Friday, May 27, 2016

Mark Knopfler 6: All The Roadrunning

Emmylou Harris has the ability to create truly original harmonies for any occasion, making her a popular choice for any singer-songwriter seeking counterpoint. These days she’s generally used as a special guest, so it’s a big deal when somebody like Mark Knopfler taps her for a full, co-credited album.
All The Roadrunning was recorded in bits and pieces over the course of seven years, and includes ten new Knopfler tracks plus two Emmylou contributed. His music has fit into the country slot since before the last Dire Straits album, but it’s been decades since he last wrote a truly catchy melody. And as wonderful as she is, their voices simply don’t always blend. When they do, it works fine. “Beachcombing” opens the set with some promise, before the same sleepy tempo takes over on “I Dug Up A Diamond”. “This Is Us” captures an old married couple looking through old photographs, and is just plain charming. “Red Staggerwing”, which follows, is loaded with hackneyed clich├ęs, and is not charming at all. “Rollin’ On” does just that, before her own “Love And Happiness” shows him how it’s done.
She dominates “Right Now”, capturing the literal and metaphorical feeling of a stranded marriage, but “Donkey Town” mines the same territory for too long, baby, too long. “Belle Starr” is fairly standard, as is “Beyond My Wildest Dreams”, but it’s better. The title track doesn’t do much, but “If This Is Goodbye” does have a stirring blend, even without knowledge of the inspiration (spoiler: cell phone calls on 9/11).
Because the album’s not pointedly bad, it’s still worth the listen, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t sink in. A slightly better option is Real Live Roadrunning a CD/DVD combo recorded at the end of their joint month-long tour. The live setting inserts a little more punch into the proceedings, and each singer contributes a few songs from their own catalogs. Emmylou’s “Red Dirt Girl” gets applause of recognition, while strangely one of her signature songs, “Boulder To Birmingham”, does not. (They go nuts for “So Far Away”.) She escalates “All That Matters” and “Why Worry”, but doesn’t appear on “Romeo And Juliet”, stretched here to nine minutes.

Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris All The Roadrunning (2006)—3
Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris Real Live Roadrunning (2006)—3

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