To hear Chris J Norwood tell it, the more confessional — shall we say, sensitive — side of being a singer-songwriter has its limits.
“I got tired of that kind of sad, singer-songwriter type of record,” Norwood said during a recent conversation. “My first record dealt heavily with the loss of my father and growing up without a father. My second record continued that a little bit and dealt with other heartbreaks. I just got tired of writing what I call ‘sad bastard’ songs.
“Like, I’m happily married. I’ve got two beautiful kids. I was wanting to write songs about the experience that I was in currently.”
The Knockdown Dragout, Norwood’s third studio album, which will be released on Feb. 9, makes it plain from the opening moments how profoundly the Dallas-based musician took the pivot to heart. “Introducing …,” the opening track, is a rowdy, brass-charged blast of R&B funk that finds Norwood declaring “You don’t know what I’m capable of.”
Ahead of its official release, KXT is thrilled to present the exclusive premiere of the full The Knockdown Dragout album below.
“I knew I wanted a song to tell people right out of the gate ‘This is who I am,’” Norwood said. “You may not expect it, but let’s have fun.”
He’ll bring that infectious, unapologetic sense of soulfulness to the Kessler Theater on Feb. 9, when Norwood and his backing band, the Knockdown Dragout, will perform as part of the KXT Local Show Presents series. The Rosemont Kings and Kirk Thurmond help round out the bill.
In another departure from a guy and his guitar, there’s a muscular fullness to these tracks, which were captured at Garland’s Audio Dallas Recording Studio, where Willie Nelson famously recorded his landmark Red Headed Stranger LP in 1975 (although it was known by a different name, Autumn Sound, at the time).
The fat sound on display is the sort only available when working with an ace band, which vocalist and guitarist Norwood carefully assembled, citing contributions from bassist TJ Callaway, drummer Aaron Hass and keys player Chris Watson.
“Finding the right band — I knew would be important,” Norwood said. “Finding the right studio would be important. Those Stax and Motown records — the band and the studio are as much a part of the vibe and feeling of the song as the song itself. The sound of it is beautiful.”
Chris J. Norwood & the Knockdown Dragout at Kessler Theater, Dallas. 8 p.m. Feb. 9. Tickets are $18.
Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on X (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.