Knopfler's clean but dexterous picking proved there was still room for traditionalism and chops in mainstream rock & roll
The most celebrated British guitar hero to emerge in the 1970s and ’80s, Mark Knopfler rose to fame as the leader of Dire Straits, and his songwriting and incisive guitar work played a decisive role in making them an international success story. At a time when punk and new wave were making technique for its own sake seem irrelevant, and metal was taking the guitar solo in noisier and unpredictable directions, Knopfler’s clean but dexterous picking proved there was still room for traditionalism and chops in mainstream rock & roll. But even without considering Dire Straits,Knopfler has accumulated an impressive résumé as a producer, sideman, songwriter, and film composer, working alongside some of the best and best-known figures in the music business.
In the fall of 1992, Dire Straits played their last concert, a show in Spain on the tour in support of On Every Street, and in 1995, Knopfler quietly announced that he’d retired the band, feeling they’d become too big. 1996’s Golden Heart became Knopfler’s official solo debut, followed in 2000 by Sailing to Philadelphia, which included guest appearances by Van Morrison, James Taylor, Gillian Welch, and Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford of Squeeze. The newly prolific Knopfler shortly returned to the studio and released The Ragpicker’s Dream in the fall of 2002; a world tour was planned, but after Knopfler was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him with a broken shoulder and collarbone, the dates were canceled. However, he was soon feeling well enough to go back to recording, and issued Shangri-La in 2004, a set recorded at the Malibu compound where the Band recorded and rehearsed in the ’70s. As Knopfler’s taste for rootsy, country-influenced sounds became a growing presence in his solo work, he began working on material with singer Emmylou Harris, and their collaborative album, 2006’s All the Roadrunning, was recorded during sessions spread over seven years. Knopfler and Harris toured together in support of the set, and a live album, Real Live Roadrunning, came out later the same year. Knopfler continued to record at a steady pace, releasing Kill to Get Crimson in 2007 and Get Lucky in 2009, while still finding room to contribute to albums by Sonny Landreth, Bill Wyman, Diane Schuur, Bap Kennedy, and America. 2012 found Knopfler releasing Privateering, the first double-disc studio set of his career.
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