October 25, 2004

Mark Knopfler — Shangri La

Sometimes I make recommendations because a book or album just “blows me away”. Other times because I think it has particular merit or relevance in the moment. Often, however, I just recommend albums and books because I like them. In the case of Shangri La by Mark Knopfler, I just want to share my enthusiasm for this great artist. If you don’t know Mark as a solo artist, you may recall him as the frontman for Dire Straits. His gravely voice and distinctive guitar work helped distinguish that group (along with videos that seemed to run nonstop).

Today, after multiple albums on his own, Knopfler is like a good scotch before bed. He is mature, takes time and effort to appreciate, shows character, and can put things right with the world. Shangri La is not quite as good as Sailing To Philadelphia, his 2000 masterpiece, but has some very real and persuasive musical moments. The tone is very consistent throughout — not quite rock, not quite pop, not quite folk. The sound of the songs is warm and Knopfler’s voice and guitar work is on the laid back side. Yet, his music is always hauntingly familiar and comfortable.

Special kudos to Knopfler for including a song about Sonny Liston based on the biography by Nick Tosches, one of my favorite authors.

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