Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris
Real Live Roadrunning
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2007, Volume 14, #1
Written by John Metzger
The performances on Real Live Roadrunning, the latest collaboration between Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris, are impeccable. Nevertheless, the set remains a flawed affair. The reason is simple: its songs and their arrangements are too redundant with the studio renditions that graced All the Roadrunning to appeal to a broad audience. In fact, no fewer than seven tracks from the latter effort are replicated on the CD and DVD that form the basis of Real Live Roadrunning, and the differences among the tracks are mostly subtle.
Done with Bonaparte, for example, is rendered with a little extra spring in its step, while the blues-y undercurrents to Right Now are augmented only slightly. Elsewhere, Red Staggerwing’s fiddle accompaniment is, perhaps, a tad looser and more organic than before, and This Is Us opens with an incendiary guitar interlude that quickly dissipates, leaving behind a lovely, piano-driven refrain. In other words, although Knopfler and Harris alternate moods enough to keep things interesting, none of the newly minted concert recordings finds the kind distinctive personality that would allow it to surpass its predecessor.
Not surprisingly, then, the true highlights of Real Live Roadrunning are the revitalized selections that were culled from the solo works of Knopfler and Harris. Although Romeo and Juliet differs only slightly from the renditions that Knopfler has been performing since his days fronting Dire Straits, it nonetheless sounds remarkably fresh as he fills the song with more passion, conviction, sorrow, and yearning than he has in years. Likewise, Speedway at Nazareth slowly builds in intensity until it becomes a rush of guitar and organ, while the Dylan-esque refrains of Song for Sonny Liston are baked in a minimalist arrangement that effectively pits electric guitar against acoustic bass and skittering percussion. As for Harris, she not only unleashes a tenderhearted reading of Red Dirt Girl, but she also joins Knopfler to deliver a stunningly beautiful version of Dire Straits’ Why Worry. Understandably, in transforming their work for the stage, Knopfler and Harris were forced to swap subtlety for zeal, but as the accompanying video makes clear, they still succeeded in retaining the charming intimacy that made All the Roadrunning such a superlative collection in the first place. ˝
Real Live Roadrunning is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box