Chris Knight's follow-up to "Pretty Good Guy" (2001) is a return to country music's dark side, with spare, unobtrusive instrumentation.

Chris Knight's follow-up to "Pretty Good Guy" (2001) is a return to country music's dark side, with spare, unobtrusive instrumentation. This time out, the focus is more on Knight's version of romance than violence—beginning with a title cut that is a smoldering, desperate admission of overpowering love. Though not showcased often, Knight does have a sense of humor, shown here on the ode to persistence, "Banging Away." But Knight's real skill is a cinematic knack for storytelling, drawing sharp, often ill-fated characters in such cuts as "The Border" and "A Train Not Running." It is also gratifying to see Knight's mean streak still very much intact ("Carla Came Home" and "Long Black Highway"). A top-shelf songwriter, Knight has rarely been better than on "Me and This Road." He is like Steve Earle without the pretension; it is high time Knight got his due.—RW

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