Sophomore album from Canadian songsmith marks him out as a serious contender.
B. Knox as he chooses to be known, is a former Canadian schoolteacher who’s loss to the education world is quite clearly Americana music’s gain if this, his sophomore album is anything to go by. His debut album, 2020’s ‘Heartbreak & Landscape’, showed plenty of promise though, with a sparser sound and most likely a smaller budget, had an overriding sense of dipping the toe in to test the water about it. This time there’s no holding back, expanding both the overall sound and the lyrical content with an air of confidence and greater focus. A certain amount of credit for this must go to Aaron Goldstein, who as co-writer, and producer also delivers some wonderful pedal steel that is liberally scattered throughout an album which at the same time is both cosmic Americana, and country rock, while still keeping one foot clearly rooted in the singer songwriter camp.
‘Messy’, the opening track from ‘Far From Folk’, finds B. Knox strumming his acoustic guitar over a mix of sampled loops and handclaps as he sings, “please don’t fall in love with me”, following it with, “If you drown don’t drag me down”, in an attempt at self preservation. If the debut album had been the break up album, then here he is determined to stand on his own two feet, less bitter, with renewed hope. That’s not to suggest that all the scars have healed, fragility still remains, as he reveals on the utterly sublime ‘If I Break’. The broader sound on this track is supplied by some exquisite fiddle playing by Melissa Payne, while the horn section of Tom Moffett on trumpet, and Edwin Sheard on saxophone, help support the tension within the lyrics which along with their delivery has a certain Jason Isbell feel about it.
The album continues with the slightly more melancholy ‘Coal Mines & Wishing Wells’, followed by the heavier, both in sound and subject matter of ‘Bullet, Blades & Rope’, before arriving at one of the album’s pure gems in ‘Only Words’. Once again the lyrical content and delivery are of the highest order, with the collective sound of pedal steel and horn section, along with Brad Kilpatrick on drums, Andrew Boulos on bass and Thomas Hammerton on keys, helping to create an ambiance and atmosphere that lifts this love song for grown ups to a dizzying level. Songwriting of the highest order.
B. Knox has a strong and distinctive voice just as comfortable rocking out as on, ‘Little Wars’, as he is on the more atmospheric numbers such as ‘Coastal Poetry’, and shows his versatility on ‘Never Alone’, where he shares lead vocals with Heather Valley. Also on hand to lend vocal support is Carleigh Aikins’s whose voice gently weaves throughout the whole album, supporting and complementing eight of the tracks. No where is this more clearly demonstrated that on ‘Seasons’, which was the first single taken from the album. Here, together their voices harmonise to create a soundscape that’s reminiscent of Gene Clark’s ‘No Other’, and no higher compliment can be paid.
The world of the singer songwriter is tough, full of pitfalls and disappointment, where very few get to dine at the top table. If this album is anything to go by, an extra place at that table may need to be set, as B. Knox has truly announced himself as a serious contender.
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