Review of "I WROTE MY NAME ON YOU"
Noted folk music critic Scott Alarik once said that there are songwriters who play guitar and there are guitar players who write songs. Though Lonnie Knight is clearly from the latter camp, his newest release, "I Wrote My Name On You," is a showcase of tasteful, if somewhat purposely restrained guitar playing, gracing some well- written and expertly produced songs. Recorded at Arabica Studio in Minneapolis, this project is like old home week among three of the Twin Cities' finest musicians. Friends for almost 40 years, Knight relies on studio owner Dakota Dave Hull's engineering and good ears as co-producer of this project. Lonnie taps his equally longtime friend Peter Ostroushko to add fiddle in just the right places.
You can tell early on it's a labor of love for all three. There's something about the synchronicity, often achieved among talented, veteran players who like and respect each other, that can't be manufactured.
"Just Ride The Train" is Knight's tune about how things can change quickly in life and how, in many ways, we aren't in control the way we would like to believe. It was a divorce and overcoming some personal challenges that gave rise to this song that says " sometimes you can't do nothin' wrong, sometimes it just don't pay to try."
The tag line to "Breadcrumbs" came first: " if we could drop breadcrumbs, we might find our way home." It's a love song for people who have been in love a lot. Think about it: Can you really say the same things in your 17th relationship that you could in your first? Phrases like "you're the only one for me" just don't ring true. The guitars' melodic development on this song is just gorgeous and results in one of those tunes that mixes melody and lyric with a sense of perfection. Nothing is out of place, nothing could be added, nothing should be deleted any change ruins the whole.
Wonderment about what is really going on globally was the starting point for "Treading Water." The feel of the text seems to say "we're all just doing the best we can, though it may not seem like much, but what else can we do?" " I can't touch bottom from here, the water's rising and the sky is just a smear in my eyes. I see no angels, no devils in sailors' disguise. No port of call, no landfall, no seawall."
A musician from New Orleans contacted Knight and asked if he could cover the song. He told Lonnie that this song was the best musical portrait of Hurricane Katrina that he'd come across.
Lonnie Knight took up the guitar at age 12. He worked the coffeehouse circuit for several years before there was a coffeehouse circuit. He played in a succession of bands, including Jokers Wild, the Neilsen-White Band, the Knight-Henley Band, even the last year or so of the Hoopsnakes. He was the first call guitarist at Minneapolis Studio Sound 80 for many years and has played with virtually all the best musicians in the upper Midwest. His musical resume, like his playing, is exceptional.
"I Wrote My Name On You" shows that Knight puts as much care and effort into his covers of other writers as he does his own compositions.
On Leslie Ball's "Patch Of Blue" the arrangement really brings out the meaning of the lyric. It says that some things, like the love of a person who is no longer in your life on a daily basis, can still be eternal. " I send a prayer for you and later when you smile today, I know my prayer came true."
The title of this disc was going to be "Last Call" from the Dave Van Ronk classic. Discovering the wealth of material using that same title, he changed it but kept the wonderful arrangement that puts Van Ronk's text with the old English folk song "Lord Franklin." It shows that Knight has a sincere appreciation for those '60s groups (like Pentangle, and so on, with Bert Jansch and John Renborn) that updated and shared their ancestor's heritage.
The small acoustic group adaptation of Mark Knopler and Dire Straits' "live" extravaganza of "Romeo and Juliet" is an album highlight. The guitar and violin intro is pure elegance, and I actually like this much more subtle version better than the original.
With guitar chops enough to blow the doors off, "I Wrote My Name On You" shows Lonnie Knight's maturity, taste and restraint as he's crafted a disc that focuses on the songs, not pyrotechnical playing ability. It's a good one.
JOHN ZIEGLER has worked as program and music director at KUMD-FM for 31 years. He has produced seven compilation discs from some of his 3,500 in-studio sessions. He reviews music for the