Ever notice how some people seem to be caught outside of time, as if they don’t belong to the generation they were born into? The more I hear of Mark Knopfler the more I wonder if he isn’t a reincarnated troubadour of the early 20th century. He might even embody several ghostly musicians who decided to a hitch a ride in the flesh. Get Lucky houses the spirit of a world-weary bluesman, an Irish chantey performer, a lonesome saloon crooner, a grease-painted musical showman. All these personas find voice thanks to the generosity of a seasoned rock and roll icon.
Stardom can rob a talent of his connection to humanity in its everyday existence, but Knopfler revels in the lives of lorry drivers, itinerant workers, boxers, gamblers, and sailors. Since the turn of the century he’s released 5 albums, each progressively taking on more of a novel form. These songs are chapters; the lyrics are the narrative, the music the adjectives that create the atmosphere. Knopfler pulls from his childhood roots in Glasgow to find just the right accent or slant of light to tell his stories. “Border Reiver” captures the work-a-day thoughts of the pre-mentioned lorry driver and his very personal relationship to his vehicle. Flute and whistle accompaniment creates an evocative portrait of quiet morning streets in a Scottish town. The title track is a tribute of sorts to the first itinerant worker that a teenage Knopfler met years ago. His lyrics wistfully recreate the man’s wandering adventures, from fairground to fruit fields, and are so lovingly delivered that the piece becomes a tribute to a long-gone acquaintance.
Knopfler is only one of the finest guitarists to grace a recording studio so expect nothing less than gorgeous playing by superb musicians and pristine production. Guy Fletcher, who worked with Knopfler in The Notting Hillbillies, plays and co-produces. Perhaps it is this combination that creates some of the albums most nostalgic moments, and there are plenty. “Monteleone” begins with strings but soon piano and guitar partner up for a waltz that sounds like it just box-stepped out of the 1940s. Nostalgia often comes in the form of a character taking into account how the world has changed, leading to realizations of isolation, a theme often revisited on Knopfler’s current releases.