Step Out Into the Sun
For his third album Roger Knott travelled to Nashville and employed the talented Clive Gregson to produce this collection of fourteen songs that are firmly rooted in the tradition of 'old' country music. It's quite refreshing actually in these days when pure country music is hardly produced to hear something as fresh and natural as the sounds Knott makes here. There is no trace of alt-country / Americana (or what it has become in recent times) or new-country here. It's country music as it used to be and Knott is adept at writing and singing in that genre. Gregson is an obvious choice as producer given his recent work with Nanci Griffith and Pat McInerney and Le Ann Etheridge who also work with Griffith make contributions here too. It's something of a country all - stars show really ; apart from the above the wonderful Cathryn Craig helping out on backing vocals, Mike Daly (Whiskeytown) adds his lap steel, Jim Hoke (Emmylou Harris) is there with his flute and saxophone and Thomm Jutz ( Mary Gauthier) plays guitar. With a cast like that you just can't go wrong. But no matter how good the musicians and producer it would be difficult of course to make anything more than a good album if the songs were not up to standard. Fortunately the songs here are all originals and Knott is, without any doubt, a top-notch songwriter. Predominantly singing about the high and lows of love the opening cut, 'Call Me Back' sets out Knott's stall nicely; a typical country melody and lyrics dealing with the frustration of trying to get the attention of the new girl in town. The following song, 'I Can't Find Anybody' is another slice of pure country, with Daly's lap steel pushing home that country vibe it's surely a song that is going to be a live favourite. That Knott is a talented songwriter is in no doubt ; the opening three songs all follow the same path of up-tempo sing a-longs but to some ears a whole album of songs like that opening trio is maybe a little too much of a good thing. As well played, produced and sung as they are the thought of fourteen songs following the same pattern was just a little too sweet. So it's with some relief that with track four, 'Late Bloom', Knott slows the tempo down just slightly and for the first time on this collection his vocals really stand out, there is more compassion, more feeling in his voice and, although the song again is a straightforward love song lyrically, that vocal performance and the slower pace lift the song just a few notches higher than those opening the album. But the following song, 'The Sound Of Your Name' is the highlight of the album. Slowing things right down, it's a touching tale of losing a perfect love and just proves once again that while Knott can hold his own when writing and performing the more traditional up-tempo country songs he really shines when he slows things down; his vocals are outstanding when he tackles songs taken at a slower pace. Or try another love lost ballad 'Good Times Have None To Spare' for confirmation. The same thing could be said of the touching tribute that is 'Seeing Ireland Again', another strong melody coupled with yet another strong vocal performance. Having said that Knott excels with his slower songs there is no denying that it's hard to listen to 'The Devil Riding By' without wishing to sing along even when in the darkest of moods. ...In Roger Knott we have a singer-songwriter who is making outstanding music in a genre that is sadly overlooked these days. For the most part it's a feel-good collection of songs which certainly lifted my mood when I listened to it for the first time and hasn't failed to bring a little sun into my life with each play.