It Works For Me
It Works For Me has been attacting some press attention...see what folks've been sayin'. Buy it online from Sam Records. Head back to the Scott McKnight home page. Review by Rick Cornell from Issue #29 of No Depression
Kevin Johnson Sunday Driver
Scott McKnight It Works for Me

It's fair to say that Washington, D.C., singer-songwriter Kevin Johnson plays roots-rock, so long as that statement is qualified by adding that he does so with the pop smarts of someone who can tackle Marshall Crenshaw's "You're My Favorite Waste of Time," and with a fondness for all things covered by the term "roots" that he wears like a "Dave Alvin for President" button.
On Johnson's new Sunday Driver, that latter characteristic is underscored by songs such as the zydeco-infused "The Bad Old Days" and the dramatic "Heart of Spanish Leather," which has a title worthy of Townes Van Zandt and a rustic wall of sound that recalls Joe Ely. "Always Raining on my Street," written by MVP sideman Scott McKnight, invites in some bullfight horns for a change of pace. (That's Bill Kirchen on trombone, by the way.) Later, Johnson tackles another McKnight composition, a lullaby for the working class titled "Alright" that's as perfect a closer as it is a showcase for Johnson's rich, Arkansas-reared voice.
When McKnight isn't playing guitar and bass in Johnson's band the Linemen, he's apparently busy home-recording several career's worth of songs. Finally, 45 of those, captured between 1986 and 1999, are being let out of the house on the two-disc set It Works for Me, which comes off like the British Invasion and the alt-country movement taking shap simultaneously -- and in DIY fashion -- in a Northern Virginia basement.
Comparisons to Jack Logan's Bulk are inevitable, and the two certainly share an all-you-can-eat nature. With so much to chew on, the occasional dud is also inevitable. But for every "Popeye Got Married," you'll find three tunes the quality of "Walkin' Next to You," "We Own a Baby Now," and "Things I'm Not," which suggest vintage Silos, NRBQ, and Ben Vaughn, respectively. Also on hand are two other songs covered by Johnson on earlier records, "Written on my Heart," and "Wouldn't Be Easy," wistful winners both.

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Review by Jon Jolles from UNo MAS
Kevin Johnson Sunday Driver
Scott McKnight It Works for Me

Baltimore's own Sam Records can give themselves a nice pat on the back courtesy of these two fine new releases. I can actually say, as strange as this may seem to our readers outside of the Maryland/Washington D.C./Northern Virginia area, that I first became aware of Kevin Johnson from the radio. We are somewhat blessed in this area with a radio station -- WRNR -- that plays some pretty fine music (when they're not stuck in their "all Dead all the time" mode) and has been favoring songs like the album opener "Imitation of Wife", the folkie stomper "Good For Nothin" and the Los Lobos styled rocker "The Bad Old Days" -- complete with some jumping accordion work- with some well deserved playlist rotation. With a voice somewhere between Bruce Cockburn, David Wilcox, and Warren Zevon, Johnson effortlessly weaves his stories of love and loss amidst some expertly executed roots rock; there's no real surprises here, and that's the point. This is music that's crafted to be timeless. "Always Raining On My Street" answers the question "what if the Drifters were from New Orleans?" Guests on the record include Bill Kirchen and Scruffy the Cat's Charlie Chesterman (Note to Mr. Chesterman -- one Scruffy the Cat reunion tour please) among others. All in all, Sunday Driver is one smooth ride.

Now if you are looking for some real surprises, look no further than Scott McKnight's debut double cd It Works For Me. That's right -- a double cd --45 songs! For those of you keeping score at home, that's two more songs than the Minutemen's landmark double album Double Nickels on the Dime. Now I know what you're thinking; "A debut double cd? Does anyone remember Frankie Goes to Hollywood?" But what's so fantastic about this audacious and enthralling debut is the quality within the quantity. Sure there's some filler; how could there not be? But overall the sheer number of well-crafted, incredibly catchy and stylistically varied songs is almost overwhelming. It's no wonder local guys like Kevin Johnson, Last Train Home, and The Grandsons have been playing and recording McKnight's songs for years. Finally McKnight decided to release some recordings he'd made, over the last 14 years, mostly on 4 and 8 track recorders. The result is a virtual tour through the history of pop music. The title track starts things off with what sounds like NRBQ hosting their own Nickelodean special; from the bottleneck slide of "Wonderland" to the bluesy groove of "Unk-shus," from the Gilberto/Jobim cool of "She's My Secret" to the Rubber Soul of "Oh Little Girl", from the trippy eastern influence and Andy Partridge vocal line of "Blue Samba" to the bluegrass swing of "Popeye got Married," from the dark, brooding folk of "Balancing Act" to the Replacements styled "Fuzz," every sound and genre is explored and effortlessly assimilated into McKnight's arsenal of pop hooks. Throw in some fun Bill Black type horn-honking instrumentals and you've got the most impressive debut by a singer/songwriter this year. As Jim my editor put it so succinctly, "great, catchy pop songs just fall out of his ass." Er, yeah -- wherever they come from let's just hope they keep on coming. With Sunday Driver and It Works For Me the future looks pretty bright for these two sons of Sam. At least the dog seems to think so.

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Review by doug mayo-wells from Snap Pop!

I met Scott McKnight in the early 90's when he engineered and co-produced my first recording session. I was immediately impressed by his song-oriented focus and his record collection, but it was seeing his band Naughty Pine that turned me into a giddy fanboy (note bias disclosure). Naughty Pine could put Thelonious Monk, Black Sabbath, and Bob Wills tunes into the same ass-kicking set, but what floored me was McKnight's songwriting: heartbreaking and hilarious (sometimes simultaneously), wry, witty, and almost unfailingly catchy.
I'm not alone in my appreciation for Mr. McKnight's tunesmithing, either: his compositions have graced records by the likes of Kevin Johnson, Last Train Home and the Grandsons -- it's almost surprising that this is the first album under his own name, as well as the first to exclusively feature his compositions. It's mostly a one-man show, although the Naughty Pine folks and a few others help out here and there. The recordings span a thirteen year period over a variety of circumstances -- even if the songs were no good, this would be an impressive document of the necessity-mothering-invention school of recording: a (mostly) home-made record that doesn't sound (much) like a home-made record.
But the songs are good, did I mention that? There are a whopping forty-five of them on two discs: flat-out rockers, surfy instrumentals, mournful ballads, a little bit of blues, some power-pop, the odd bit of folk and country-flavor, and a whole lot of rock'n'roll. McKnight has a warm, inviting and versatile voice, and he's a positively mean guitar player: check the solo on "Really Didn't Try that Hard" or the fast picking on "Popeye Got Married" for proof.
Is it perfect? 'Course not. I have quibbles with the song order; the first disc opens with one of McKnight's best known tunes, but maybe not one of the most immediately engaging recordings of it. And I'd still love to hear a real full band record someday -- McKnight is a talented multi-instrumentalist, but the tracks with guest drummers on them are definitely livelier on the rhythm end. But the bottom line is definitely the cheap'n'easy joke: Hell, yeah, it works for me, too.

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Review By Lou King from the Alexandria Journal
McKnight's Music 'Works'

Alexandria, VA resident Scott McKnight's debut release, "It Works for Me" (Sam Records), is a great thing on two levels: First, the two disk set is chock full of priceless examples of why McKnight is one of the area's most sought-after songsmiths. Second, it should give anyone fiddling around in the basement with a four-track a bit of hope that it's all worth it.

McKnight's been a fixture on the local roots scene for a while, and he's played with just about everybody, including Kevin Johnson and the Linemen and Last Train Home. Those two bands, which boast formidable songwriting talents of their own, have reverentially recorded McKnight's songs: Last Train Home Covered "I recall Thinking" on its 1997 debut while Johnson included "Always Rainin' On My Street" on his recent offering "Sunday Driver" - both songs are included in "It Works Fr Me."

Since getting married and becoming a father about a decade ago, McKnight has understandably had to curtail his musical activities for more "responsible" pursuits. The constraints and demands of family life and gainful employment have caused many a rock 'n' roller to hang it up for good, but the resourceful McKnight has remained prodigious.

The 45 songs on "It Works For Me" were recorded between 1986 and 1999, on various home-recording devices in basements, bedrooms and wherever else McKnight could squirrel himself away for a few minutes. Most of the songs have their sloppy moments but that doesn't prevent the beauty of McKnight's songs from shining through.

A lot of folks want to pigeon-hole McKnight as some sort of alt-country traditionalist, but "It Works For Me" is a grab-bag of styles, from the surf-crazy "Beach Blanket" to the Blues-rocking "Generation Loss" to the flamenco-textured pop of "H.S. Reunion."

Although McKnight plays most of the instruments himself, including horns, drums and silverware, he was able to coax a few friends into helping him out every once in a while. Drummer Steve Woehrle, bassist Tony Flagg and Guitarist Bill Williams - who comprise McKnight's "regular" group Naughty Pine - give the full band treatment to a few songs like "Spilt Peaches" and "Lemon Shark '69."

All in all, "It Works For Me" is a gold mine of tuneful nuggets that bears attentive and repeated listening. It'll be fun to hear some of these songs re-done, When and if McKnight ever finds the time to give them "the proper" studio treatment, but this recording will always be proof that you can do a whole lot with very little.

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Review - Revolutions - Roots Music Online
Clearly a lover of early instrumental rock and roll, Scott McKnight here produces a mammoth 2-CD set designed to show off his ability to switch back and forth into various musical styles. Many of the tracks illustrate the lo-fi loveliness brought to the fore by Badly Drawn Boy last year, although much of the album recalls Paul McCartney's first solo album in terms of experimentation and determination to produce a home sounding record. Early Steve Miller is another obvious influence, check out "Mark Trail" and the title track as evidence of this. Early Elvis Costello, Marshall Crenshaw and Dwight Twilley would be other singers that McKnight admires (to my ears anyway) but all 45 songs are self written with some excellent lyrics "You always superglue a broken heart" on "Things I'm Not" is an instance of this. Two minor criticisms of this generally fine record would be ending with the line "Sing it while you pick your nose" and that the quantity of songs rather detracts from the main meat of the record. Perm 16 tracks from 45 and we'd be talking a genuine contender like Marlon Brando should have been in "On The Waterfront". Buy and make your own C-45. (DW)

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Review - The Chicken Out Of Hell Top Ten Albums Of 2000
D.C. double-CD debut from genial weirdo, the kind you want living next door, who recasts garage rock with a baritone sax and country-spare minor-key high-relief, one of many subtle, yet crucial ways in which this dis-resembles its obvious reference point, Jack Logan’s Bulk. One odd double-duck, but my surface reservations ("Eight instrumentals? Two of them back to back?!?") all sudsy down the drain in McKnight’s forceful rinse of execution.

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Sales Blurb from From Not Lame Records

Scott McKnight - It Works For Me

Featuring one of the leaders of 80's pop greats, The Neighbors, McKnight has revealed a tour-de-force that highlights his acute sense of songcraft and nuance. "Try and imagine Jonathan Ricman, Humble Pie, Sex Pistols and The Beatles having a jam session in your Mom's basement and you're getting close"-Kevin Johnson. Could not resist that quote as it begins to reach towards the depths that are unearthed in this high-brow, many varied release.

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last update:
16.aug.2001 dmw