I always love it when there’s new music from Mark Knopfler! Here’s a look at his new album, Tracker.
I remember in the good old days, when I had to walk to the local discount store to buy records and tapes. I’d carefully save up my money and treasure that new album for weeks before I started wanting another one. Thanks to today’s super fast and efficient downloads, I no longer have to go anywhere to buy music. I can buy it on a whim, not even knowing if it’s any good or not. That’s what I did the other day when I noticed a new album by Dire Straits front man, Mark Knopfler.
I have loved Knopfler’s music for thirty years, so it was a no brainer that I would purchase his latest album, Tracker. No, I didn’t listen to any of the songs beforehand. No, I didn’t read any reviews. I just bought it. And folks, I’m happy to say that I love it. Tracker is Knopfler’s eighth studio album, not counting film scores. It was released on March 17th of this year.
From the very first beats of the opening number, “Laughs and Jokes and Drinks and Smokes”, I can tell it’s a winner. The opening song has a very appealing Celtic sound that has appeared on most of Knopfler’s albums over the past fifteen years or so. He seems to have affection for lilting, waltzing, Celtic sounding melodies and lyrics that tell vivid stories. The song is about Knopfler’s pre Dire Straits’ career.
The songs “Beryl” and “Basil” are about writers. “Basil” is a contemplative song about the poet, Basil Bunting. “Beryl” is a musical tale about the British author, Dame Beryl Bainbridge, a writer whose greatness was overlooked while she was still living. She wasn’t recognized until after her death. As I listen to the songs, I hear remnants of earlier songs, and yet they work beautifully within a new creation. “Beryl” sounds very much like something Knopfler would have recorded with Dire Straits. It has an almost 60s vibe, with an understated organ and Knopfler’s own very recognizable guitar licks.
The third track, “River Towns”, is one of those songs that pulls you in, with its intricate instrumentation and Knopfler’s distinctive storyteller’s voice. A sensual sax solo adds a worldly texture to a melody that otherwise might make one think of a simple place. The opening bars remind me a little of something Bruce Springsteen might have written, but then the song turns into something wholly Knopfler.
The uptempo “Skydiver” has sort of a jaunty beat that reminds me of The Beatles in their early days… Singer Ruth Moody adds her luminous soprano to a number of tracks, including “Skydiver” “Basil”, “Long Cool Girl”, and “My Heart Has Never Changed”. She also sings a duet with Knopfler on the sublime love song, “Wherever I Go”. I’m going to have to check out more of Ruth Moody’s music. She has a lovely voice.
Tracker comes in standard, box, or deluxe editions. The deluxe edition, which is what I purchased, comes with six bonus tracks. Mark Knopfler’s albums are usually thematic and Tracker is no exception. This album is about Knopfler’s life. At 65 years old, he’s looking back at his career, places, people, and times, tracking his way through this life. Some of the songs on Tracker seem clearly fathered by other songs from an earlier time in Knopfler’s career. But Knopfler has exquisite taste and manages to create new magic with established tunes. These songs are going to age well. I expect that if I’m around to hear this album 20 years from now, I will still think the songs are of great quality. The overall mood on this album is mellow and contemplative. It’s acoustic and natural. I like it and definitely recommend it to those who enjoy Mark Knopfler’s music.