Mark Knopfler's latest solo album, Down The Road Wherever (YouTube), is perhaps his best work since Shangri-La. His other recent albums (even including Get Lucky, which I reviewed here), have felt too folky for my taste and lacked hints of Dire Straits rock. Down The Road Wherever reduces the folk and brings in some new elements, particularly brass pieces as well as some funk. Below are reviews of my favorite songs from the album.
Trapper Man feels like the most upbeat, rock-like song perhaps since Sailing to Philadelphia.
Nobody Does That
This song has a very funky beat, a very unusual and refreshing departure from Mark Knopfler's usual genres. Moreover, the brass pieces on this song add new variety and depth not present on other recent albums.
Another upbeat song, again enhanced significantly by brass and with an interesting meaning behind it:
inspired by a fellow songwriter who told Mark that his response to being told to "lighten up" was "I'll lighten up for you if you'll heavy up for me."
Matchstick Man, the final track on the album, is more intimate, with just Mark and his guitar reflecting on his youth:
Another personal memory that poignantly captures Mark Knopfler as he was, and as he remains. "That's me," he confesses readily, "a young idiot with a guitar and a bag, climbing up into trucks and hitchhiking. I was trying to get back from a Christmas Eve gig in Penzance early on Christmas Day. I thought I'd hitch home. I don't think I really knew it was 500 miles from there."
"I got a lift up the old A1 and he let me off at a high crossroads in the Midlands. The sun was shining, there was snow everywhere and I could see for miles. There was nothing moving anywhere. I'm standing there with my guitar case and bag and this realization of what I'd chosen to do with my life. To me, it was exactly what I wanted to do. It's just a snapshot of me then. From the air I would have been a tiny matchstick figure in this vastness of snow with his dream of being a musician."
Despite his substantial accomplishments and musical catalog, this final track brings him full circle with that tiny figure from long ago:
Matchstick man, you speck upon
These vast and silent plains of snow