Mark Knopfler does it gently on The Studio Albums 1996-2007

Dire Straits mainman Mark Knopfler's steady-going box set showcases the value of underplaying

Mark Knopfler: The Studio Albums 1996-2007
(Image: © UMC - Mercury)

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

Gathering his first five post-Dire Straits solo albums (not counting film scores), and a bonus disc of B-sides titled The Gravy Train, this collection is as sleepy and nonchalant as an old friend’s affable shrug. 

Knopfler does what he does, blending folk, blues, country and rock into a tension-free take on Americana that’s faintly personal but more about delivering a carpet atmosphere of reflective rumination. 

You could easily play these through and forget there were individual songs going on, such is the consistency of feel, the conscious decision never to tread outside self-imposed lines. Could it be argued that this is just as valid a choice as the strict limitations observed by Ramones or Kraftwerk? Not sure you’d get much traction, but knock yourself out.

Generally pleasant, sometimes boring, the albums here span from 1996’s Golden Heart, which burrs with warmth but doesn’t offer what dynamism Dire Straits had, through the excellent Sailing To Philadelphia (2000), which locates rather more energy and features guest vocals from James Taylor and Van Morrison, to 2007’s Kill To Get Crimson, which yields unheralded gems such as The Fizzy And The Still. 

Throughout, Knopfler’s gentle guitar playing is so understated it’s almost arrogant, so unshowy it borders on splashy.

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.