Mark Knopfler, Kill To Get Crimson (Warner Brothers, 2007)

A struggling tattoo artist reflects on how his true love entered his life. An actor returns to his hometown, only to meet with disappointment and a lot of gossip. An aspiring rock star makes big promises to his lady. A boxer recalls learning how to dance in secondary school. A man has his passion for painting stymied at every corner. A woman falls for a gypsy tinker and accepts the lifestyle that comes with him.

These are the quirky characters which populate the songs of Kill to Get Crimson, the new album from Mark Knopfler. Knopfler has always been a storyteller at heart. In most of his best songs, from "Sultans of Swing" off the first Dire Straits album nearly thirty years ago to the present, Knopfler sings from the perspectives of people quite different from himself. Sometimes he sings with a lot of sentimentality, other times he sings with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Kill to Get Crimson leans a bit more in the latter direction than most of his work.

Musically, Knopfler has more or less abandoned the harder rock and extended guitar solos of his now distant past for a more rustic and folksy approach that suits this batch of songs well. Kill to Get Crimson does sound different from Knopfler's recent solo work, though, in the sense that he breaks from his usual set of chord progressions. The melodies and structure of the songs on the album have a strong Celtic feel to them, to a greater degree even than on a number of songs off of his previous albums that have featured Irish instrumentation. As a result, the new album is refreshingly less predictable than its immediate predecessors.

I've often made the criticism, when discussing Mark Knopfler's solo work, that he's gotten too laid back for his own good. And yes, that still applies to Kill to Get Crimson. This album features some of Knopfler's best songwriting in a while, though, particularly on "True Love Will Never Fade" and "Secondary Waltz." The fans who've stuck around will certainly be pleased with it.

Overall grade: B+

reviewed by Scott

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