Mark Knopfler - Tracker

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Tracker is Mark Knopfler’s ninth solo album, outpacing but not overshadowing the six studio albums with his prior band, Dire Straits.  In context of the music Knopfler plays today, it’s fairly easy to look back and see the evolutionMark Knopfler Tracker CD Review of his musical interest.  Only, it’s not the destination that most would have predicted. 

Dire Straits songs were popular because they had excellent narrative lyrics, a tunefulness often suited for radio airplay, and expert guitar work.  His solo CDs have almost avoided songs with commercial appeal, meaning, he rarely takes a step back to the times when his songs had a driving beat and soaring lead guitar.  But, the lyrics have gotten even better, not necessarily maturing, but more focused, often inspired by his reading, and expressed in a way that a maturing audience can appreciate.  And his guitar still sparkles.  Only, he now sounds like the best session guitarist in the world.  His trademark Stratocaster sound has its spots, but it’s the fitting the form and fashion of the guitar in a nuanced way to the songs that has clearly been his priority.  It’s notable that his most expressive, trademarked guitar solo is found one of the four bonus tracks on the “Deluxe” CD, the oddly titled “Terminal of Tribute to”… perhaps the final Straits-ish solo.

So, Tracker is, on the one hand, further confirmation that Knopfler has long since parted with popular music and is now a bona fide singer-songwriter.  Tracker is thoroughly excellent, pulling in folk, Celtic, jazz, and country influences, as well as songs which could have been released by J.J. Cale (“Broken Bones”), Bob Dylan (the name dropping “Lights of Taomina”), and perhaps the Grateful Dead when they were concise (“Skydiver”).   There’s not a bad song here.  There never is.  The question for fans of his solo work is probably, “Is this the CD I’d choose to listen to when I’m in the mood for his music?”  Maybe.  And that’s the problem, of sorts, in that they’re all pleasing, tickling an ear when giving a close listen but at risk of easing one to sleep otherwise.  This one has a chance, though, of being that one.  There’s enough songs with a pulse that keep my attention and possibly a few that would make a Top 12 solo Knopfler list. 

The aggravation, of sorts, is that I, and probably most, would really, really like to hear Knopfler put a little more punch to his songs.  Does it detract from any of his CDs?  No.  But I shouldn’t be expected to pay $90 or more for a large venue concert ticket for a  few “old” songs that he’s more or less expected to play along with a bevy of songs that would be better enjoyed in a 500 seat venue.. and heard for $30 or less.

Whatever. I’ll give this CD the same rating I’ve given all of his other solo CDs, but then one is on the higher end… or maybe several of the others deserved a notch downgrade.

Recommended: “Skydiver,” “Broken Bones,” “River Towns”

4 of 5 STARS_thumb



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