Shoulda Been Listening Sooner
What makes a songwriter/singer stand out from the hundreds/thousands of others who've gone to Nashville over the years? More than that, what is it about a songwriter's material that makes other artists want to cut those songs? The not-very-short answer is usually "conversational stories about ordinary human events told in a fresh, new way." Blah. Let's just say "really, really good stories" and you'll go straight to the heart of what makes Slaughters, Kentucky native Chris Knight's The Jealous Kind a `gotta-buy' for anybody who likes Prine or Earle or Van Zandt or Jon Venzer at his best.
It doesn't hurt to have interesting tunes, of course, and on The Jealous Kind, Knight manages that, along with the co-writing help of a string of A-list Nashville writers, including Gary Nicholson, Chuck Prophet, Matraca Berg and Austin Cunningham. Personally, I think the guy just writes so well that all those other folks wanted in on his success.
But to get to the point: the opening title cut has as good an intro, followed by a hook that was playing away in my brain at 3 .a.m. this morning, as any Nashville model:
"I got a letter from Maria/ you know her English ain't that good/but what she meant was easily understood/If I'm gonna keep her I'd better get there quick/The thought of her with somebody else just makes me sick.
"I've never drove two days through the pouring rain/just stopping for coffee and gas/ Never outrun the law on the interstate/didn't know this thing would go that fast. I've never been in this deep before/but there's always a first time/then again I ain't even been the jealous kind."
Sounds like a Western Kentucky guy to me - or Eastern or Central, for that matter. Knight actually got his agriculture degree from Western Kentucky before heading for Nashville, if that says anything to you.
All the tunes on this CD sound like they came straight out of some barroom or front porch gossip session. Take the goosebump-lifting "Carla Came Home":
"There was crying in the kitchen/there was running in the hall/Daddy's Winchester wasn't hanging on the wall/It didn't seem like Christmas very much at all."
"Mama set me to chopping wood before the snow/She said Daddy's gone to Richmond/And that's all you need to know/I said I want to know why Carla's got that blood on her clothes."
That one's a tale of a wife beaten by her "no count" husband and the reaction of her father. The last verse, which could have been delivered by a weary farmer nursing a beer, stamps it with a finish:
"They quit searching for my brother-in-law/gave him a week then they called in the dogs/they won't nobody miss him except maybe his maw."
I should have been listening sooner to this guy: this is his third album, beginning with his 1998 self-titled MCA debut, followed by A Pretty Good Guy on Dualtone in 2001. He sings like he's got dirt under his nails and a chaw in his cheek and maybe hollered too loud for his dogs a time or two, but don't let that fool you. Chris Knight is a damn good songwriter. Slaughters will be naming a street after him before too long.
He'll be appearing at the Phoenix Hill Tavern on October 18.
You can get more info at his website athttp://www.chrisknight.net/ but in any case, go get this one.