Mark Knopfler – What It Is

“The drinking dens are spilling out
There’s staggering in the square.
There’s lads and lasses falling about
And a crackling in the air.”

Trying to pick out a Mark Knopfler song for this list is a difficult task.  Since disbanding Dire Straits in the early 1990s, he has released a string of high quality solo efforts combining his love of American blues and folk and British celtic music.  It is a mix that is a proven formula at this point for one of the most respected and accomplished guitarists of the modern rock age. 

Beginning in 1978 with their hit ‘Sultans of Swing’, Dire Straits presented itself apart from musical trends, bypassing the sounds of punk and disco.  They made music history, breaking sales records around the world, on their own terms based on the vision of songwriter/singer/guitarist Mark Knopfler.  By the release of 1985’s “Brothers In Arms”, Straits was considered one of the most popular rock groups of all time.  Being the consumate musician, Knopfler split time between his rock group, signature movie scores (“The Princess Bride”,”Local Hero”, etc.), and side projects (The Notting Hillbillies, Knopfler and Chet Atkins).  By the release of “On Every Street” in 1991, Knopfler decided to go his own way and make ‘music without pretense’ a full time affair.

Among his many solo albums is 2000’s “Sailing to Philadelphia”, released on longtime label Warner Brothers.  I find every track on this masterpiece rivetting, from the title cut with James Taylor to the deep blues of ‘Baloney Again’.  The song that should have been a hit, had it been a Dire Straits release, was ‘What It Is’.  A song evoking images of the UK in the 1800’s, it rocks as hard as ‘Money for Nothing’, but with less pop sheen.  It seems that with age Knopfler has retained his knack for pop songcraft and hard blues guitar riffs albeit with a more varied lyrical base. 

“High on the parapet a Scottish piper stands alone…”

Knopfler continues to record and tour tirelessly, with his most recent album being 2009’s “Get Lucky”.   His live shows do harken back to the Dire Straits days, but now contain more of the flair he showed with groups like the Hillbillies.  They are all the better for it, as his music is now a roadmap to the music of the world…a true patchwork quilt that never fails to inspire or educate. 

2 responses to “Mark Knopfler – What It Is

  1. What do I love about Knopfler? I wouldn’t know where to start or finish. I do also love this album, but my favorite song of all is Local Hero. I think his lyrics are truly exceptional, interesting, and refreshingly about topics other than love. But Knopfler shines like the sun on the rare occasions when he just plays: the guitar is all he needs to fill the mind, the heart, and the soul. When he finishes an instrumental, I feel a profound sense of peace that is missing from my life. He is a true magician.

  2. His solo guitar work is amazing…Local Hero is one of the best of all time! A great live take is featured on Dire Straits “On the Night”.

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