Chris Knight’s ‘Little Victories': A Political Album Done Right

September 20, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  21 Comments

This is the exact album that the United States of America needs right here, right now, at this very moment in time. Finally, someone has the courage and the wisdom to use music to reassure people of the power of individual will, and the beauty of the rising action embedded in every human soul instead of as a vehicle to lay blame on everyone else for the problems the individual faces.

This album presents a challenge. Are you going to sit there and take the easy way out by framing your life in the form of a negative thought? Or are you going to be awed by the amazing riches afforded to the modern American no matter how poor they are and be thankful? Are you going to make an excuse, or are you going to make a plan?

And like only Chris Knight can, brunt force diatribes are abandoned in favor of building believable characters out of the ruins of America’s rural landscapes, and telling their stories of heartbreak, bad luck, and redemption to make the points. What a refreshing, poignant, timely, and telling message; a hot dagger in the heart of the wicked polarization that grips our country and divides our purpose; the antidote to the depression of the apolitical person in the height of the political season.

Chris Knight’s Little Victories has little mention of scapegoats. There’s no long-winded, unveiled bitching about the government, corporations, the media, religion, the left or the right. Instead there’s touching, personal stories of low living filled with glimmering hopes and gratefulness. It is a political album that doesn’t oversimplify arguments and frame sides, it erodes these things by illustrating that everyone has a personal story, and nobody has the power to shape that personal story more than the individual. Little Victories is deep and altruistic while remaining simple and plaintive. It’s message and points are subtle and smooth in their delivery, but somehow still biting in their impact. And most importantly, Little Victories is enjoyable to listen to.

The songs in the heart of this album are what convey the timely theme. “Nothing On Me” looks at tough times and laughs. Title track “Little Victories” with John Prine reminds us to be thankful for the small things, and to take life one day at a time. “Out Of This Hole” teaches that we’re usually all responsible for where we are, and are equally responsible to get where we want to go. And “You Can’t Trust No One” spells out the folly of our judgmentalism with poetic truth and weightiness.

And there’s plenty of the songs of heartbreak and desperation that make a Chris Knight album a Chris Knight album, like “You Lie When You Call My Name” co-written by Lee Ann Womack, the fun, yet truthful and hard-nosed “Low Down Ramblin’ Blues”, and the excellent sense of story and character in “Hard Edges”.

The Kentuckian and honorary Texan whose been writing and releasing music under his own name since the late 90’s has always been a little hard to define as far as style and place. He’s written songs for Montgomery Gentry and Randy Travis, and his country roots are obvious. But the style he records his own stuff under has that hard, electric, rock-infused country feel that would have fit perfectly under the “alt-country” title years ago.

Today, he’s claimed in part by Red Dirt and Texas Country, and his music carries that “safe” feel of the Texoma corridor, where it is never bad, but never too bold either. But it’s Chris Knight’s songwriting that has won him fans all the way from the rock world to Western Europe, and the timely nature of the Little Victories material makes it worth arguing if this is his best effort yet.

Little Victories is a big victory for Chris Knight, for country music, and for the level-headed, wise approach to life in an overly-politicized world.

Two guns up.

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21 Comments to “Chris Knight’s ‘Little Victories': A Political Album Done Right”

  • I totally agree with you Trig. Chris Knight in my opinion can tell a story better than any other artist out there through his music. I’ve been a big fan of his for a long time. He may not be the most exciting artist since most of his songs are somber and slow, but I think that’s what makes his music appeal to others. It makes you listen to the story rather than the beat of the song.


  • Nice one, Trig. As much as I like the classics, the Muddy Roots scene, the HBHQ catalog, etc. etc., if iTunes and Spotify’s tracking mechanisms are to be believed, I listen to Chris Knight more than any other artist. His no-frills approach to songwriting and his stories of hard times, heartbreak, fighting losing battles, and “little victories” speak straight to the core of my Appalachian upbringing.

    The themes are familiar to any fan of country and roots music, but the personal details with which he tells them is like reading a Steinbeck novel. Each character becomes drawn out in our minds, perhaps based upon a distant memory from our old hometown, or a photograph in a history book. The subjects of his songs become flesh and blood characters.

    The inclusion of John Prine on this album is a testament to Knight’s storytelling ability. Along with Prine, Townes, Kristofferson et al, Knight deserves a plaque in the songwriters hall of fame.


  • I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve been listening to Chris Knight for years and every one of his albums has a way of damn near knocking me down. It seems like I know someone in every song he writes; he’s about the only one left who really, honestly represents living way out here. But your review says it all, there’s nothing more to add, just wanted to say well done.


  • Chris is an artist’s artist. A writers writer. I’ve seen easily 10 or more Chris knight shows over many years and full band or accoustic the story shines thru. I love all his albums and listen to him more than anyone. To me he is my generations Woddy Guthrie. Honorary Texan for sure, for whatever reason his music has resonated with the Texas/Red Dirt scene from the begining and as a result he draws large crowds all over the state and thankfully plays here often. I’ve seen rowdy drunken festival crowds of 10,000 shut up and listen for the first time all day when Chris did some accoutic numbers out of respect for his art. To me that says it all.


  • thanks for the review, looking forward to buying this one. to me, chris is the true “real deal”. his themes are are exactly what i want to hear in country music. rough but easy to relate too. he reminds me of “that guy that lives a little further down the dirt road from your trailer house.”


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  • I also love Chris Knight and have been listening to him for years….but I have to be honest…this one fell flat to me. I was very bored during it. I’ll give it another listen though after reading your review.

    His best work to me is still “The Jealous Kind” and his self-titled debut of course.


    • I think whenever you have an artist like this that’s been around for 10-15 years or so, the diehard fans are always going to be the hardest to please because their so used to and familiar with being wowed. I’d be lying if I said I have all of Chris Knight’s albums and have seen him live a dozen times so his magic still works on me. Making something that tops yourself each album is a difficult challenge.


  • Excellent review. I love just about everything this guy’s ever written. He makes me proud to be a Kentuckian. Saw him for the first time recently and when he played “Enough Rope,” everyone (and it was a big crowd) sang along. I got chills.


    • “I got chills.”

      I’ve never seen Chris live, but I own everything he has released and I love it all. I know what you mean about getting chills from his songs. The music is so raw and the lyrics so stark. I especially get this feeling from Rita’s Only Fault and Send a Boat, two of my favorites…


  • Chris Knight comes across as so heavy handed, at least at first glance. He has that rough as whiskey voice that can easily lead you to write him off as unintelligent and dull. The thing is, when you really start to listen to what he has to say, you realize that there is much more there than you may have originally caught on to. Great artists always leave more for you to discover, and that is a large part of what makes Chris Knight great.

    Personally, my favorite song of his is still, “Hell Ain’t Half Full.”


  • There is no one out there writing songs like Chris Knight right now, if there is I haven’t heard them. This album is good but it would had to have to been mind-blowing to beat his self titled, or Enough Rope…or A Pretty Good Guy…or The Jealous Kind. Damn he’s set the bar high.


  • Amen on the review. I love his individualist, pick yourself by your own bootstraps message, while at the same time having clear empathy for the have nots and downtrodden. He does not condescend or judge, unless you waste your own opportunities, as he does with the character(s) in Low Down Ramblin’ Blues.

    I have everything he has ever done, have seen him a dozen (or so) times, and still think this is his best album. It doesn’t have that absolute standout song like Love and a .45 or Becky’s Bible (and on and on), but there is not a clunker. I can see many of these songs worked into his regular set. (I was not impressed by Jack Loved Jessie though.) I could listen to Missing You over and over (with its vague lyrical nod (“down by the river”) to Down the River, but an entirely different story; but could it be the same main character years later, who still can’t fish due to his grief, first over his brother, then over his girl leaving him?).

    What brings fresh energy to this record for me is that he recorded it with his touring band for the first time. Mike McAdam’s guitar is great (of course) and played with just the taste and sound he uses live, and Chris Clark’s multi-instrumental work remains a huge addition to the CK sound. In short, the record sounds almost live.

    Love it and concur with everything Triggerman says.

    Finally, check out this cool pic and Miranda Lambert tweet:


  • To me, every Chris Knight album is covered in dust and recorded in black and white. Its always a cold, sunny winter morning with a little snow hiding on the edges of the lawn that don’t see sunlight. There is a ’74 Chevy pickup in the driveway, with a hot cup of coffee in the cupholder. Its parked in front of an old house in the middle of a coal patch and a little whisp of smoke is coming from the chimney.


  • Your right on with your comments on Chris Knight. In my opinion his music speaks the truth and he is not some cookie cutter artist like the rest of the so called country crowd. This is why I think we shouldn’t put his music in the country category. If we did that then we are putting him in the same category as Aldean and we all know Chris Knight is more deserving of a higher caliber of comparison. Just the opinion of a 10 plus year fan of Chris Knight.


  • Great take. I love the album. Knight actually embodies what most people think of when you say Steve Earle.


    • Totally agree man. Steve Earle is the NPR version of Chris Knight.


  • Been listening to Knight for years. Saw him in a little joint on the Kansas-Missouri border a couple years ago and took a leak next to him.
    I wanted to talk to him, but he’s the one musician I’ve even been intimidated by.
    A.) He’s so damn talented.
    B.) I fully believe that he could, like some of the characters in his songs, shoot me.


    • Best review EVER of CK, the man and his music. He is the best singer-songwriter going……but I loved your “he could shoot me” take.


  • Love this guy!!! As far as I’m concerned he’s the best songwriter to grace us with country music. And matched with the gritty raw voice he has that can convey the pain and sorrow like nobody I’ve ever heard before makes it that much more shameful that he isn’t on every radio station in the country. And that being said I need to go call the request line!! Thanks for the review Trig!


  • I hadn’t paid much attention to Chris Knight until I heard “Nothing on Me” from your new SCM radio episode yesterday. I immediately fell in love with the song, and I decided to check his other songs out on Youtube.

    I am absolutely blown away by the quality of his work. He is truly one of the best songwriters of any genre today. The manner in which he can capture the trials and “little victories” experienced by regular people, especially in this period of economic crisis, is virtually unparalleled. His songwriting is reminiscent of Merle Haggard.

    The fact that Chris Knight’s songs are not on the radio is an absolute travesty.


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