Chris Knight

With Bobby Lanphier. Thursday, February 20, at the Beachland Ballroom.

"Just because a song I wrote has a gun in it, they think I'm trying to be Steve Earle," Chris Knight will tell you. "That's bullshit. I've been this way since I was five years old. I've lived in the country all my life." That's certainly reflected in Knight's songs and the people who populate them. Knight, who still lives in the country (Slaughter, Kentucky, an hour's drive south of Evansville, Indiana), has served up three CDs of tales about rural folk. Not the happy-go-lucky "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" type, but the ones who've gotten the slap in the face from life. His protagonists don't always look for trouble, but they manage to find it anyway.

Such a style inevitably invites comparisons. Throw out a name -- Earle, Cash, Haggard, Prine, or non-country bards like Springsteen and Mellencamp. Knight can do without the comparisons (although he readily admits that Earle is one of his favorite artists). He just likes to tell stories, and he doesn't consider his living-in-the-margins subjects a swipe at country life in general. "I think I show these people in a good light," he says. "Most of the characters have redeeming qualities. They don't quit. They're not a weak bunch of people." Musically, Knight is on the rocking side of country. Most tunes feature thunderous guitar attacks, although Knight can go acoustic when a poignant song demands it. Perhaps a day will come when some young musical storyteller will ask not to be always compared to Chris Knight.