Mark Knopfler: Get Lucky (Reprise) 

Each release from ex-Dire Straits mastermind Mark Knopfler secures his rep as a classic songwriter—at the expense of his ranking as a guitarist.

Knopfler's sixth solo effort, Get Lucky, is his best in terms of his material, yet it's his weakest fret-board effort. It's a tradeoff that many will accept given the cinematic language in the song "So Far From the Clyde," which details the ship-breaking of a vessel forged in Glasgow, Scotland (along the River Clyde): "They swarm on her carcass / with torches and axes / Like a whale on the bloody shoreline."

Other great songs about Knopfler's hardscrabble youth include "Border Reiver," a sketch of the work of a lorry driver, and "Before Gas and TV," which eulogizes the way people entertained themselves, with a simple guitar and a fireplace, prior to 20th-century comforts that mean we no longer have to learn how to sing music.

It's simplistic to say Get Lucky is Knopfler's working-class paean, but it's not inaccurate. For him, the past was better; folks cared for what they built with their hands, whether it was an archtop guitar ("Monteleone") or a Ford Cobra ("The Car Was the One"). This idea is hard to accept in our Disposable Age, but Knopfler puts it all to pleasing music that's rich in instrumentation (flutes, whistles, strings).

As the album art (photos of Las Vegas neon) suggests, life is chance; only workmanship gives us control.

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