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Roger Knott - The Field and the Sky

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 9 / 7 / 2012

Roger Knott - The Field and the Sky
Label: Leg Room Records
Format: CD


Classy combination of country rock and pop on seventh album, which was recorded in Nashville, from Hertfordshire-based singer-songwriter, Roger Knott

No stranger around these parts, Roger Knott’s previous albums have impressed us with his take on the pure country sound appealing to a much wider audience than the usual country crowd. ‘The Field and the Sky’ is Knott’s seventh album and, while it would appear from the opening songs on his latest collection that not much has changed for Knott musically, he still somehow manages to keep his country music sounding fresh. Produced again by Thomm Jutz in Tennessee which obviously lends a degree of authenticity to Knott’s work, ‘The Field and the Sky’ is another dozen original songs, this time Knott’s lyrics are accompanied by music composed by Michael John Groome, but the songs are still very much a continuation of the albums we are familiar with where Knott wrote both lyrics and music. The title track, which appears as the third song on this album, is the first indication that Knott is, in fact, British. While still steeped in the sounds of mandolin and dobro and while never losing, for a second, Knott’s love of the Nashville sound, it’s lyrically where Knott reveals his roots and also where Knott shows that he’s so much more than the usual run of the mill country artist. Opening the album with the typical Knott banjo led slice of pure country which is ‘Driving You Away’ is no big surprise. It’s business as usual, unrequited love being the subject of the song and with Knott’s easy on the ear vocals immediately accessible it’s like he’s never been away. Following up with ‘I Don’t Wanna Wake Up’, has you thinking, not for the first time with a Roger Knott album, that we’re in for a whole album’s worth of love and longing songs performed by a tight band and sung perfectly; nothing wrong with that but are we going to feel as enthusiastic by the end of the album as we were at the beginning? So slotting ‘The Field and the Sky’ in as the third song is perfect timing, the change in tempo, the way Knott’s vocals take on a tougher tone and the brilliant way the song ends vocally shake you up a little and renew your interest. If that song dispelled any thoughts that Knott was going to tread water with his latest album, then the following song, ‘Southern Bluesmen in Chicago’, is the confirmation. Knott’s vocals are maybe not the first that would come to mind to sing what actually turns out to be an authentic sounding slice of country/blues, albeit massively helped out by producer Thomm Jutz’s searing guitar work and Gary Smith’s outstanding skill on the piano, but he handles it remarkably well. It’s a side to Knott that has been explored a little on previous albums and is proof that Knott should tackle more of this type of music. The groove created by the band on this track should be exploited more on future albums. Knott then returns to his country-infused roots on the following song, ‘Sweet Obsession’, which is another unrequited love song with Knott’s vocals sounding sweeter than ever. By injecting the words with yearning emotion Knott, however, once again produces country which will also appeal to those outside of usual country circles. There are also songs on ‘The Field and the Sky’ where, despite such embellishments like slide guitar, Knott leaves his country leanings behind and delivers good, solid pop songs. ‘The Open Secret of Our Love’, while still lyrically following the theme of most of the other songs on the album, at least opens up yet another side to Knott. It shows that Knott can step outside of the country and occasional country/blues that we all know he’s a master at and produce beautiful adult pop songs. It’s a genre to which his vocals are ideally suited. ‘When Sorrow Lays You Low’ is another track where Knott displays the same skill and almost has you wishing he would record a whole album of such songs where he leaves his country roots at the door of the studio for just one album at least. In fact the last three songs on ‘The Field and the Sky’ display Knott in this setting and are proof that shorn of the country trappings Knott produces thoughtful pop music that he should be encouraged to explore further. By closing the album with ‘Faith and Proof’ Knott surely knows what direction to take on his next album. As usual Roger Knott has produced an album, which starts as a classy yet not exceptional country collection, but which by the end will have won over fans of other genres too. With that trio of closing songs ‘The Field and the Sky’ is Knott’s strongest set to date.

Track Listing:-
1 Driving You Away
2 I Don't Wanna Wake Up
3 The Field and the Sky
4 Southern Bluesmen in Chicago
5 Sweet Obsession
6 Truckstop
7 Razamatazz
8 The Open Secret of Our Love
9 I Don't Know What to Make of It
10 When Sorrow Lays You Low
11 I Need You As a Friend
12 Faith and Proof

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