Fact: There's never been a better duet partner than Emmylou Harris. And there are only a handful of guitar players on the planet more recognizable than Mark Knopfler. In a double-blind taste test, I could play you five seconds of a Dire Straits tune you've never heard, and you'd peg Knopfler every time. Put these genre-bending, age-defying legends together and you've got the syllabus for a graduate course in songwriting. Across a dozen duets pieced together from seven years of recording sessions, Harris and Knopfler sings like telepaths, trading line after line as if they'd tapped into the Psychic Friends Network. These are tunes with deep emotional bottoms. You'll laugh. You'll cry. And, most of all, you'll be glad these two found each other.
All the Roadrunning is an elegant, sometimes sleepy collection of country-folk duets pairing Dire Straits' former frontman with one of Nashville's elder stateswomen. Mark Knopfler, who's been working in roots mode for a while now on his solo records, sings in a shopworn tenor and works up graceful harmonies with Emmylou Harris, whose crystalline voice is put to better use here than on her arty recent records. The pair mostly keep the tempos slow and the arrangements light on these portraits of heartbreak and small-town life, and a handful of songs -- including the reggae-tinged "Rollin' On" -- meander by unremarkably. But ballads like the title track and the Springsteen-esque "Beyond My Wildest Dreams" are world-wise and gently gorgeous.
(Posted: tra, 18 2006)
This duets collection, which was recorded in fits and starts over the course of six years, affirms it: Good things come to those who wait.
Guitar guru Knopfler and honky-tonk angel Harris have long run in the same circles and share a common sensibility about what constitutes
lasting listening. The earliest of the tracks captured here -- the Cajun-styled "Red Staggerwing" and the dusty, high-lonesome
"Donkey Town" -- date back to Knopfler's Sailing to Philadelphia sessions, but unlike the work of more ephemeral artists, they could've
been recorded last week or a half-century ago. The same can't be said, however, of "Beachcombing," one of several tracks to vividly
spotlight Knopfler's deft (and immediately recognizable) finger-picking. That's not a complaint: The song's wistfully panoramic
vistas of "wreckage washing up all along the coast" is one of the most moving post-Katrina musings you're likely to hear.
All the Roadrunning covers plenty of stylistic ground. The Harris-penned "Love and Happiness" -- a manifestation of motherly
love wrapped in a two-stepping Texan melody -- may be the most old-school country song of her long career, while the waltz-time
title track conjures up images of a misty Irish hillside. Much like its creators, All the Roadrunning never calls attention to its
charms, instead simply laying them out without pretense, allowing the pleasures to seep into the system on their own.
This lush and earthy collaboration between Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris may sound like it rose from an amiable weeklong studio session,
but the 12 tracks that make up All the Road Running were actually recorded over the span of seven years. The boot-stomping "Red Staggerwing"
and the gentle "Donkey Town," both of which were bumped from Knopfler's Sailing to Philadelphia record, give the ex-Dire Straits leader a
chance to flex his country muscle, while the wistful title track spotlights the lovely Harris, whose playful demeanor and guarded confidence
helps keep Knopfler in check during his sometimes excessive soloing. The two couldn't be more at odds vocally, but Knopfler's laconic drawl
is like an easy chair for Harris' fluid pipes, and standout tracks like the 9/11-inspired "This Is Goodbye," the wistful "Beachcombing,"
and the infectious single "This Is Us" come off as effortless statements of vitality from both camps.
James Christopher Monger
MARK KNOPFLER AND EMMYLOU HARRIS - All The Roadrunning
After meeting on the set of a Chet Atkins TV special, Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris have been using 'stolen moments' in recording studios over the past seven years to complete their first musical project together; a collection of duets titled All The Roadrunning. Knopfler appears to have made a seamless transition from sultan of swing to commissioner of country, with the lazy drawl that has become his trademark being far better suited to this genre than the headband-toting guitar slinger of yesteryear. Harris, as usual, is the consummate professional, as always her honeyed tones ensure that any tune she is involved in is beyond ordinary. The simple shuffle of This Is Us chugs along at a steady rate as the pair share a tale of a couple looking back through the memories of their life, capturing the spirit of country music's family values. Knopler refrains from drowning the tunes in guitar histrionics, with the focus being on the pair's solid harmonies. Even without his six-string trailblazing, the call and response of Red Staggerwing rattles along like a freight train, Donkey Town is a sombre and subdued tale of small town relationships and If This Is Goodbye is a rousing lament. With Knopfler adding Harris into the mix, All The Roadrunning is anything but dire.
Posted on May 17, 2006 06:47 PM
By Ron Wynn, email@example.com
May 16, 2006
Mark Knopfler/EmmyLou Harris
All The RoadRunning
Guitar ace Mark Knopfler and magnificent singer/songwriter Emmylou Harris make a great team on All The RoadRunning, a set that capably mixes country and folk stylings with rock and pop elements. Some extra musical pluses include Knopfler’s excellent solo on “This Is Us” and Harris’ acoustic guitar accompaniment on “Rollin’ On” and “Belle Starr,” plus the horn charts and support from Jim Horn and the Memphis Horns on “If This is Goodbye.” But the bulk of the CDs appeal and charm comes in the vocal blend of Knopfler and Harris’ voices, and their ability to veer into surprising and challenging idioms, particularly the reggae-flavored “Love and Happiness” or “Rollin’ On,” which integrates their vocals into a spirited Cajun and country mixture. The Knopfler/Harris duo are captivating and convincing on All The RoadRunning.