o dubhthaigh | north rustico, pei, canada | 10/02/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Finally! A rock star who understands his strengths and knows how to use them to optimal effect! This is a brilliant, exquisite dispaly of song craft, subtle and sophisticated guitar playing, sublimely wrought melodies and arrangements that will stand as a hallmark of one of the truly great writers to have emerged at the end of the seventies. 25 years on and Mark Knopfler is more in command of his considerable powers than ever before. Perhaps through his soundtracks, stint with the Notting Hill Billies, his "Sailing to Philadelphia" Mark has shed his money for nothing vapour lock and emerged, or better reemerged as the eminent storyteller who so finally crafted epics like "Telegraph Road" and "Brothers in Arms" and of course "Sultans."The genuine article, as one might say, he is Geordie through and through, and his borderlands colours wave bravely over this album of finely written stories. From the opening "Way Aye Man", all full of Tyneside atmosphere and courage to the closing "Old Pigweed" the narrators are real people with very effecting tales to tell. Knopfler and James McMurtry share that unique ability to gain the insight of people who live close to their circumstances, like most of us do, and dissect the issues that are the crest jewel of the decisions we make in life.The band on this disc is just incredible. Chad Cromwell's drumming is the absolutely perfect foil for Knopfler's guitar lines, and fellow Notting Hillman, Guy Fletcher is on board to keep things organically true to the bone. The bass lines are as dynamic as the guitar runs and when you listen to "Coyote", complete with horns, it strikes you how well intelligence can swing. In some phrases, Knopfler brings to mind fellow Geordie Martin Stephenson, and perhaps it's in the Newcastle blood, the ability to swing. Certainly the pipe tunes from the tradition there roll with a sea spray you don't hear in other traditions, so it must carry over to more contemporary writers as well.The waltz, "Ragpicker's Dream" is achingly beautiful, full of all the sentinmentality and bittersweetness of the waltzes he wrote for "Local Hero". Each and every song on this collection is a gem. As my headline states, this is a subtle, sophisticated masterpiece: it swings, it waltzes, it rocks and it stands on its own merits as a statement from a consummate musiciian and insightful writer of the daily vicissitudes of life that propel us as we embrace our past, present and future. Well done, Knop. Best of the Year!"
Bluesy, Wistful, and Occasionally Playful
JD Cetola | Omaha, NE USA | 10/02/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Mark Knopfler's third solo album (not counting his numerous film soundtracks) is his bluesiest yet. "The Ragpicker's Dream" features 12 tracks and clocks in at almost 56 minutes. All tracks include vocals and the backing band is top notch and features (of course) Guy Fletcher on keyboards and some nice drumwork by Chad Cromwell. Paul Franklin adds his pedal steel mastery to three of the tracks. The piano (played by Jim Cox who also plays organ on several of the more bluesy tracks) is more prominent than on previous solo efforts as well, and adds a jazz-like quality to several of the tracks.Musically, "TRD" is steeped in the blues with hints of folk, swing, and jazz. As for comparisons with previous work, this disc is most similar to the "Wag the Dog" soundtrack and (in some instances) Dire Straits' "On Every Street". The focus is the music (and also the lyrics) and not so much the guitar work. There's some crying and singing, but mostly the playing is subdued and workmanlike. There are no hyper-emotional solos (although some of the work on "Devil Baby" comes close) like on "Are We in Trouble Now" or "Nobody's Got the Gun" from "Goldenheart". If that's what you're looking for, you may be a tad disappointed in TRD. If not, you'll be well-satisfied by this release. There are a lot of bluesy numbers ("Why Aye Man", "Marbletown", and the Soggy Bottom Boys' sounding "Fare the Well Northumberland"), some jazz-inflicted tracks ("A Place Where We Used to Live") and several playful tunes ("Coyote", "Quality Shoe" and "Daddy's Gone to Knoxville"). The brilliant "Ragpicker's Dream" would've fit (musically) nicely on "The Princess Bride" soundtrack. Lyrically, TRD focuses on blue collar workers and workingclass towns. The songs are poetic (especially "Ragpicker's Dream" and "Old Pigweed"), wistful, and often deal with working--both the land, the job, and other people. Overall, this album is a positive continuation of "Sailing to Philadelphia" with a familiar, but more bluesy feel to it and still fewer emotional guitar solos. Definitely Recommended."
A Dream Indeed
Gianmarco Manzione | Tampa, FL USA | 01/28/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is anyone's guess as to whether the former Dire Straits crooner and guitarist "still gets chicks for free", but Ragpicker's Dream, the third of three brilliant solo albums released in the wake of Mark Knopfler's former band, proves that he doesn't get money for nothin'. Despite the speckles of genius Knopfler bestowed upon the music world with Dire Straits, the gritty, stylish honesty of recent solo albums such as Golden Heart, Sailing to Philadelphia and his latest release suggest that his old band's demise was a fortuitous event for rock `n roll. The break up facilitated Knopfler's much-needed escape from the glaring spotlight under which he was cast after the monumentally successful Brothers in Arms. Never has Knopfler demonstrated such eagerness to explore more varied musical terrain as on the solo albums that ensued, from the fluttering fiddles and bagpipes of Golden Heart to the impassioned acoustic blues of Ragpicker's Dream. Most fans came to expect a certain sound from Dire Straits; the instantly captivating guitar licks and shuffling rhythm of "Money For Nothing" or "Sultans of Swing," the chiming organ of "Walk of Life," or the jangling hooks of `So Far Away." However, the Dire Straits oeuvre is a rather inconsistent one, including only a couple albums of sustained energy and a host of lesser collections ranging from decent to dismal. The conventional boundaries that confined Dire Straits ultimately became so exhausted that the band had nowhere left to turn. 1991's On Every Street, the band's farewell album, showcased Knopfler's increasing enthusiasm for, among other sounds, the twang and wail of Nashville, playing with country legend Chet Atkins as well as the Notting Hillbillies. The days of MTV videos and duets with Sting were clearly a thing of the distant past. Any further projects with Dire Straits would only have typecast a talent whose borders stretch well beyond rock `n roll's tired roads. When not recording solo, Knopfler is lending a hand on projects by performers as artistically opposed to his pop-rock past as Waylon Jennings, whose final album, Closing in on the Fire, features a ballad to which Knopfler contributes a guitar solo. On his own work, though, such nods to Nashville are becoming more average than anomalous, particularly on his latest outing, speckled with everything from rock to ragtime. The album's track list, including titles like `Daddy's Gone to Nashville" and "Hillfarmer's Blues," reads more like a list of lost songs by Dock Boggs, the late, Appalachian banjo-master. While some of the songs on Ragpicker's Dream might have gotten Boggs's toe tapping, though, Knopfler's homage to J.J Cale remains evident. Brooding, slick guitar solos emerge throughout the album, from the frenetic licks of the sprawling opener and single, "Way Aye Man" to more languid, bluesy tunes such as the title track. It is the album's innovative production, however, that proves it a necessary conclusion to Knopfler's solo trilogy. Compared to the somewhat bland, spare arrangements of his previous album, the flavorful production of Ragpicker's Dream serves as a refreshing taste of Knopfler's endless musical dexterity. Sprightly and deeply textured, the soundscapes of songs like "You Don't Know Your Bones" and "Coyote" teem with bass, flickering drum beats, horns, percussion and Knopfler's sly guitar. Hearing the result is like getting lost in the middle of a feral jungle at night. Knopfler's production is crisp, clear and variegated, making for a potpourri of songs that are at once spare and abundantly rich, as the haunting, folkish "Fare Thee Well Northumberland" gives way to "Daddy's Gone to Nashville," a blithe and thoroughly convincing tribute to Hank Williams. A consistent thrust of melody renders Ragpicker's Dream Knopfler's most gorgeous and tactful project to date. The sudden, snapping drums that guide "Hill Farmer's Blues" to its fading crescendo raise the song's beauty to an ethereal pitch, while "Devil Baby" delivers a steady pathos accompanied by an insouciant musical backdrop and Knopfler's earthy, dust-caked vocals. "It's hard to find love anywhere/hard to find love anywhere," he laments on one of the album's many moving ballads. With the onslaught of gaudy, vapid and overproduced pop singles cluttering today's airwaves, Mark Knopfler's enduring commitment to raw, honest and rootsy music is nothing short of a miracle. While it may very well be hard to find love anywhere, albums like Ragpicker's Dream guarantee the love of those who feel alienated by the fluff that passes for "rock" in an industry becoming more subversive and superficial by the hour."
Mark Knopfler... country style
DiskSpinner | Beaverton, OR | 01/06/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Ragpicker's Dream is the third official solo album by this genious guitarist. No surprises, it is another very good album and he played well, but this is the first time his vocal made more impact than his finger!!! The album is an mixture of country, honky-tonk, blues and completed with some rock. A very accoustic effort... this one. That's certainly not bad to somebody who does not believe a musician has to play the same type of music. To tell you the truth after couple of listenings, I was a little disappointed because of the lack of power jams in the line of Tunnel of love, Sultans of swing or Telegraph road. It does not even have something like 'Silvertown blues'. So what does it have... I found out soon that it has 'This is place we used to live' - a song sung softly and hits heart at the center. Wow, Mark that's a great vocal effort. It has 'You don't know you were born' with thumping drum beats (anybody expecting a John Bonham beat will be disappointed but it is rockable). It has the title track, which again is soft and superb. It has 9 more tracks that may not be his greatest songs but they fit well in an album that creates a new dimension for the man himself. The album was not 180 degree turnaround of few previous albums. He hinted that this album is coming up in Dire Strait's 1991 album 'On every street' (listen the song 'How long'), His first solo 1996 'Golden heart' and second solo 2000 'Sailing to philadelphia'. So we got an album 11 years in the making!!!Now it seems that this is not going be as praised as 'Golden heart' or as successful as 'Sailing to Philadelphia'. Reason is simply, the lovers of accoustic/country kind of music may not pick this album in the first place because they are not aware. If you are one of them you can pick this album. You won't be disappointer. Some non flexible Dire Straits fan may find this album a little disappointing as this is quite a change of genre for them. Had I written this review after 4 listenings, I would have given 4 stars, but now it has grown on me considerably. I will give it 5, a standard for Mark's huge talent."
Audibly Soothing...Visually Stunning
sacflies | Raleigh, NC USA | 01/03/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I've dug Mark Knopfler ever since "Sultans of Swing" and like a fine wine...well, I don't know much about wine...but Mr. Knopfler is definitely growing even better with age. "The Ragpicker's Dream" is proof positive of this. Fantastic album that grows on you with each listen. Don't expect the second coming of Dire Straits here. This is a different Mark Knopfler. A fusion of folk, rock and country with a touch of blues and a dash of humor all with an ole time feel. Mr. Knopfler has become quite the storyteller through his songs. It is a very "visual" album and it does not take much effort to visualize the people and places that his lyrics lead you. His quitar may have mellowed a bit over the years but it has not lost any of its impact and has picked up a sort of understated beauty...the man knows his way around a fret board. Beautiful stuff to listen to. And that voice...grown finer still over the years...soothing and charming as ever...and now you believe even more that voice knows from which it is speaking.This album will charm you. If at first you don't quite get it give it a few more turns and it will begin to become clear that Mr. Knopfler has got it going on. It will leave you with a good positive feeling despite its low key, understated feel and at the same time perhaps a bit of a tear in your eye that it is over. That is quickly remedied by another spin through this wonderful collection of tunes.Dig through the rubble and pick up "The Ragpicker's Dream"."