Ali Harter’s long awaited release, Near The Knuckle, finally sees the light of day this Friday 6/20. From the opening notes of the album’s first cut and title track, one gets an idea that Harter is a fiery, fascinating songwriter and performer. But, by the album’s conclusion, one also determines that Harter is a scrappy survivor that doesn’t tolerate bullshit quietly. She won’t be shushed, don’t even try. She’s got something to say, and she’s going to say it regardless of the company. Like it, or don’t, she’s going to be fine either way. It’s a trait she shares with many of Oklahoma’s finest songwriters and musicians, and I think it’s what makes them so special.
Originally slated to be released in 2013, this ‘new’ album’s carries a shaky past. Near The Knuckle began its journey as a Kickstarter campaign, funded by supporters. Dealt several instances of life’s surprise low blows at inopportune times, Harter found herself somewhat lost personally, and uncertain of her musical future. As a result, the album found itself finally shelved in 2015 admist all variety of turmoil, hurt, grief and disappointment. In between, Harter redirected her energies and passions into her family and beginning a process of healing. She also started her own business, Pigs Fly Shop, a Jill-of-all trades workshop, featuring leatherwork, design and restoration projects. She also started hosting her own radio program “The Mean Hustle Project” on OKC’s KOSU Spy FM.
Despite the thought that Harter might not return to music, she still occasionally played about here and there. Indeed, she seemed to be more at ease, even having fun playing, collaborating and doing more of it.. Harter never forgot the obligations that weighed on her mind. There were lots of people that had pre-ordered the album and been left in limbo along with its unheard songs. Finally in a better position personally, Harter found herself revisiting those commitments and these recordings head-on. She began to work with Wes Sharon (115 Recording) on the final mixes and here we have the rewarding finished project.
Near The Knuckle is thirteen tracks running over 45 minutes, and is as eclectic as the woman that has created it. If Harter had any worries that the songs wouldn’t translate to today’s times, she worried needlessly. These songs are definitely still relevant, perhaps even more now than then. From the title track’s honkey-tonk punchiness, the reflectiveness of “Mostly Bad”, and the emotion of “Griever Creek,” Near The Knuckle is an album that was undoubtedly worth the wait. Harter’s voice empowers these songs with an untamed, rugged grittiness, as her phrasing and inflections carve out and shape their meanings, both subtle and otherwise. Her ability to shape these songs as she does, speaks to her full talent as a songwriter. She makes it seem as natural as her hands and tools working the leather. The songs cover a lot of ground stylistically. Straight forward, upbeat rockers (“Great State of Oklahoma,” “Lefty- Loosey, Righty-Tighty,” “Hutch”), blues ( “Outta Line”), to more folksy gems (“Griever Creek,” “Better Stay Gone”) and everything in between. Near The Knuckle is a Oklahoma blue collar classic.
Harter has indicated that this will be her final album. Maybe so, but I certainly hope not. Maybe the excitement of this release, will reignite that fire again. But even if it doesn’t, I speculate that the album’s release has surely brought Harter some degree of peace and with it a windfall of rejuvenation and optimism. Learn more about Ali Harter, her music, “The Mean Hustle Project” and her Pigs Fly Shop by visiting her webpage here: https://www.aliharter.net