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Mark Knopfler And Emmylou Harris
All The Roadrunning
Warner Bros. Records

Since last year when Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris released the duet "All the Roadrunning" on the Dire Straits retrospective Private Investigations: The Best of Dire Straits, fans of both performers have been frothing at the mouth with the prospect of a Knopfler-Harris duets CD. Well, the long-awaited CD, also titled All The Roadrunning, has finally arrived! Full of poignant longing and country-rock fun, All The Roadrunning is a collection of contemplations on love - both lost and eternal - and growing older. The well-crafted, multi-faceted album finds Knopfler and Harris merging their personal styles to create something that is both original and steeped in country, folk, and rock traditions.

The opener, "Beachcombing," would not be musically out of place on a Rosanne Cash album. With subtle mandolin flourishes and guitar touches that come undisputedly from Knopfler's talented fingers, "Beachcombing" tells of the end of a relationship in simple yet poetic terms. "The sun is going down smoking/a flaming testament/something has been broken/and it feels permanent," Knopfler croons while Harris backs him with jagged, aching vocalizations. "This Is Us," in turn, focuses on a couple's years of marital bliss. Musically, "This Is Us" combines Knopfler's blues-rock roots with Harris' country-rock past with great success. The melancholic folk-rock ballad "I Dug Up A Diamond" follows, with Knopfler once again taking lead vocals and Harris adding mournful vocal accompaniment.

The lighthearted, uptempo love song "Red Staggerwing" finds Knopfler and Harris mixing elements of bluegrass and celtic folk. "Rollin' On," by contrast, is a bittersweet, gypsy-inspired take on the traveling life that could be the tale of a roaming carnival troupe, a band of Roma, or a group of touring musicians. These ambiguities strengthen rather that weaken the song's impact and appeal. "Love and Happiness" is a sophisticated country love song for a child that features soothing tremolo guitar parts and brushed drums, while "Right Now" is a down-and-dirty blues-rock breakup song that finds Harris taking lead vocals over a raucous slide guitar-driven melody.

The jaunty folk-newgrass hybrid "Donkey Town" tells of a man seeking respite from small town life and a relationship with a married woman that he despises. "Donkey Town" features some of the most involved lyrics on All The Roadrunning along with a mandolin- and acoustic guitar-infused melody. "Belle Starr" is another lyrical and musical triumph - a lively outlaw country-rocker that finds the narrators comparing themselves to Jesse James and the title character. "Beyond My Wildest Dreams," on the other hand, is a folk-rock anthem clearly inspired by Tunnel Of Love-era Bruce Springsteen that finds Knopfler taking lead vocals once again.

The title track is the high point in a collection of high points, however. The celtic folk melody of "All the Roadrunning" is accented by delicate mandolin and soaring fiddle strains, while the lyrics are a wistful account of life on the road that finds the lead character taking stock of the sacrifices and benefits of roaming. All The Roadrunning concludes with the contemplative Memphis soul of "If This Is Goodbye." Featuring a refined horn section and Knopfler's bluesy guitar riffs, "If This Is Goodbye" is a pensive rumination on the very nature of existence that finds the protagonists accepting that time is of the essence but love is eternal.

There is beauty in both the simple and the complex moments of All The Roadrunning, in the introspection and the rollicking. Through all the genre-jumping and lyrical musings, All The Roadrunning retains a unity, depth, and sophistication that is uncommon in musical recordings of any era. All The Roadrunning is truly a delightful listen - an album that is both thoughtful and entertaining.

-Tracy M. Rogers

Track List:
1. Beachcombing
2. I Dug Up a Diamond
3. This Is Us
4. Red Staggerwing
5. Rollin' On
6. Love and Happiness
7. Right Now
8. Donkey Town
9. Belle Starr
10. Beyond My Wildest Dreams
11. All The Roadrunning
12. If This Is Goodbye

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