On her 1996 debut album, The Knitter (ESD), former Blood Oranges bassist Cheri Knight established herself as a folk-rock force to be reckoned with–but even that didn’t prepare me for her recent follow-up, The Northeast Kingdom (E-Squared). Knight still sings in an unaffected warble that would make Linda Thompson proud, but this time the able production duo of Steve Earle and Ray Kennedy (aka the Twangtrust) masterfully guide that voice on a long, colorful ramble, from the Celtic drone of “Dar Glasgow” to the swinging honky-tonk of “White Lies” to the flat-out rock of “Black Eyed Susie.” Amazingly, Knight never has to stretch to reach any of these extremes–the sensitive supporting cast, which includes Earle himself, Emmylou Harris, drummer Will Rigby, guitarist Mark Spencer (also from the Blood Oranges), and fiddler Tammy Rogers, lays it all at her feet. The pervasive darkness of Knight’s debut has lifted, too–instead of the near-gothic imagery of “Wishing Well” we get flowers: “Black Eyed Susie” uses the cultivation of plants as a metaphor for maintaining a relationship, and in “Rose in the Vine” Knight paints herself as a bloom withered by love gone bad. Minneapolis folk rocker Marlee MacLeod opens; she also plays guitar in Knight’s touring band. Friday, 10:30 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by R. Quackenbush.