It s hard to know how people are gonna react, Chris Knight says of Almost Daylight, his ninth album and first new recording in over seven years. I ve written songs about a lot of different things going all the way back to my first record, and some folks still think somebody kills somebody is all I write about. Maybe that s why I was bound and determined to get these particular songs on this album. If people like them, then we ll be fine. But I wasn t gonna do it any other way. For the past 20 years, Chris Knight has only made music his own way. He s released eight acclaimed albums, played thousands of electrifying live shows and built generations of fervent fans from Texas honky-tonks to Manhattan rock clubs. He s been hailed as the last of a dying breed...a taciturn loner with an acoustic guitar and a college degree (The New York Times) and a storyteller in the best traditions of Mellencamp and Springsteen (USA Today). Bottom line, he s hard-earned his reputation as one of America s most uncompromising and respected singer/songwriters. And now with Almost Daylight, Knight delivers the most powerful and unexpected music of his career. Almost Daylight is very much a Chris Knight album, familiarly featuring vivid pictures of rural characters, desperate men and hardscrabble survivors. At the same time it s unlike anything Knight has done before, with formidable testaments to compassion, redemption and even straight-up love. It s an album both tough and tender, as bare-knuckled as it is open-hearted. I do think there s a cohesiveness to this album, Knight explains in his thick Kentucky rasp. The title is key, I suppose. Through all these songs, you could find a theme about seeking shelter. Produced, mixed and mastered by Grammy-winner Ray Kennedy best-known for his 30+ year creative partnership with Steve Earle as well as producing Chris Enough Rope (2006), Trailer II (2009) and Little Victories (2012) albums Almost Daylight also sounds like no other Knight record, with scorching guitars by Georgia Satellites founder and two-time Knight album producer Dan Baird, rich background vocals by Chris Clark, Siobhan Kennedy and Lee Ann Womack, and deeper instrumentation than ever before. Chris had been playing some of these songs on the road and started developing ideas before we got to the studio, Kennedy says. He and I talked about keeping the Appalachian factor with banjo, fiddle, harmonica and mandolin where it felt right. It was significant that Dan was involved, as he s the man who can play guitar with the right feeling for Chris. The background vocals really brought the fire, and this lead to ideas for piano, Hammond B-3, accordion and Wurlitzer electric piano. Everything evolved from the performance of each song and I let the songs dictate what they needed in order to evolve into an album. I was determined not to do any acoustic songs on this album, Chris explains. I wanted it all to sound edgy and raw, but to feel big at the same time. We kept trying different approaches until I felt we landed on what worked. The thing is, some of my songs might take a year of writing before I even think they re ready for recording and I fretted about every one of these. I ve never put a cover song on any of my records before, but there are two covers on this one. And I think it all fits together pretty good. The album opens with I m William Callahan , a defiant roar fueled by equal parts pride, memories and searing guitar. Crooked Mile is classic Knight, a piercing take on outsiders bound by love, while the poignant Send It On Down is a plaintive plea for salvation. There are tales of small-town despair ( I Won t Look Back ), ominous rural menace ( Trouble Up Ahead ) and melancholic break-ups.