Mark Knopfler may not be the most familiar face in the West Chester music scene. He also may not be a familiar name among any college music scene, except maybe in the back pages of your professor’s CD collection. Knopfler first achieved world-wide musical success with Dire Straits, the rock band that he and his brother formed in their native England back in 1977. Knopfler is back again with another solo release, this time an eight track live studio album. Seven of the eight tracks on One Take Radio Sessions, were re-recorded live from his 2004 solo release, Shangri- La. The other track, “Rudiger,” is pulled from his 1996 studio album, Golden Heart. Besides lacking the obvious amount of in-studio production, Sessions is another example of the raw consistency you get with every Knopfler record, even if it’s a remake. As usual, Knopfler sings and plays guitar on every track and is backed by a four-piece band. Knopfler’s musical simplicity has won him desirable respectability and a songwriting mentality that has worked consistently in past years. “I wanted to get back to being a guy who wrote songs on the sofa.” Commenting on his songwriting, Knopfler says, “themes relating to journeys and human endurance and perseverance were there. I’ve always been attracted to that aspect of ordinary people.” Of the eight songs on Sessions, Knopfler sings frequently of different characters and their development, struggles and conquests. The first song and second released single, “The Trawlerman’s Song” dictates the life of a fisherman, his boat and crew. He sings of Elvis when he pays homage to “the King of Rock-NRoll,” and his hometown and state of Mississippi in “Back To Tupelo.”
“Song For Sonny Liston,” the rockabilly time line of the troubled boxer’s life, begins with “The Bear’s” childhood, follows through his career and ends with his death. Knopfler paints his character Rudiger, “the collector of autographs,” vividly and sadly clear. “Briefcase and spectacles, strange and respectable, he knows the meaning of being alone.” From the slow folk ballad of “Everybody Pays,” to the country picking, gospel style tune of an Irish man in, “Donegan’s Gone”, Knopfler never forgets his roots, planted deep in all aspects of human kind. Sessions, recorded at the Malibu studio Shangri-La, the influence for Knopfler’s 2004 title, is a taste of a project that was much grander in scheme. With all of Knopfler’s success, it may seem limited that he has only produced a handful of solo projects since Dire Straits.
For years Knopfler has kept busy with not only Straits and solo projects, but movie scores as well. Knopfler is responsible for the musical scores of “The Princess Bride,” “Wag The Dog” and “Last Exit To Brooklyn.” If Knopfler hasn’t been in the studio for himself, he’s been helping out the best in the business. After being part of the audience at a Dire Straits show, Bob Dylan asked Knopfler to play on his album Slow Train Coming. He later co-produced and played guitar on Dylan’s album Infidels. In 1982 he played studio guitar for Van Morrison, and accompanied Eric Clapton in 1988, playing at Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday party. One Take Radio Sessions is Mark Knopfler at his consistent best.