on April 26, 2006
Mark Knopfler gets a bit more rootsy with each new CD. In this one he has added a fiddle and mandolin and some of the songs have an "old-timey" Appalachian flavor to them. Emmylou Harris's folksy soprano is perfect for the music. One wishes Knopfler would have taken the next step, added a banjo, and tried a couple of bluegrass numbers. Oh, well. Next album.
The rootsy atmosphere doesn't extend to Knopfler's electric guitar -- the highlight of the CD -- as his coloratura picking weaves in and out of the lyrics, unmistakenly Knopler with not a single note too many nor too few. "This is Us" is the single from the CD and it's probably the most rocking number. There are others I liked more: "I Dug up a Diamond" is beautiful with a great mandolin in addition to Knopfler's guitar. "Donkey Town" is one of the semi-strange Knopfler songs that sometimes work. Of special note is "If This is Goodbye," about the fall of Flight 93 on 9/11. It's lovely, sad and touching -- a virtual showcase for Emmylou's voice and Knopfler's guitar. There's not a clunker on the whole CD.
Harris is the perfect duet partner for about any male singer whose vocal range is from A to B. That's Knopfler -- whose gruff mumble still manages to be appealing. This is a CD full of classy, quality listening music that falls somewhere between the genres of Rock, Folk, and Country.
on April 25, 2006
It should be no surprise Emmylou Harris' angelic voice blends perfectly with the gruff rumble of Mark Knopfler's. If you've heard her great duo with similarly bassoed country artist Don Williams on Townes Van Zandt's elegant "If I Needed You," you could anticipate the perfect fit. And anyway, Emmylou's voice blends with everyone's. She is not only one of the most sought after duet partners in country music, but an iconic soloist who is on the short list of all time country greats.
In a time when Nashville demands you are only as good as your last video, she is no Emmylou come lately. When one recent female country artist cut her first album and was asked of her goals for the disk, she replied: "I just wanted to do something that wouldn't embarrass me in front of Emmylou Harris." Or as Knopfler himself put it during their release day appearance on Imus in the Morning, "When Emmylou sings a song, it stays sung."
Knopfler is a talented songwriter and an elegant guitar artist with a distinctive musical tone and style that, if described in literary terms, might be dubbed "Hemingwayesque." Just as Papa never used ten words when one perfectly chosen one would do, so too with Knopfler's guitar work. Knopfler's taste and economy is recognizable whether gunning out "Sultans of Swing" with Dire Straits or "Wild Theme" from his sound track of "Local Hero."
In other words these individually brilliant artists flat out define good taste and talent performing together.
Fittingly, "All the Roadrunning" does not up and shout at you, but comes at you with a quiet confidence. It is flash-free, as understated and tasteful as its participants. No one is showing off here, these are artists plying their craft. And just how good that craft is may sneak up on you. We've had the title tune and "This Is Us" available as early teases--they may be the two most commercial tunes on the disk. No matter, MK and EH "filler" is better than most artists "A" Material.
As I keep playing the disk, I find new treats within. This is very, very good stuff, the 15-year-old single malt you keep in the back of the bar. It respects your intelligence and taste. It will never pounce on you like an overeager puppy. It expects you to find it, and find it you will.
One minor issue. Knopfler wrote all but the two songs Emmylou penned. And while most are very good, Emmylou has become a world-class songwriter herself, and I'd have liked to have heard more songs written by her.
Nevertheless, while her "Love and Happiness" is touching, the biggest goose bumps come from Knopfler's "If This is Goodbye." It is a stand-alone love song, a seemingly sweet and innocent ballad that could be a lover bidding a tentative farewell when romance ends. The narrator is still in love, you think, his love object ready to walk away. Pretty standard stuff for love songs, particularly of the country variety.
But as Knopfler has explained, that is not the topic. "The famous last words" that "could never tell the story" were inspired not by fading love but by the last phone calls from the World Trade Center left on message machines. In that context, and sung by these artists, it is haunting.
This is a treasure of an album, one that can stand up not only to the ages, but to the very high standards the artists who recorded it have set for themselves.
Here we go again. Some nondescript no talent music maven wanting to go against the grain and show how cool he/she is by writing something that will stem the tide of popular opinion. Oooh, how cool!
Just give the CD a listen. It's a perfect melding of two musicians who go back a long way and have collaborated on numerous projects. Anyone who has seen them perform together on the Ovation Channel's great folk recordings with the likes of the McGariggle Sisters, Loudon and Rufus Wainwright, etc. would know that these two go back at least a decade. They have had ample time to hone their craft. Name a better guitarist? Name a better folk singer? Sometimes truth must rise to the surface.
Some people must have proverbial tin ears. Even literal ones. I really must chuckle again, after rereading "the official" Amazon reviewer's take. I hate to be caustic, but in this instance, wrong reviewer for wrong CD. And that statement alone will probably get this review booted. But really, if the emperor is naked, might as well at least whistle. He might at least have time to run for his skivvies.
These are great arrangements, great songs, great harmonies...in short... a wonderful recording from two of the best talents in the music "industry" today. In fact, if you sit back and listen to them as they mesh their musical geniuses, you might forget about such terms and just enjoy pure, unadulterated talent at play. Highly, highly, recommended.
Across a dozen duets, pieced together over seven years Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopfler sing these tunes with deep emotional overtones. Much of this CD relates to the life of an itinerant musician, "trying to juggle family and relationships and just the wear and tear of being in the world".
Emmylou says of making this CD," Mark is very much in control and knows what he wants, but on the other hand, he understand the mystical process that happens when you make a record and that record becomes what it is. It has everything to do with the people involved, but there's this other ingredient, of something set in motion. When I heard these songs together, it was so listenable, and I mean that in the most positive way, It a very rich album, musically and lyrically, yet it doesn't requires a lot of work." All of these songs were written by Emmylou and Mark.
"Beachcombing" which starts off the album is evocative of Hurricane Kristina although it was written well before. It is a song about loss, personal and emotional, says Mark, "wreckage washing up all along the coast."
"This is Us", is selected to become the single of this album. It is infectious and many will relate to this.
A lighter touch comes to "Red Staggewring, which is a Cajun-like tune where lovers compare themselves to motorcycles, cars and vintage guitars.
On "Belle Star", Emmylou compares herself to an old West infamous female outlaw, "Belle Star" and Mark as Jesse James. This banter is reminiscent of Johnny and June Cash in their early albums.
"Donkey Song' as a song written by Mark and meant for an earlier CD. They both enjoyed the freedom and silliness.
"Love and Happiness:" is the only "proper" song that Emmylou says she has written. "You cannot always protect your children and this is my homage to them".
"All the Road Running" paints the picture of the musician always on the road singing about love found and lost, missing family and friends, and life in the fast lane.
"If This Is Goodbye" came out of 9/11. Mark Knopler talks of reading Martin Amis and Ian McEwan, both of whom he found affecting," I remember the McEwan piece honing in on people in the twin towers using their mobiles to make that final phone call home to say "I love you, this is goodbye. If there is anything positive to take from 9/11, that expression of love is surely it."
The underlying emotions, the straight from life sessions, the day to day existence on the road of this album, is extraordinary. This Is Them: Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopfler
and now "This Is Us", BK. So Highly Recommended. prisrob April 30, 2006.
on June 4, 2006
These two voices, which we have listened to for so long....now sing a sad and joyous story of getting old, looking back, wondering if it was in vain....with such gifted harmony and songwriting and musicianship. The customers who were looking for rock from Knopfler now (huh?) haven't been paying attention or haven't been listening to anything he's done in the last six years. That includes the Amazon.com reviewer, who completely missed the theme of this album. These two gifted musicians are singing the story of their lives, and those of us in their generation, of which I consider myself one. "This Is Us" sings of when we were young, marrying,"stoned on love". Then the music progresses to the hard work of marriage and the struggle of work, the heartbreak of real life. Then,in the middle of the CD. the poignant,magnificent song Emmy Lou wrote and sings that describes to perfection what every parent wishes for her kids--"Love and Happiness". When Mark sings "Wear your ruby shoes" the shivers went right down my spine. Then near the end, the utter desolation of broken lives as evoked by Right Now and Donkey Town. Ending with the song about pending death "If this is goodbye". Breathtaking, haunting....both voices are older now....you can hear Knopfler straining in the upper ranges, but it is that straining, the nostalgia for what has been and what is left that makes this album simply beyond brilliant. If you are under 45 you probably don't understand a note or a word of this CD unless you've got brains and sensitivity.
on May 18, 2006
Talent is the ante. Many have it. What you do with it is what matters. Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopfler are blue-collar workers. They take their immense natural talent, put it to the side and roll up their sleeves, building songs like brick walls --- a note at a time. As the notes pile up, they sound effortless, eternal, as if they could have been served up in no other way. Which is why Knopfler and Harris's CDs feel like houses: solid, honest, as permanent as anything mortals can create.
They're houses in another way too --- as places of refuge. Put a Knopfler or Harris CD on, and the world feels right. His sure slow hand, cousin to J.J. Cale, a fluid contrast to his refreshingly non-professional voice. The angelic clarity of her voice, cutting and floating, suspended in time and space, as close to perfection as we'll know in this life.
Together, there's nothing they can't do: iron strength, gossamer delicacy, you name it.
"All the Roadrunning" is everything you could possibly want. A "ten best," desert-island disc. Background music. A throwaway collection of tunes for the road. A fan might say, with deep pleasure, "I've waited seven years for this." But the truth is, we've been waiting all our lives. And so have Knopfler and Harris.
on August 13, 2006
At a certain point, in the Martin Scorsese film about The Band's farewell concert, The Last Waltz, Levon Helm says that what else could he have expected from life, after sharing the same stage with The Staple Singers and Emmylou Harris. Me, myself, after seeing that same movie for so many times, still under the impact of Emmy's performance and stage presence. After all, it was the first time I could actually see the woman of my dreams live (with all the due respect Emmy, I was 20 by then and when we're 20 we have the right, almost the obligation, to dream), even through the silk screen. Ok fellows, I think I've made my point. 165 reviews. Wow! That's a lot. What was left for me to say? When I first heard that Mark Knopfler (another hero of mine) and Emmylou Harris were about to release an album together, I must confess, it scared me a bit. I was afraid to be disapointed. I mean, a lot of famous duos have failed along the way. Fortunately, I was damn wrong. This album is just perfect. From the gorgeous opening track til the beautiful "If This Is Goodbye", everything went right. Beautiful music. Simple and yet great lyrics. The appalachian influenced "Red Staggerwing" is one of the greatest country-like songs written in decades. It has an hipnotic mood all the way. The two songs penned by Emmylou "Love & Happiness" and "Belle Starr" are among the finest tunes she ever written. "Donkey Town", "Beachcombing" and "All The Roadrunning" have the kind of flavor that recent Knopfler albums brought back to us all. If I had to describe this album in one single word, I'd say "mature", but it isn't enough to describe it. Great music by two great artists that, brought, when they first appeared in the musical scene, a good amount of fresh air and hope to the future that was yet to come. And it sure came, alright. Thank you guys, for making us still believe.
on May 1, 2006
Like lots of reviewers here, I'm baffled by the Editorial Review from Amazon. I must admit however that I wasn't over the moon about the album the very first time I listened to it. I was doing stuff around the house while listening, and thought it was really good but I wasn't thinking of it as great. It was on a second listen that I began to find myself standing foolishly in the middle of the floor, whatever I was doing completely forgotten for a moment as a particular song sort of commanded my attention. Finally I got the chance to listen to the whole thing closely and without distractions as I was riding in a car. It was this third time through that convinced me-- this is a really brilliant record. It's simply not an in-your-face kind of thing, one that instantly screams whatever it is the Amazon reviewer was listening for the moment you press 'play'. It is subtle and layered, something that reveals itself more fully with repeated listening. I, like other reviewers here, find something new and wonderful each time, whether it's an unexpected turn of a melody, or a line from the lyric that I missed the first time, or one of Knopfler's just-exactly-perfect note choices. I haven't been this moved or impressed by a release in a long time!
on April 25, 2006
I've been a Mark Knopfler fan since his days with Dire Straits, and it is my opinion that nothing he's done as a solo artist can compare to this new album of duets with Emmy Lou Harris. To date this is Knopfler's finest work yet. And what a delightful surprise Emmy Lou's vocals are!
"This Is Us" is remescient of Knopfler's later Dire Straits days ("On Every Street" Album), and makes the perfect hit single! "Red Swaggering" has a very upbeat country/bluegrass sound and is also an instant favorite. The two songs Emmy Lou wrote "Belle Star" and "Love And Happiness" are fantastic. "Belle Star" is upbeat and what a perfect blend of M.K.'s voice with Emmy Lou's! "Love and Happiness" is a beautiful ballad, as well as the title track: "All The Roadrunning.
This was something of a risky undertaking for Knopfler given his macho guitar image (which is normally a guy thing). However the ladies are gonna love this album also. The music and lyrics are all originals are are beautiful!
The blend of M. K. vocals with Emmy Lou's are PERFECT!!
BUY THIS ALBUM!! There are no filler songs here, and you will not be disappointed. I have rarely given an album 5 stars but this one has earned every single one!
on May 2, 2006
I don't usually feel so strong about a recording to write a review, but I need to say that it doesn't get any better than this CD. Great song writing, musicianship, and the voices are so great. The 6th work - "Love and Happiness" has brought me to tears it is so gorgeous. I hope Mark and Emmylou start working together on "All The Roadrunning Part II."