There is an overwhelming number of talented individuals in the United States music industry. The industry is filled with many individuals in varying genres and musical types from independent artists to duos, signed artists, and a rarely seen parent-child collaboration. Over the years, the industry has witnessed several parent-child musical collaborations such as Beyonce and Blue Ivy in Blue album, Jeff and Spencer Tweedy in Sukierae, Frank and Moon Unit Zappa, and several others. These collaborations have proven to be lovely and there is one more just around the corner.
Today, Elam McKnight is pleased to announce the release of the Walter Gray Starnes album which features his 11-year-old daughter, Lil Bit. The album is a tribute to six generations of family storytellers who passed down the history of a people who lived hard, loved hard, worked hard, and still pulled together and find some sunshine during gray skies. Walter Gray Starnes is a tale of family history, heritage, and a celebration of a legacy and music lovers will enjoy every bit of this Elam and Lil Bit collaboration.
Speaking about the launch of the album, Elam McKnight had this to say, “I had always wanted to do a project about great grandpa Starnes, but every time I wrote a song it came out uncooked, somehow not right. And then one day, one song hit me—‘Somebody’s Blocking My Road’. I knew I had found what I was looking for, and once it came out, other songs followed.”
McKnight moved to Nashville as the city seemed to be his only resort. In Nashville, Elam McKnight recorded several songs using only his acoustic guitar and his voice. The problem, however, was that there were not enough songs to produce an album. While pondering a solution, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and Elam found himself confined at home with his daughter, Lil Bit. During the lockdown, McKnight used some of his time to share stories with his daughter about her great-great-grandparents and the two started doing a live show online to give them something to do together and connect with the world outside.
“We continued our live shows until one day, Lil Bit came to me with a song of her own for the Starnes album,” McKnight continued. “That’s when I knew I had the missing layer, and that it was no longer my project, but our project. A family project.”
McKnight’s great-grandfather, Walter Grace “Gray” Starnes, was born in the hills of Wayne County, Tennessee in 1900. When he was nine years old, Starnes’ father passed away, leaving his mother to raise eight kids on her own during a time when America had few safety nets and rural Tennessee offered few opportunities. The next year, at 14, Walter left middle Tennessee for Gibson County and began working first as a farm laborer and then as a whiskey maker during prohibition. After three years, at age 16, he had saved enough money to move his mother and siblings to Gibson County and out of poverty. He later married Addie Creasy and raised 4 daughters in Crockett County, Tennessee.
While the album is certain to provide a thrilling musical experience, Elam McKnight hopes listeners will also be inspired by its message of determination and resilience. The Walter Gray Starnes album will be released on August 20 on all digital music streaming platforms.
For more information, please visit www.bigblackhand.com/elam-mcknight-featuring-lil-bit or check out the EPK Dropbox Link.
About Elam McKnight
Elam McKnight is a singer/songwriter from west Tennessee. He is an artist firmly based in the blues, rock, and country that have thrived in his region for decades. McKnight’s 2003 debut, Braid My Hair, was critically acclaimed; his 2005 follow-up, The Last Country Store, found a spot on many blues charts nationally and internationally. In 2007, he released Supa Good which earned notoriety when the opening track “Devil Minded Woman” won “Best Blues Song” in the Independent Music Awards. Universal Music released McKnight’s 2011 album, Zombie Nation, which featured Tom Hambridge and landed on many year-end “best of blues lists”.
McKnight also has a live album under his belt, Live From The Thief River. Elam recently put the finishing touches on his own recording space, Magic Lantern Studios, which will allow him the flexibility to make more releases directly to his fan base and the world at large.