Mark Knopfler – Privateering

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A bright spot in a year of few interesting CD releases is Mark Knopfler’s 7th solo release, Privateering.  I like the sound of that... a ship at sea, men conquering the elements, pirates...  Ah, testosterone, a song that surely signals a return to his wickedly fine guitar solos in Dire Straits days...

“Redbud Tree.”  That’s the first song on the CD.

Hunted down, I came upon
a place of ferns and grass
Gathered to a redbud tree
And now their footsteps pass

Redbud tree, shelter me, shelter me

Well, certainly there’s a lyrical hint of menace, but it’s delivered in solo-Knopfler style, that is, devoid of blazing solo.  It’s a rather slow, acoustic song.  Perfectly conceived, perfectly played, perfectly mixed.   It’s placement as first in a generous helping of 20 songs bears witness to the death of radio.

Well, then, what’s next.  “Haul Away”

Uilleann pipes?  Oh dear, it’s a flashback to Titanic.  Please, no!  Then “Don’t Forget Your Hat,” a blues rocker, with the harp competing for sonic space with Knopfler’s slide guitar.  Sigh.

Finally, “Privateering.”  Acoustic narrative yields to an accordion.  Sigh. 

Those sighs are my fault.  My head keeps reaching back to all of those songs Knopfler used to play, the kind where it was impossible to sit while prying emotions from his guitar.  His last four releases or so should have taught me that Knopfler is in a completely different place and that I should alter my expectations.

Well, hell.  I’m getting older, too, and damned if every song on this CD isn’t beautiful.  Is it much different from his previous efforts?  No, but... what he does, he does well, and he does it incrementally better each time.   Is everything worthwhile on 2 disks of music?  No.  “Seattle” and “Go Love” could go.  Others sound too similar to what we’ve heard before.  But there’s growth here, even if it’s allowing other band members to contribute more, adding several blues based songs, and giving over to fuller British folk treatments.

Lyrically, whether a love ditty, a narrative, a sketch of a person, thoughts of a place, or a humorous snapshot, this is a music for people who like listening to music.  Neither the words nor the music fight road noise well.  Privateering begs for headphones, or better, home speakers, for those who still have such things.  And danged if the songs with the uilleann pipes don’t tend to be the better ones.  I best go find my meds.

Recommended Songs: “Privateering,” “Yon Two Crows,” “Gator Blood”

4 of 5 STARS



Note:  This CD is not currently released in the U.S., but can be ordered from Amazon or found at more enterprising record stores.

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