Sunday, 16 December 2018

Mark Knopfler - Sailing To Philadelphia (2000)


Released September 2000

Nine years or so after Dire Straits' last album, many people saw this, Mark Knopfler's second album, as something of a Straits-like creation. I am not so sure I agree with that. The guitar solos have gone and the lyrics are very much Knopfler solo ones, as opposed to the style he used to write for Dire Straits. We have historically-influenced songs and ones telling of the lives of the ordinary working characters Knopfler so admires. These type of songs did not really feature in the Dire Straits canon, so, for me, it is very much a Knopfler solo offering. The influences are Americana, Van Morrison (who appears on one track) and Bob Dylan and the album, while having its laid-back rock feel, is also quite a folky one.


1. What It Is
2. Sailing To Philadelphia
3. Who's Your Baby Now
4. Baloney Again
5. The Last Laugh
6. Do America
7. Silvertown Blues
8. El Macho
9. Prairie Wedding
10. Wanderlust
11. Speedway At Nazareth
12. Junkie Doll
13. Sands of Nevada
14. One More Matinee                              

"What It Is" is sort of reminiscent of Dire Straits' later material, particularly in its guitar breaks, but it also has that folky feel that would characterise so much of Knopfler's solo work from this point on. Knopfler's semi-spoken, whispery vocal is to the fore. The final guitar solo is very Dire Straits. "Sailing To Philadelphia" is one of his "history" songs, telling of the creation of the "Mason-Dixon line" across the USA. It is a very folky, sleepy song and very evocative. It also features James Taylor singing the role of Charles Mason to Knopfler's Jeremiah Dixon. "Who's Your Baby Now" is an acoustic-driven, upbeat rocky number with echoes of Tom Petty in there somewhere. "Baloney Again" is a shuffling bluesy rock number with a staccato beat and a laconic Knopfler vocal. Some more excellent guitar features on this one.

The appealing "The Last Laugh" features Van Morrison duetting with Knopfler. Morrison's vocal brings the song to life, it has to be said, with a real soulful vibrancy. "Do America" is a lively, rocky Americana-style number with organ breaks that bring to mind Elvis Costello And The Attractions. The melodic "Silvertown Blues" is another infectious Straits-ish yet folky number, with hints of Bruce Springsteen's "Lucky Town". "El Macho" has a suitable latin flavoured syncopation, with some fetching trumpet making a change from guitar backing. "Prairie Wedding" is a walking pace slow folk blues, full of desert and dustbowl imagery.

"Wanderlust" is a punchy, bassy, slow tempo mournful number with Knopfler giving us his best growly, whispered vocal. "Speedway At Nazareth" is a very Americana-ish slice of folk blues with more echoes of some of Bruce Springsteen's post 1995 work. "Junkie Doll" begins with some classic Rolling Stones-style blues guitar and has Knopfler reminiscing about earlier days in London's Turnpike Lane and Turnham Green. It has a bit of a Feel of The Faces about it too. By the sleepy "Sand Of Nevada" and the quiet, moving "One More Matinee" the album has probably lasted two tracks too many, to be honest. Overall, though, it is an impressive and highly enjoyable album.


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