Saturday, May 6, 2006
By Jeffrey Lee Puckett
Mark Knopfler's post-Dire Straits music has largely been on the mellow side, not that Dire Straits was rocking its face off near the end. But Knopfler went straight to condo-in-Florida-retirement-community mode after leaving the band, making gentle pub music with the Knotting Hillbillies, on solo albums and while scoring movies.
"All the Roadrunning," which teams Knopfler and sleepy-music queen Emmylou Harris, had the potential on paper to be the longest nap ever — and it is a quiet affair, but it's also so pretty, heartfelt and well-played that it achieves an unassuming intensity.
Knopfler wrote all but two songs. His template is early Dire Straits songs such as "Water of Love" and "Portobello Belle," but with more of a country/Americana feel. His guitar soloing is kept to a minimum but is as distinctive as ever, all rolling bends and finger-picked melodies. The guy is way too likable.
Harris' legend is based on her harmony singing. Admit it: You get tired of reading about Harris' harmony singing. Having said that, her pristine twang combines with Knopfler's gruff rumble to beautiful effect, and they sound perfect trading verses — kind of like an English version of old-school country duets (especially on a song she wrote, "Belle Starr").
Some might dismiss "All the Roadrunning" as public-radio music, the kind of innocuous stuff you hear between reports on stem-cell research and uprisings in Nepal. Taken in small doses, maybe it is. But its overall effect is one of expertly crafted solidity, and it ultimately soothes much more than it bores.
Jeffrey Lee Puckett is SCENE's pop music editor and oversees this page. Online: Find past album and concert reviews, or ask Jeffrey Lee a question, at www.courier-journal.com/music