Occasionally I hear a disk that grabs me so hard during the first ten seconds that it makes me stop whatever I'm doing and just plunk my scrawny butt down to listen. Chris Knight's The Jealous Kind did exactly that. Knight has a voice that wears an aura of suffering and grit like a merit badge. Couple his bone-chilling vocal delivery with songs that reel you in with hooks and bridges worthy of the best A-list Nashville song-crafters and the final result is killer music.
An often-heard complaint about contemporary country music is that it lacks depth, purpose and true feeling. Less than totally cheerful tales and experiences from marginalized Americans are an anathema to the happy hit-makers of hot country. Personal experiences and idiosyncratic viewpoints of the disenfranchised populate every cut on The Jealous Kind. Imagine the social concerns of Bruce Cockburn coupled with the musical sensibilities of Clint Black. Call it anti-hot country. You might think that stories about roofers turned outlaws, or hitchhikers picked up by Satan driving a big black Cadillac Couple Deville would be depressing, but like Bruce Springsteen's best material, most function as anthems celebrating America's soft white underbelly.
Co-producers Dan Baird and Joe Hardy assembled a fine collection of performers for Chris Knight's third solo release, including Bob Britt, Don Baird, and Ty Tyler on electric and lap steel guitars, Keith Christopher on bass, Greg Morrow on drums and percussion, Tony Harrel on B-3 organ, accordion, and harmonium, Dan Dugmore on pedal steel, Tammy Rogers on violin and viola, and Matraca Berg on harmony vocals. Chris Wright wrote all the songs on The Jealous Kind. But all but three are collaborations with an impressive list of co-conspirators. Gary Nelson, Chuck Prophet, Christie Sutherland, Gary Nicholson, Stacy Dean Campbell, David Leone, Matraca Berg, and Austin Cunningham all share co-writing credits.
Perhaps there are songwriters and singers producing more genuine country music, but I haven't heard them. The Jealous Kind is the kind of country music that makes hot country sound lukewarm in comparison. It would make Hank Williams smile.