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Album review: Knopfler takes road that suits him

REVIEW

Mark Knopfler — Down The Road Wherever

Virgin ★★★✩✩

BACK in the day, indie bands loved to say ‘we just do what we want, and if anybody else likes it that’s a bonus’.

Music writers would snort with glee when they heard the cliché, knowing how desperate for attention and success those acts invariably were.

If you want to see that attitude for real, look at someone who has already experienced the big time.

That’s how you get a record such as the ninth solo album from Mark Knopfler — long ago the main man and guitar virtuoso of Dire Straits — which seems to exist principally for his own amusement.

To call the album relaxed is an understatement. It cruises through its rootsy course — blues-rock, folk, Cajun — in a manner that recalls one of Knopfler’s main influences, the late and, even while alive, very laid-back JJ Cale. Which is to say it cruises almost horizontally but also engagingly.

Many songs appear to be Knopfler’s own private jokes, others have universal themes. His writing these days is chiefly observational, and nicely honed. Its surface geniality is deceptive; barbed observations abound. The effect is rather like a warm bath concealing a handful of piranha.