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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