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Mark Knopfler’s Second Act

Since he walked away from the Dire Straits in 1995, the guitarist has found a new, quieter career as one of rock’s greatest songwriters

Scott Spencer Sep 09, 2008
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Knopfler’s Deep Cuts

Seven gems from his post-Dire Straits career

”˜Gravy Train’
CD Single, 1996

This wry, Cajun-style locomotive ”“ a kind of ”˜Money for Nothing, Part Deux’ ”“ snuck out as a B side. Worth the hunt for the torrid guitar work at the end.

”˜Sailing to Philadelphia’
Sailing to Philadelphia, 2000

Knopfler plays Jeremiah Dixon and James Taylor guests as Charles Mason in this duet of escape and anticipation, as the two Englishmen are about to make land and history, mapping a young America.

”˜5:15 AM’
Shangri-La, 2004

A bleak beauty set in an English coal-mining town lit by the tawdry sparkle of slot machines in the pubs and by the starlight of Knopfler’s guitar. He sings in a near-whisper, as if he doesn’t want to wake the dead in the churchyard ”“ or the gangster under the bridge, “shot through with bullet holes.”

”˜Boom, Like That’
Shangri-La, 2004

Knopfler plays McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc in this sardonic portrait of the self-made man. The drums play a second-line rhythm; Knopfler’s guitar darts and curls like a metallic snake.

”˜Back to Tupelo’
One Take Radio Sessions, 2005

This haunted Shangri-La portrait of the mid-Sixties Elvis Presley, drowning in bad movies, benefits from the stark, live-in-the-studio take here.

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”˜Done With Bonaparte’
Real Live Roadrunning, 2006

The song first appeared on 1996’s The Golden Heart, but this live version with Emmylou Harris is the keeper. Inside the Celtic bravado, Knopfler sings with seething rage, depicting a battered army betrayed by its general. Harris marches in step like a soldier’s widow.

”˜Behind With the Rent’
Kill to Get Crimson, 2007

An ex-reporter, Knopfler wrote about the down-and-out crowd with poignant detail. You almost smell the smoke and cheap perfume here as a guy blows his last quid on a hooker. The ambience and slicing guitar recall Dire Straits’ classic ”˜Wild West End’ ”“ a world that Knopfler, despite his success, never left.

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