The Jealous Kind
our score: 4.5 out of 5.0
the New Boss, More Country Than the Old Boss
by: matt cibula
up front, let's say it: Chris Knight's songs bear more than a
little resemblance to Bruce Springsteen's from about Darkness
on the Edge of Town to about Lucky Town or so. (Better
subtract all those shiny big-ass-drum-sound anthem songs from
Born in the U.S.A., though.) And there's nothing wrong
with that—Springsteen took some heat for it back in the
day, but it was Brooooce, and everyone fell in love with that
stuff a few years later anyway.
when Knight (an authentic Southerner!) comes along with his raspy
baritone and his despondent working-class narrators, I'm already
half-sold. But The Jealous Kind takes me the rest of
the way; it's a superb collection of songs by one of our most
interesting young songwriters. But it's more country-sounding
than Bruce has ever been able (or willing) to pull off, so if
you're one of those sad little "country music hasn't been
good since Merle Haggard died" people, then you can just
get bent, because this is real C&W music that packs an emotional
wallop. (Plus, Hag's still alive, you morons.)
opening title track is already classic: the narrator is speeding
to keep his girlfriend Maria from running off with another guy,
even though that's not the kind of thing he usually does: "I've
never drove two days through the pouring rain / Only stopping
for coffee and gas / Never outdrove the law on the interstate
/ Didn't know this thing could go that fast." It's a Nebraska-era
Bruce tune, except it's not—Knight wrote it with Gary Nicholson—and
it's epic like fate, because as the song ends our unnamed hero
has finally gotten caught by the cops, and all he can do is dream
of his one phone call to Maria. (I always imagine that this is
the same Maria from Springsteen's "Highway Patrolman,"
but I'm probably wrong.)
Knight does a lot of things that are very
Boss-like here, including the persevere-at-any-cost tune "Bangin'
Away" and the spooky closer "Long Black Highway,"
which is written and sung from the perspective of a ghost haunting
that lonesome stretch of road. And "Broken Plow" and
"A Train Not Running" are straight out of the Boss'
"Songs About Little Guys Getting Screwed By the Big Bad System"
But Knight is no copyist; just because
he shares some thematic concerns and a gift for straight-ahead
poetry with Springsteen doesn't mean he's doing it in any kind
of cynical way. He just believes that the little guy takes it
in the shorts (true) and that love causes more problems than it
solves (very true) and that a guy doesn't have to have an outstanding
voice or a degree in creative writing to create some damn fine
songs (truest thing ever said, teach your children this, stitch
it on samplers).
there is enough here that does not sound like Springsteen
to clear up any confusion. "Staying Up All Night Long"
has some Hank-worthy wordplay ("You must be studying cheating
songs / To be so good at doing me wrong"); "Carla Came
Home" is a nifty little song glorifying vigilantism against
domestic abusers (less fascistic than "Beer for My Horses,"
more serious than "Goodbye Earl"); Matraca Berg drops
by to co-write and co-sing the pretty-but-evil "Devil Behind
the Wheel." It's a country record all right, and a damned
that doesn't mean my man doesn't have a couple of copies of Tunnel
of Love and The River in his collection. And there's
nothing wrong with that, nothing at all.
liked The Jealous Kind...
The Jealous Kind
2. Banging Away
3. The Border
4. Staying Up All Night Long
5. A Train Not Running
6. Carla Came Home
7. Me And This Road
8. Broken Plow
9. Devil Behind The Wheel
10. Hello Old Man
11. Long Black Highway