Chris Knight, Back Porch Mary, Mo Robson Band

No Western Wear cowboy, Chris Knight earned his country backwoods bona fides working as a mine reclamation inspector and living in a trailer on 90 acres in Western Kentucky. And his frighteningly honest, no-frills style matches early inspirations John Prine and Steve Earle, finding a home somewhere between country, folk and rock.

Armed with little pretense and no greater ambition than to play his songs, Knight was discovered playing the Bluebird Café in Nashville by Frank Liddell (Miranda Lambert, Eli Young), who was taken by his raw-boned emotional intensity. Songs like dark vengeance tale "Down the River" and the striking "If I Were You," an admonition made from the other end of a gun, color their subjects in such stark terms they could be shot in sepia.

Like Springsteen transplanted to the sticks, Knight's songs are rife with blue-collar desperation and rugged, unvarnished ache, epitomized by "Enough Rope," whose beaten-down protagonist laments, "Most of the time, I just walk the line wherever it goes, because you can't hang yourself if you ain't got enough rope."


Chris Knight, Back Porch Mary, Mo Robson Band

His fifth and latest studio album, Heart of Stone, has proved his most successful yet, highlighted by the cheeky, dyspeptic real estate report, "Hell Ain't Half Full."

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