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Mark Knopfler – Tracker

July 4, 2015


Sometimes an excellent new release has more to do with receptive ears.  I have listened to pretty much everything Mark Knopfler has ever released (solo and with Dire Straits), but somehow Tracker really resonates with me.  It is a nice fusion of his Celtic folk and the Dire Straits sounds.

The first cut “Laughs and Jokes and Drinks and Smokes” starts out with an Allman Brothers feel and then eases into Knopfler’s Celtic groove. The transition is so smooth that you begin to understand the folk foundations of the Allman’s music.  Pretty damn brilliant.

“Basil” is a beautiful folk ballad that is classic Knopfler story telling. This could easily be a boring folk ballad, but Knopfler spices it with great lyrics and is amazing guitar tone. Absolutely gorgeous.  His dry baritone is beautifully augmented by female harmonies (uncredited – as are all the musician except the “featured” vocalist on the last song of the album).

“River Towns” is gentle rolling ballad about a river sailor on shore leave.  The song has a gorgeous lush sax solo.  The music and the lyrics are perfect melancholia (one of my favorite musical moods).

“Sky Diver” has a nice beatlesque sound.

“Mighty Man”opens with very cool George Harrison sitar sounding slide guitar riff.  Lyrically it is candid reflection of life from a worn out tough guy.

“Broken Bones” has a nice J.J. Cale groove. Cale is one of Knopfler’s most significant influences.  If you are Dire Straits or Knopfler fan and you have not discovered J.J. Cale you have got to check out his Cale’s catalog.  You can get lost in the sedate funkiness of the riffs that are the foundation of this song.  Pure ear worms slinking though my mind.

“Long Cool Girl” is the most Dire Straits like track on the album.  The song oozes sexy infatuation.

“Lights Of Taormina” is so dylanesque I had to double-check the credits that this was not some long-lost Dylan song.  But it appears to be a Knopfler original. Knopfler does not attempt to hide his influence – the album art behind the songs lyrics is a live shot of Knopfler and Dylan from the 80s.  Musically and lyrically the song evokes “A Simple Twist Of Fate.”

“Silver Eagle” is the most acoustic song on the album.  Another melancholy remembrance.

I take back what I said earlier, “Beryl” is the most Dire Straits like track on the album.  The song is a salute to Dame Beryl Margaret Bainbridge an English writer.  I am not familiar with her but after reading her Wikipedia page I am intrigued.

The album closes with “Wherever I Go” a nice duet with Ruth Moody (of The Wailin’ Jennys).  The song features another gorgeous sax solo – such a great sound weaving in and out of  Knopfler’s guitar tone.

Just a side bitch from a vinyl buyer: why, when you pay top dollar for an album,  do you not get a digital copy?  Especially when you are denied bonus tracks on the deluxe version (which is half the cost of the LP version).  This is especially annoying when the artist is a Troglodyte with regard to streaming.

Overall this is delightful album and my favorite Knopfler solo album since “Sailing to Philadelphia in 2000.  There is nothing particularly innovative here (Knopfler pretty much shot his innovation wad in the late 70s/early 80s), but this is the work of a great craftsman and in my book great craftsmanship is a beautiful thing.  Most of the songs drip with melancholia, but as I mentioned earlier I love a sad song – very Irish (Celtic music yet another Knopfler influence).

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4 Comments
  1. Sven permalink

    Thanks a ton for the recommendation – it was great to be reminded of Mark Knopfler – now I can’t wait for the entire album to be available on Spotify.

    Sven

    • I am not sure it will ever show up on Spotify – his last album did not. But I will let you know if I see it.

  2. Great review. From the first time I heard Dire Straits first record, the Cale influence was there. I guess it was one of the reasons I liked them. The two latest albums I have are ‘Get Lucky’ and ‘Kill to Get Crimson’. Some of the thing you hit on work for these two.

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