Throughout his quarter century in the spotlight -- both as a solo artist and with Dire Straits -- Mark Knopfler has consistently tried to, as he puts it, "find the musical connection between the Delta and the Tyne." That blend of exploratory blues playing and British traditionalism imbues The Ragpicker's Dream, his third proper solo album, with a heady, but never overly heavy, atmosphere. Knopfler's dry humor is in full effect on songs such as "Devil Baby," which casts a jaundiced eye on the world according to Jerry Springer, and "Coyote," a little ditty that the guitarist says was inspired by watching Road Runner cartoons with his kids. While Knopfler doesn't spend much time weaving the electric guitar mesh that's snagged many a fan over the years, he does coax considerable color from his acoustic on bucolic tunes such as "Fare Thee Well Northumberland," on which he gets able support from multi-instrumentalist Richard Bennett's bouzouki. Knopfler's other bandmates make their presence known as well: Glenn Duncan daubs "Daddy's Gone to Knoxville" with high-lonesome fiddle, and Paul Franklin contributes doleful pedal steel to "Hill Farmer Blues," the song that's the most overtly redolent of the hill country that Knopfler has long used for inspiration. But in the end, The Ragpicker's Dream is clearly Mark Knopfler's reverie -- realized in vivid tones that should warm the heart of anyone looking for a bit of aural uplift.
|Label:||Warner Bros / Wea|
Performance CreditsMark Knopfler Primary Artist,Guitar,Vocals
Jimmy Nail Background Vocals
Glen Duncan Violin
Richard Bennett Guitar
Jim Cox Piano,Hammond Organ
Chad Cromwell Drums
Guy Fletcher Keyboards,Background Vocals
Paul Franklin Pedal Steel Guitar
Glenn Worf Bass
Tim Healy Background Vocals
Technical CreditsMark Knopfler Producer
Stephen Walker Art Direction
Chuck Ainlay Producer,Engineer
Elliot Erwitt Cover Photo
Neil Kellerhouse Art Direction
Jake Jackson Engineer
John Saylor Engineer
Jon Bailey Engineer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Ragpicker's Dream based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Mark Knopfler's new album "The Ragpicker's Dream" has not been off my CD player since I got it last week -- it's that good. You may think of the former Dire Straits frontman as a rock star and hot-shot electric guitarist, but he's much more than that. Here he delves deep into his Geordie roots, as well as classic American styles, and rolls it all together with keenly observed song lyrics and his impeccably tasteful (mostly acoustic) guitar playing. Knopfler has always been a wonderful storyteller (remember "Romeo and Juliet", "Sultans of Swing" and "Telegraph Road"?), and he's pared down his epic style to what you might call short stories or vignettes, which are told with incredible efficiency and emotional impact. He takes us into the minds of Newcastle expatriates working in Germany on "Why Aye Man" and "Fare Thee Well Northumberland" (the latter sung to a variant of "Poor Wayfaring Stranger"); of circus freaks (the John Prine-ish "Devil Baby", complete with a dig at Jerry Springer), a cuckolded redneck ("Hill Farmer's Blues"), a Pennies-from-Heaven-type traveling salesman ("Quality Shoe"), a rail-riding hobo ("Marbletown" and "Old Pigweed") and even the cartoon Roadrunner ("Coyote" -- sample lyric: "It must be hard having dog dreams/ That never come true/ And don't you just wish you could/ Make half the speed I do"). Knopfler even throws in a Jacques Brel-type chanson in "A Place Where We Used To Live" and a Dickensian Christmas story in the title song "Ragpicker's Dream". The scope of his musicality is immense, and all delivered with his trademark laid-back drawl and gorgeous fingerpicking, backed with a light touch by a small ensemble including piano, pedal steel, and harmonica. If you were (as I was) a bit disappointed in his previous effort "Sailing to Philadelphia", you owe it to yourself to check out this album. I could not recommend it any more highly. It's a great folk album!
If you were looking for a follow-up to "Sailing to Philadelphia," don't come rushing for this. Rather, it's more of a companion piece to the Notting Hillbillies' "Missing...Presumed Having a Good Time." The melodies are simple and traditional, drawn from bluegrass, rockabilly, and blues, and there's no hard-driving hook to be found. Knopfler's voice (backed by fellow Hillbilly Steve Phillips) is the real star of the album.
Good album, worth including in your M.K. collection. Although more guitar work is always welcome from Mark (maybe he left it for he's live versions, hurrah), these are fine songs you'll enjoy as much as anything he writes. Superb mixture of sounds (from surf guitar to blues to jazzy to ... yes, 'trumpet playing band'), impeccable delivery ... Thanks Mark!