Chicago’s business district brings to mind suits, commerce, and the noise of productivity. At night the area is ghost-like with tall buildings staring blankly at one another. In 1999 Daniel Knox moved to Chicago to attend film school and discovered that downtown buildings aren’t always locked at night; he began the practice of wandering the area and trying doors, exploring buildings that stood silently open. It was in this practice that Daniel found a vintage hotel, the ballroom inside and the piano that it held.
Daniel returned to the hotel regularly and taught himself to play piano, slowly and with numerous interruptions, as he was repeatedly thrown out of the hotel, and there discovered his voice in that place as well as an outlet in the form of clever, dark, fun and yet twisted tunes that seem at home in the city of Chicago, yet out of place in the bustling center of commerce.
Knox’s latest release Evryman for Himself is an exploration of varying themes; from sex, to violence (including haunting someone from beyond the grave) love, pain and sometimes just the inane. Each song delivered with gusto, sometimes with show-tune qualities sometimes with dark and twisted chords, and sometimes with bravado, real or imagined.
It’s difficult to tell if Knox is serious, hopefully not in some cases, but he is truly exploring the themes and daydreams that sometimes cross all of our minds. “Who hasn’t had a friend/lover that deserved some haunting from beyond the grave?” “Ghostsong” is exactly that and leads the album out with twisted tale of a haunting, intimate in the details and shocking at times. Knox takes just the idea of something dark and terrible and paints a picture with lush and vivid colors, down to the tiniest detail with a voice that sometimes fills the room and rattles the corners.
“Chores” delivers the details of a daily life, soft and haunting the picture of a man who sees nothing but the various tasks associated with living and misses the bigger picture. Is this what we are at times, nothing more than someone “accomplishing” tasks, or are they simply by-products of a life worth living?
“Armegeddon Song” is the complicated reaction of a single man to the announcement of the war in Iraq. Set to an upbeat tempo this song is irony in itself, discussing horrible things a smile. Not what one expects, but then the entire album is not what one expects.
Have no fear, this is not just a tenor and his piano. Well it is, but it is so much more, including some amazing horns that sneak up on the listener. It is difficult to tell where the reality ends and the imagination begins with Daniel Knox, but it’s fun to listen to his work and catch the slightly shocking off-handed commentary.
As noted at the beginning, Knox’s music is not for everyone, and certainly finds an audience with the eccentric and the dark, but his sound is one that will not be relegated to second-hand stores, he’s a voice to be reckoned with and a writer to boot, a wicked combination.
Evryman for Himself was released digitally in May, but now available on vinyl (always the preferred option) Knox is finding a niche with record collectors because the medium is so well-suited for his rich, full voice and 1920’s musical styles. Explore the mind of Daniel Knox when you are in the mood for something different from your usual fare, with his unusual voice, cerebral lyrics and haunting delivery he certainly has big things ahead.
By – Meredith Underhill