Knopfler’s latest release could be his best ever
I have been a fan of Mark Knopfler’s music since I purchased the first Dire Straits LP in 1978 at Smokestack Records on North Fifth Street in Grand Junction. A sign that Franko had made said “A cross between Bob Dylan and J.J. Cale.” Not a bad comparison, but it sure didn’t take much listening to realize that the lead guitar player (Knopfler) was something very special.
“Down To the Waterline,” the LP’s first track, is just a teaser of Knopfler’s prowess on the guitar. After the album’s sixth cut, “Sultans of Swing,” it is obvious. Between 1978 and 1985, Dire Straits released five excellent studio albums and one very good live album. It was around 1985 that I think Mark Knopfler lost his interest in being in a world-renowned band, saying something on one of his DVDs about getting too big when you need more than one big truck to haul all of your equipment around. “On Every Street,” from 1991, was the last studio album from Dire Straits.
In 1996, after recording several movie soundtracks, Mark Knopfler released his first solo album, “Golden Heart,” which in my opinion is a great recording. But right from the start, the critics were on him for not “rocking out like he did with Dire Straits.” I beg to differ, and it gets old hearing it over and over. They were a rock band but I considered them more of an English folk rock bar band, so to speak.
Even though Led Zeppelin is considered one of the world’s great hard rock bands, a big part of their music was played on acoustic instruments. Listen to their third album if you need evidence.
To me, Dire Straits has that same kind of identity problem. Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler have always had songs about the West, as well as songs from the 19th century, whether it was America or Scotland on their records.
That’s partly due to Knopfler’s great knowledge of history. Songs like “Wild West End,” “Water Of Love,” “Once Upon a Time In the West,” “Telegraph Road,” “Portobello Belle,” “Golden Heart,” “Prairie Wedding” and the “Ragpickers Dream” are just a few of the examples.
Knopfler is also very aware of current events, as evidenced by song like “Industrial Disease,” “Brothers In Arms,” “Cannibals,” “Speedway at Nazareth,” “Don’t Crash the Ambulance” and “Imelda,” to name a few. To me, his music is more folk than it is rock, whether they call it Scottish or American. I think that it is a combination of the two, and it is also evident on all six of his solo recordings and his collaboration with Emmylou Harris, an album of duets titled “All The Roadrunning.”
This week, Mark Knopfler released his sixth studio recording, “Get Lucky,” featuring 11 new songs like “Border Reiver,” “Cleaning My Gun,” “Get Lucky,” “Remembrance Day” and “So Far From the Clyde” and its haunting “Brothers In Arms”-style guitar.
The album is a mix of folk, rock, blues and and jazz. If you are a fan of Mark Knopfler, it’s a must-have, especially if you like “Shangri-La.” This just might be his finest solo record. It is going to take some time for me to tell.
Critics who can’t give him more than three stars out of five be damned. Here is a man who is playing the music he wants to play, with the musicians he wants to play with. He is obviously happy and comfortable, and in my opinion making the finest music of his life. Six out of six isn’t bad.