Top positive review
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Great album, but not a rock album
on 30 May 2006
There are two faces to Mark Knopfler - one is the more public, growling rocker we see on Dire Straits classics such as "Money for Nothing", and the other is the more modern, mature, sedate solo artist. I hesitate to say country, even with this album as some might, as Mark Knopfler's work is in many ways unique and as a consequence it falls between genres - not rocky enough for the rockers, not country enough for Nashville.
It is the latter that Knopfler seems to have chosen to target more decisively with this latest album, and by recruiting Emmylou Harris to assist on vocals & creative input, he has certainly got closer to Nashville than any album before.
Fans of Knopfler's solo work, like myself, but who are not fans of country, should not be put off by this connection - this album is still 90% Knopfler and follows a similar vein to previous albums. Emmylou also adds many great qualities to the work: Firstly, we get a very strong, higher voice that compliments Marks characteristic bassy tones and can 'dance' around his guitar licks. Secondly, we get a female personae with which the two songwriters can work into the songs, producing some female perspectives on things and some wonderful back-and-forth duets, in the vein of The Beautiful South (or Cash and Carter?). The potential generated here feels bigger than this album alone.
Whilst many rockers will say that Mark has turned his back on what made him truly great (his fluid rock guitar solos), there is a slight return to lead-work here too. Leaving Emmylou to do what she does best, Mark can relax a little on the vocal and focus on the guitar. No screaming solos here, but a definite increase in the amount of lead guitar over rhythm guitar compared to recent solo albums.
Ultimately, whether you enjoy this album will depend on which side of Knopfler you prefer - guitar heavy, Dire Straits rock fans will feel let down (he still rocks live, BTW). Country or songwriting fans might find this the best album yet, and those who are happy with a balance won't be disappointed by this album, seeing it as a natural step in the evolution of MK's music.