Mark Knopfler tends to be at one remove from the narrative arc of his songs, even those born of personal experience. Perhaps his training as a reporter taught him to remain detached – just tell the bloody story, he might have been told. And boy, can he tell stories.
There are 14 tracks on this, his ninth solo collection, and, if there are few surprises in that they all fold into that warmly familiar Knopfler soundscape, there are no duds either.
Now 69, Knopfler has long been a master of his craft, writing from personal memory and knowledge of social history, particularly his adopted northeast.
This gritty terrain again informs his material from the story of a Liverpool fan lost in Newcastle (Just A Boy Away From Home) to the sensitivity of ballads When You Leave or Slow Learner. The whispered intimacy is balanced by the light reggae of Heavy Up or the cool funk of Nobody Does That.
He’s a pro – he knows how to make a record, the buttons that must be pressed. Throughout it all his elegant guitar – measured, tasteful – mirrors his clear, understated drawl.
As ever, there is an underlying calm, tinged by melancholy, as he goes down the road wherever.