Mark Knopfler “One Deep River”

British Grove/EMI, 2024

Another superbly crafted album, from one of the finest songwriters of our time.

From the first bars of ‘Two Pairs of Hands’ this could only be Mark Knopfler. That signature lead guitar line over a chugging rhythm accompanies his familiar drawl. Produced with his Dire Straits, and Notting Hillbillies bandmate Guy Fletcher this is actually his tenth solo record. When you add in collaborations with Emmylou Harris and Chet Atkins, amongst others, as well as soundtrack work and he has had a busy 20 years or so.

Single ‘Ahead of the Game’ continues the lazy mid-tempo groove of the opening song meaning we are on familiar territory. Pedal Steel player Greg Leisz, well known to AUK readers from his work with Jackson Browne, David Crosby, and Joni Mitchell, appears on ‘Smart Money,’ trading licks with Fletcher’s piano and Knopfler who repays his debt to Hank Marvin once again with a guitar figure straight out of the master’s songbook.

Scavengers Yard’ has a savage bluesy guitar riff over another relaxed chugging groove. This is followed by the Waltz time ballad ‘Black Tie Jobs.’ This understated, delicate tune comes in at under 3 minutes but could well be one of the finest tunes Knopfler has written, for this or any other album.

Careful not to spoil the mood set by ‘Black Tie Jobs,’Tunnel 13’ presents the tale of a 1023 mail train robbery in Oregon. The d’Autremont brothers blew up the train in Tunnel 13 killing 4 people in a botched operation. Knopfler has always been good with a narrative song and here he has plenty of material to work with.

Janine’ brings back Leisz’ pedal steel and sympathetic drums and percussion from Ian Thomas and Danny Cummings. There are flashes of Willy Vlautin-style storytelling to this song, and yet another elegant guitar solo. ‘Watch Me Gone’ harks back to Dire Straits ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ but this is the sound of a mature artist at the peak of his powers. Emma and Tamsin Topolski’s backing voices add a dimension that his earlier band didn’t have and the song, as with all the slower tunes on the album, is a masterpiece of restraint. Knopfler leaves space where a lesser artist would fill in with more music. Nowhere is that better illustrated than on ‘Sweeter Than The Rain.’ Just guitar and some distant pedal steel, and the voice pressed right up against your ear. He almost sounds like late-period Johnny Cash on this song.

The album ends on the title track. ‘One Deep River’ reflects Knopfler’s affection for the river that runs through his childhood home city Newcastle. “Crossing the Tyne is always on your mind,” he says. “You’re heading out or you’re coming back, and it just connects with your childhood.”

Knopfler found the style that suits him years ago and sees no reason to stray too far from it. What that means for us as the listener is a focus on superb songwriting and crafting timeless music. In an age where artists spend as much time on novelty as they do on the songs, we should be thankful we have Mark Knopfler.

8/10
8/10

About Tim Martin 247 Articles
Sat in my shed listening to music, and writing about some of it. Occasionally allowed out to attend gigs.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

2 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Andy Trott

Great review Tim for what is going to be a classic album from Knopfler. On the strength of your review, and what i’ve heard thus far, i’m about to order it😀👍👍.

Andrew Riggs

Arrived last Friday, old fashioned great album.