The Jealous Kind – Chris Knight
The idea of the "rugged individual" in country music is as pervasive as any
other modern day, pop culture archetype. From Woody Guthrie and Hank
Williams to Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, the image of the lone man
fighting against his inner demons and daily trials of everyday life is
absolute. If it wasn't for its utterly universal quality, the idea would
have come off as a cheap marketing gimmick long ago. Nowadays, there are so
few troubadours of this genre left that what's left are either pompous young
guns pretending to have it rough or the more honest, less gimmicky
soul-searchers who opt for a less prestigious and more honest musical path.
The Jealous Kind falls in the latter category, and details drinking,
struggling through rural life, and falling short of glory. The road as
metaphor pops up frequently. "Me and This Road," "Devil Behind the Wheel,"
and "Long Black Highway" all use the road as a means to convey the ideas of
loneliness, being misguided, or going astray. He uses prototypical
characters from either his own life or his own creation to imbue these
themes on the listener, offering little resolution in the process. On "Long
Black Highway" he uses the road as a symbol for someone's demise into
oblivion and madness, leaving the listener with a rather dark image at the
end of the record. "Carla Came Home" is about a murderous revenge taken by
a father on his son-in-law for the abuse of his own daughter. The melody
and chorus are rather catchy and are stamped with a Texas country-pop-rock
feel apparent in other songs like "Banging Away" and "The Jealous Kind,"
more upbeat, country-rock tunes.
Whether Chris Knight is trying to convey his own sense of disgust and
astonishment at the way we live, or is simply exploring dark themes and
life's trials for his own benefit is unclear. What is clear is that The
Jealous Kind plays out like a work in progress, both in the lyrics and
the music itself. The album is splashed with tinges of Steve Earle and
Robert Earl Keen in its song structure, vocal embellishment, and the way the
songs feel like stories or tales rather than just a song. Knight seems to
be creating his own ideas of rugged individualism through telling tales of
other people. Removing himself from the picture proves compelling, but just
doesn't manage to paint a very clear picture.