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Mark Knopfler: Tracker

Former Dire Straits mainman ploughs the same solo furrow.

Mark Knopfler’s frustratingly successful solo career – frustrating since it negates any chance of a resurrection of Dire Straits, now 20 years cold – doesn’t deviate from gentle, Celtic-tinged blues-folk pace on this, his eighth record.

Knopfler is still hunched in his expensive-sounding corner of a rural bar, layering his trademark golden-fleece riffs over tales of hard-bitten Gateshead newspaper copy boys (Basil), grizzled drifters (River Towns, Mighty Man, Wherever I Go), jaunty gamblers (the Kinks-y folk-pop Skydiver) and – that clichéd old folk trope – the lovelorn Roman emperor (Latino lament Lights Of Taormina).

Subtle sax breaks, misty organ, polite piano and inconspicuous accordion, tabor and tin whistle tiptoe around Knopfler’s luscious licks like extras trying not to upstage the leading lady, and, sure enough, his sparsely deployed guitar artistry gleams throughout, adding an elegant lustre to Long Cool Girl and Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes.

Knopfler’s slide into the cosy vale of rootsy retro is clearly irreversible, but he certainly makes trad a luxurious place to get pampered for an hour./o:p