Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris, All The Roadrunning (Nonesuch, 2006)

Mark Knopfler had originally asked Emmylou Harris to sing on a song for one of his solo albums, but upon hearing the results the two of them decided to collaborate on a full album of duets. After seven years spent fitting each other into their tight schedules whenever possible, Knopfler and Harris have released All The Roadrunning. Consisting of ten songs written by Knopfler and two by Harris, All The Roadrunning explores couples at different stages of their relationships. The pair keep the tone of the album mostly positive and happy, especially in the album's standout track "This Is Us," an upbeat song about a married couple looking back on old photos. Musically the album follows the same ultra-laid back, country/rock pattern that has characterized all of Knopfler's work since the last Dire Straits album On Every Street. Indeed, if any criticism can be made of All The Roadrunning, it's that it is a little too laid back for its own good, and it wouldn't have hurt for Knopfler to cut loose on his guitar more than he does. All The Roadrunning instead remains focused on the paired vocals, which to be fair work beautifully throughout the album. Emmylou Harris has had an enviable career not just for her own solo recordings, but also for her ability to bring out the best in the male partners she has sung with -- including people like Bob Dylan, Midnight Oil's Peter Garrett, and now Mark Knopfler who have built their reputations in spite of, more than because of, their singing voices. Knopfler's vocal range hasn't gotten any less limited on this record, but his voice just seems to have new life breathed into it when it blends with Emmylou's.

All The Roadrunning
showcases two of music's venerable performers harmonizing to songs about the building and sustaining of romances in good times and bad. There might not be anything groundbreaking on this album, but the songs are well crafted and sung, and like most of the relationships Knopfler and Harris sing about, the album holds up well to scrutiny.

Overall grade: B

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