new album Little Victories, Chris Knight has taken the discussion to a whole new level.
His first album of new material in 4 years, Little Victories is a record of blunt honesty, elegiac truths and the raw rural poetry of an artist who’s come into his own and intends to stay. And for a performer who’s been compared over the years to Cash, Prine, Earle and Nebraska-era Springsteen, Knight now stands alone as a singer/songwriter that has carved his own idiosyncratic sound and sensibility out of the dirt road American dream. Little Victories not only sounds like a Chris Knight album, but the best Chris Knight album yet.
“I don’t ever get in a big rush about things,” Knight says. “I can tour pretty good on what I got. I took my time, like I always do. Write a song every now and then. I don’t like to talk about politics, but I do write what I’m thinking about.” And if many of the songs on Little Victories seem to take a hard-eyed look at the current socio-economic climate, Knight – the former strip-mine inspector who still lives in the backcountry coal town of Slaughters, Kentucky (population 200) where he was raised – is upfront about their origins. “About 2 years ago, we had a big ice storm here in Slaughters that just devastated the whole area,” he says. “We were out of power for close to a month, cooking in the fireplace and living by candlelight to survive. Things slowed down to nothing. When we were finally able to head into town, we saw lines of cars for miles outside the gas station. There were hundreds of people outside the hardware store who had nothing even before the storm hit. They weren’t prepared for the situation or for each other. I watched their behavior and reactions, and that’s when I started writing a bunch of songs I knew would be a part of this record.”
Little Victories also marks a reunion with producer Ray Kennedy, who’d engineered and mastered Knight’s seminal Enough Rope and two Trailer Tapes albums and is well known for his work with Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, John Mellencamp and Lucinda Williams. “Chris wanted to make this record with his road band,” explains Kennedy. “And as we were tracking in the studio, the sounds I was sending back through the headphones were pretty tough and edgy. It made everybody crank their amps up higher and dig a little deeper. The sound of any record is about attitude and how it goes down, and much of this record went down like a rock record. Other than a few overdubs, it’s pretty much recorded 100% live.” This organic approach gives the album an acoustic/electric texture that is both urgently gritty and fiercely expressive, with Knight’s twang-rich vocals to match. “Chris digs deepest of all on this record,” Kennedy says. “It’s the content of his voice as well as the character of the songs. And when you listen to this record a few times, you realize there’s a really unique social commentary woven in. I think he’s one of our greatest songwriters, period.”
The album’s 11 songs purely rank among Knight’s finest. There’s busted luck in “Lowdown Ramblin’ Blues”, hardcore tenacity in “Nothing On Me” and badtempered love in “You Lie When You Call My Name” (co-written with two-time Grammy winner Lee Ann Womack). Buddy Miller provides guest vocals on the ominous commentary of “In The Mean Time” and the ornery regret of “Missing You”. “Jack Loved Jesse” is a raging tale of criminal destiny co-written and featuring blistering electric guitar and vocals by former Georgia Satellite and frequent Knight producer Dan Baird. “You Can’t Trust No One” emerges as an unsettling paean to small-town American cynicism and anger, and “The Lonesome Way” is a gut-punch of slide-guitar, violin (courtesy Tammy Rogers of The Steeldrivers, who appears throughout the album) and bullheaded regret. The humble acoustic remorse of “Out Of This Hole” is Knight at his most plaintive, and the crushed dreams of “Hard Edges” carry a banjo-tinged melancholy. And if the title track not only finds Knight at his most cheerily optimistic (for Chris, at least), it also features vocals from his lifelong musical hero John Prine. “When I was 16, I got a John Prine songbook and learned about 40 of his songs,” Knight explains. “Used to play them for the kids in study hall at school every day. About 20 years later, I finally got to meet him when I opened a few shows for him. He asked me to come out and sing “Paradise” as part of his encore, and I got to play the blonde Martin guitar that was on the cover of his first album. I sent him “Little Victories” and he liked the song enough to be on it.” Chris treasures the moment when the two first listened to the playback of their distinctive twangs rasping joyfully together on the chorus. “’Prine turned to me and said, ’We sound pretty good together. Just like Phil and Don Everly.’”
So after 15 years, 8 albums and a still uncompromised reputation as one of the best singer/songwriters in America, what has Chris Knight learned from it all? “I’ve learned that I’m pretty lucky to do what I do and make a living at it,” he says. “I’m really proud of this record, and it’ll be fun to play these songs live. For people who like my music and maybe even for someone hearing me for the first time, I think they’ll find songs on here that mean something to them and they can hang on to. I don’t want to talk about it too much, but I think people are gonna be surprised.” And for Chris Knight, that’s victory enough.
Jamie McLean Band
New York NY | Rock
From Madison Square Garden to Bonnaroo to Japan’s Fuji Rock, Jamie McLean’s musical footprint has marked every corner of the globe. Performing alongside musical icons such as Elvis Costello, Widespread Panic, and Dave Matthews, he has shared the stage with scores of prevalent names in the industry. Always in high demand, McLean has also lent his studio chops to everyone from Norah Jones to Chuck D, proving he is the quintessential workingman’s guitarist. Backed by a dynamic voice loaded with soul, McLean’s transformation from sideman to front man has been seamless. With drops of southern roots rock, blues, R&B, funk and soul oozing from their amplifiers, the Jamie McLean Band offers “honest rock and roll” that pulls no punches. Night in and night out, Jamie McLean’s performances are smothered in soul and confident command of the six-string. Take the straightforward, no-nonsense rock of the Rolling Stones and The Black Crowes and mix in the personal sincerity of Ryan Adams and Tom Petty and the result is the Jamie McLean Band.
Best known for providing his tasteful guitar textures to the New Orleans based jazz outfit the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, along with the Jamie McLean Band, McLean’s fret board mastery has garnered worldwide praise. The early years of the Jamie McLean Band saw Jamie splitting time between the extensive touring schedule of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band all while managing his own band’s schedule. Now, the Jamie McLean Band is priority number one. With a new album, American Heartache, ready to be unleashed, Jamie McLean picks up right where he left off on his previous releases, 15 Minutes and This Time Around. Featuring twelve blistering cuts of that classic Jamie McLean sound, he grips and rips the necks of his squadron of Gibson guitars for that “heavy classic rock sound” he’s always loved. Supplementing his twangy, southern rock infused guitar passages is a commanding voice packed with New Orleans soul and New York City swagger. McLean’s songwriting on his second full-length album showcases years of musicianship, running the gamut of southern infused rock and roll (Can You Hear Me Now, Garden of Thieves) to longing ballads (Don’t Do Me That Way, Bottle of Love) and everything in between. Recorded in March and April at the famed Allaire Studios with producer Stewart Lerman (Rufus Wainwright, Richie Havens) at the helm, American Heartache is clearly Jamie’s best work to date. “Stewart was able to really steer the ship in the right directions. He helped to make the music really focused so that each song had its own character and each song was as strong and concise and meaningful as possible,” states Jamie. Featuring special guests Luther Dickinson (The Black Crowes, North Mississippi All-Stars), the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and vocalist Shannon McNally, McLean is in the company of good friends on this record.
Returning to the place where he first recorded with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band (Medicated Magic, 2001), McLean once again captures the magic of the hallowed recording grounds. “Recording American Heartache at Allaire was a dream come true. Allaire is the most inspiring location I've ever been to write and record music,” recounts McLean. “Obviously the equipment, the staff and rooms are top of the line but there is something magical that happens on that mountain.” The beautiful, isolated setting deep in the Catskill Mountains of New York allowed the Jamie McLean band to focus solely on the music and create the album they always wanted to make. “For our first record, This Time Around, we were still very young as a band and we recorded the album in a much shorter period of time. I'm glad we recorded This Time Around the way we did but with American Heartache I wanted to be able to sit with the music more in the studio.” The result is an album loaded with twelve solid cuts and no filler. “Knowing that amazing artists like Norah Jones, The Black Crowes, My Morning Jacket, David Bowie and others recorded there was inspiring; but there was something bigger at work on that mountain and we could feel it.” American Heartache also features additional recording done in New Orleans during the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Shannon McNally’s sexy, smoky vocals were added after the singer happened to be strolling several blocks from where Jamie McLean was finishing up recording. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s dissonant horn section was also added during the session.
Once American Heartache hits the streets, the Jamie McLean band will be hitting the road for the remainder of the year. Trekking up and down the east coast, McLean and company plan stops in all major markets. “We are looking forward to getting back to the cities where we have a devoted fan base and unleashing this amazing rock and roll album on them,” says McLean. In the hopes of turning on a lot of new fans in a lot of new places, a full on coast-to-coast tour is in the pipeline. With countless hours of new material along with acoustic and live albums in the works, the future is bright for the Jamie McLean band. The creative juices are flowing and Jamie McLean foresees a busy road ahead. “I feel like the band is really firing on all cylinders right now. We are amazingly productive with songwriting, singing and touring and look forward to releasing and performing as much of this great music as possible.”
Louisville KY | Folk
I write songs and then I play them for people.Ben Knight was born in the coal fields of Webster County, KY. He grew up listening to Americana and outlaw country with his father and Motown and soul with his mother, which he cites as important musical influences.
Knight began performing live in Louisville, KY in 2008, while attending the University of Louisville. Starting with solo open mics and coffee shop gigs, Knight continued to play around Louisville until 2010.
After moving to Cincinnati, OH in 2011, Ben Knight made his rounds through the local open mic scene before joining forces with Elia Burkhart (upright bass) of Elia Goat and the Natural Horns in 2012. The duo became a trio with the addition of Jeremy Smart (lead guitar), formerly of Josh Eagle and The Harvest City, in January of 2013.
Ben Knight and The Welldiggers will be releasing their full length album in September 2013 and will spend most of the fall touring the Midwest.