Leave it to musician and songwriter Mark Knopfler to prove that bigger sometimes IS better.
There is a lot of music on this album: 20 tracks spread out over 2 CDs. And not just quantity, but quality matters here, as Mark outdoes himself by exploring multiple musical genres and thematics, proving himself not only a master guitar player, but also a masterful, if somewhat enigmatic, storyteller. “Redbud Tree” opens things off marvelously, but things only get better and more immersive from there. You can press play and settle back into your chair for the next hour or more; Mark and his talented team of fellow musicians will not let you down.
Even if you are already a committed fan of Mark’s music, particularly his solo efforts since the disbanding of Dire Straits in the 1990s, my advice is that you play all 20 tracks multiple times before forming an opinion. Listen to the music, then focus on the words, and then try to meld the melodies to the mood of the lyrics. It’s like mixing oil and vinegar to make the perfect salad dressing. Each is potent on its own, but together they create new textures, tastes, and tempting possibilities.
The profound influence of traditional Delta Blues is evident all over the album, but especially in the songs on Disc 2. There is also a lot of humor hidden beneath patches of darkness and light. Many of the songs on the album have a vivacity that lends them an up-tempo sensibility. Disc 1 has more meditative topics and a beautiful, unlikely love song about the rainy romantic possibilities of living in Seattle. Even in the Age of Amazon.
Several songs are reflections on lost lives – drowned, shipwrecked, or sunk in battle. “Haul Away” and “Dream of the Drowned Submariner” are among the best. These tracks practically demand a glass of rum or single malt in your glass as you listen to them, so plan accordingly. Please don’t play this album during your daily commute! Save something this fine for the weekend instead. You will thank me later.