September , 2013
Review by Lisa Sullivan
Label: Mercury Records
From the opening notes of "Redbud Tree" I knew I was going to be enthralled with the latest release from Mark Knopfler. The bigger test was going to be how my seven year old received it. As my constant companion he gets to listen to new music at the same time as me. His musical tastes lean towards Linkin Park, Volbeat, Johnny Cash, Bayou Pigs, Barkin' at Nothin', and old school punk and metal. If he doesn't like something he is quick to protest. I told him we would listen to the first CD all the way through and then once more as we traveled to Galveston for the weekend. Then he could listen to whatever he wanted after that.
My first impression of this release is that it is very eclectic offering multiple layers of interwoven instrumentation, thoughtful lyrics, and intricate melodies. Sixteen musicians are cited in the credits as accompaniment to Knopfler. Instruments include traditional guitars, bass, drums and keyboards, and a whole array of classical instruments including harp, mandolin, piano, organ, cittern, fiddle, pedal steel, trumpet, saxophone, bouzouki, tiple, clarinet, whistles and pipes. The songs are well produced, musicianship is tight, and a vast array of musical styles is covered.
Opener "Redbud Tree" is catchy and a bit mysterious, painting a vivid picture of a sanctuary that leaves you wondering who is running and what they are running from. Featuring acoustic guitar and pedal steel it is a standout piece. "Haul Away" and "Yon Two Crows" unfold like traditional Irish folk songs. Set off by uillean pipes, Knopfler's voice is strong and haunting. "Don't Forget Your Hat" delves heavily into the blues, accented by barroom piano stylings. "Privateering", the title track, is an enchanting sailor's tale, painting a picture of adventures on the high seas. "Miss You Blues" and "Seattle" are soulful tunes of longing and lost love, true standouts. "Go, Love" is soulful and haunting, overlaid with sentimental lyrics and delightful finger-picking.
Disc #2 offers another brilliant selection of lyrical treasures. "Kingdom of Gold" and "Dream Of The Drowned Submariner" are well written ballads prominently featuring the talented musicianship that has been pulled together for the project. "Gator Blood" is cool and hip with a touch of country flair. "Radio City Serenade" is one of the most unique pieces, a jazzy ode to Radio City that sounds like something off a movie soundtrack from the Golden Age. "After The Beanstalk" is the perfect wrap-up; fun, upbeat and just a little bit silly, with just a hint of bluegrass.
All in all, this is an outstanding project. For those who have waited a few years since the last release, "Get Lucky" in 2009, you won't be disappointed. With two CDs and 19 tunes, there is plenty here to love. The amazing collaborations, complex orchestrations, and Mark Knopfler's brilliant knack for songwriting and arranging make this a true work of art. Pick up a copy and drop it in your car's CD player. You'll be in for a highly pleasurable ride.
As for my son, he narrated the CD and asked questions throughout our drive about the contents, lyrics and styles of the songs. We listened for a third time as we drove back to Houston and he seemed genuinely interested, having memorized the lyrics to a few tunes already. A couple nights later he was helping me prepare dinner and he started singing "Redbud Tree". The proof is in the pudding, or pizza in this instance.