Mark Knopfler, “Down the Road Wherever” (British Grove/Blue Note)
At age 69, Mark Knopfler says he still loves touring, and even in the studio, the Glaswegian guitarist covers a lot of ground.
On his latest album, “Down the Road Wherever,” Knopfler serves up more than 70 minutes of music rooted in the Scottish Highlands (“Drovers’ Road”), piano bars (“When You Leave”) and cowboy country (“Nobody’s Child”), among other locales.
In other words, the range of styles is wide, even within single songs. “Just a Boy Away From Home” morphs from Robert Johnson to Rodgers and Hammerstein. Ditto the breadth of subject matter, as Knopfler mixes story songs with material both topical and autobiographical.
The unifying element is his distinctive Bob Dylan-via-Perry Como delivery — Freddie Mercury wasn’t the only good singer at Live Aid. Knopfler’s guitar work has ranked with the best since his days in Dire Straits, but here he uses his instrument for texture and never really lets ‘er rip.
“I’m a slow burner… I do everything slow,” Knopfler sings, and most of the tempos are indeed leisurely. Even the closing chords linger. But “Nobody Does That” and “Heavy Up” find sunny R&B grooves that allow Knopfler to make like the Sultan of Swing.