Chris Knight A Pretty Good Guy

In the '60s, songwriters with any grasp of lyricism inevitably were tagged "new Dylans." In the alt-country world, the same can be said for the "new Steve Earles"; songwriters informed by a tough rural sensibility, unshakeable non-conformity but also a flair for poetry. Kentuckian Chris Knight seemed the leader of this bunch with his 1998 self-titled debut, which included the fine singles "I Was Framed" and "It Ain't Easy Being Me." With this follow-up, he's mining the same vein, but a glance at his songwriting partner this time out gives a better clue of how his sound is progressing. Fred Eaglesmith collaborates on two songs, but his simple, rough-hewn approach permeates the entire album, casting Knight as the downtrodden everyman with a heart of gold. Nowhere is this better displayed than on "Down The River," an involved tale of two brothers who end up at the wrong place at the wrong time and suffer the consequences. On the lighter side, there's also "Highway Junkie," a great new truck driver anthem that producer Dan Baird's band the Yayhoos covered on the Rig Rock Deluxe compilation. Although Knight may still have a hard time shaking the Steve Earle comparisons, A Pretty Good Guy plainly shows he's on his way to establishing his own distinct voice, making this a pretty good album. (Dualtone)