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
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
-Tracy M. Rogers
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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