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Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris

All the Roadrunning (Warner Brothers/Nonesuch)


Emmylou Harris has made a career of saving the asses of lesser singers, but in Mark Knopfler she faces a Herculean task. He's not a miserable vocalist; he's merely inconsequential, which isn't really a problem when you're one of the shrewdest guitar players to ever wear a headband. The two recorded their first duet album in stolen moments over seven years, with Harris writing two tunes and Knopfler the rest. From the eerie Katrina premonition of "Beachcombing" to the Celtic rounder anthem of the title track, Knopfler has been raiding the Anglo-American folk songbook for melodic and narrative form. The results are more personal than PBS, even when he's digging in a mine for diamonds (it's a metaphor) or just singing of wedded bliss on "This Is Us," a tune so catchy and trite it could be a Kodak jingle, if it weren't for the dense warp and woof of the guitars. Building on the acoustic base and shadowy reverb of the Lanois mood-roots model, they're aiming for an expert, adult sound. But what's wrong with a record both you and your parents will love?