Album Review: Mark Knopfler treats us to tales of life through melody with his album, "One Deep River" (2024)

The pub rock king from Glasgow is back. Easily one of the most eminent guitar figures to ever emerge from the 70s, the leader of Dire Straits has had an extremely impressive solo career. Forging a path in styles and tastes that didn’t fit the Straits label, he has collaborated and sung on more songs than you can ever imagine. One of the most wholesome albums after Sailing to Philadelphia, this is called One Deep River.

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Exploring methods of performance through unique grooves is something Knopfler loves to do. Pioneering the fingerpicking method to create a warm, flesh derived tone that has depth and mellow comfort, no one has exactly mastered except him. It is his unique vision of the fretboard and strings that have led to the brilliant solos on Lady Writer, Brothers in Arms, Telegraph Road and of course, Sultans of Swing. Mark Knopfler also has the ability to tap into the frequency of his fellow performers on tracks, leading to a very special take on the main melody. Listen to Sailing to Philadelphia, and there is a sharing of skill and sound while having that signature “humane touch” that Knopfler’s memorable melodies have.

With the opening single itself, he establishes how much fun he is having with his album. He shifts several chords within one lyrical line, almost mirroring the vocals. It keeps the song dynamic and fresh, like he has kept his sound through the years.

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Tones and tunes, combine

The bluesy country tones that he sees in Ahead of the Game show how easy keeping a memorable lead part is. From a young age, Mark Knopfler was introduced to the piano, which has linear melody elements. This is easy to visualise on a chromatic scale, making parts which you can sing along to. In his 4 decades and more of composing, there has been that “memorable melody” core that Knopfler has retained, whenever he has shuffled from his independent projects to work on Dire Straits.

Then comes the connection to his roots. There are certain progressions that are home to him, and you’ll hear them in most songs, in different permutations. He is a proud Geordie Boy, as he has proclaimed in many of his songs. The pub rock and swing tunes are part of his blood. Armed with his guitar, he has visited smaller venues all across the UK to form that individual bond with the audience.

Reviving a lost art

His dry wit, slow talking charm and absolute joy of interacting is his catnip. When with Dire Straits, he was mounted on 20 feet high stages, ripping solos and instrumental parts many people viewed in awe. Here, he strips down the medals and trophies to play music as Mark Knopfler-music lover.

Catchy swing numbers like Scavengers Yard will make you clap or thump your feet along to the music. Sure, there are melodies here you have heard several times in different forms, but Knopfler’s take is always refreshing. Emotional, melancholy tunes like Black Tie Jobs interlace themselves among catchier, danceable tracks. In One Deep River, Knopfler is game to explore all the currents, in all directions.

Captivating stories are told in Tunnel 13, almost like Mark was a fly on the wall. He writes pages in diaries, as heard in songs like Janine. As an experienced songwriter and someone so well travelled, he knows the words that will have effect and affect. They are used precariously, with a powerful desired aura.

Singer-songwriter ecstasy

As he writes songs like Watch Me Gone, you can feel the space and time he leaves for harmonics and slide guitar aspects. As he goes into the tepid serenity of a lake from the river, you can still feel the rush of the river. Knopfler has gone on to deliver a soul stirring album that shows us how truly strong his songwriting skill is. This comes a month or so after his cameo packed single, Going Home. This was the last song to feature Jeff Beck before his death, and has parts from almost every guitar legend present imaginable. It is a legacy that is enviable, heart-warming and truly has moved with the times.

From his gear to the approach, Mark Knopfler is not a struggle, but a leap of how music must touch the pulse of the generation. Instead of staying glued to his brilliant ways of composing, he innovated more to reach this stage, which can be accessed by all. Perhaps a young musician listening to this album feels like picking up the guitar, listening to those delirious sounds. He is the guitar hero we always needed, to show us the power and direction of music. In a world of unbridled chaos, there is meaning, emotion and expression in his music. We might only be subjected to the surface, but we’re cruising on one deep river.

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Nishant Varma

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Self professed metalhead, moderately well read. If the music has soul, it's whole to me. The fact that my bio could have ended on a rhyme and doesn't should tell you a lot about my personality.

Album Review: Mark Knopfler treats us to tales of life through melody with his album, "One Deep River" (2024)
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