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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Mark Knopfler, AWOLNATION, Modest Mouse, Allison Moorer and more...

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Monday, March 16, 2015

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Mark Knopfler



Grade: A

Thirty-seven years after Dire Straits introduced us to the "Sultans of Swing," Mark Knopfler remains a man of (we assume) wealth and, more importantly, great taste when it comes to music. Thirty years after the phenomalistic "Brothers In Arms" with the Straits, Knopfler's eighth solo album is a characteristic masterwork of rich songwriting (especially the fleshed-out characters in his lyrics), finely nuanced arrangements and virtuoistic playing; the guy's as much a guitar hero as ever, but Knopfler's restraint is as key to the alchemy here as any flurry of notes in his solos. He hearkens back to "Sultans" on "Tracker's" first single, "Beryl" (about British author Dame Beryl Bainbridge, no less) and dishes out a bit of sinewy funk on "Broken Bones," but the bulk of the album goes for mood and texture, whether it's the vivid images of "Lights of Tacoma," the gentle musings of "Wherever I Go" and "River Towns," or the Celtic-flavored finery of "Long Cool Girl" and "Mighty Man." In the jazzy opener "Laughs and Jokes and Drinks and Smokes" Knopfler recalls the modest and somewhat rowdier times before Dire Straits hit big, but "Tracker" shows he's managed to mature and wisen without losing that flare he had decades go.

New & Noteworthy:

Bernard Allison, "In The Mix" (Jazzhaus): The blues veteran covers father Luther Allison`s "Move From the Hood" and "Moving On Up" on his first new album in six years.

Seth Avett and Jessical Lea Mayfield, "Sing Elliot Smith" (Ramseur): The Americana pair teams up to do exactly what the title says and pay deserved homage to the late singer-songwriter.

AWOLNATION, "Run" (Red Bull): The sophomore album from the Aaron Bruno-led modern rock troupe follows the breakthrough success of 2011's hit-laden "Megalithic Symphony."

Modest Mouse, "Strangers To Ourselves" (Epic): The Washington state group's first new album in eight years features three new members (half the band) who have joined since 2007's "We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank."

Allison Moorer, "Down to Believing" (eOne): Never one to shy away from hard times and dark emotions, Moorer fuels her latest with lessons and observations drawn from her divorce from fellow singer-songwriter Steve Earle.

Sleeping With Sirens, "Madness" (Epitaph): The Florida hard rockers switch labels for their fourth album and gets a layer of sonic polish courtesy of producer John Feldmann.

Also Out: The Answer, "Raise a Little Hell" (Napalm); Aaron Comess, "Aaron Comess Quintet" (His House); Lara Downes, "A Billie Holiday Songbook" (Steinway & Sons); Jakob Bro, "Gefion" (ECM); Hawk Nelson, "Diamonds" (7-N Music); Houndmouth, "Little Neon Limelight" (Rough Trade); Jazz Collective, "Sasha`s Bloc" (AG Entertainment); King Khan & the BBQ Show, "Bad News Boys" (IN The Red); Matt Maher, "Saints and Sinners" (Essential); Moonspell, "Extinct" (Napalm); Marcus Miller, "Afrodeezia" (CMG); Olly Murs, "Never been Better" (Columbia); Passion, "Even So Come" (Capitol Christian); Greg Shirley, "Raised on the Run" (Garage Door); Sol Driven Train, "Dance!" (Sol Driven Train); Twin Shadow, "Eclipse" (Warner Bros.); Eberhard Weber, "Encore" (ECM)

From The Vaults: L.A. Guns, "Toronto 1990" (Cleopatra); Pretty Things, "Boquets From a Cloudy Sky" (Snapper Classics); Rush, "2112 (Hologram Edition LP)" (Mercury UMe); Santana, "1968 San Francisco" (Cleopatra)

Soundtracks: "Galavant" (Disney); Tony Yazbeck and Jay Armstrong Johnson, "On The Town (New Broadway Cast Recording)" (P.S. Classics)

New Music DVDs: Shuggie Otis, "Live in Williamsburg" (Cleopatra)

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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