Sound — 9
Mark Knopfler, former frontman for Dire Straits, is on a winning streak with his solo career, which he first embarked on in 1995 after Dire Straits broke up. Last year's All the Roadrunning, which he did with Emmylou Harry, and their live album documenting their tour, Real Live Roadrunning, were solid efforts, both critically and commercially. On his latest album, Kill to Get Crimson, Knopfler ditches Harris, and the country-rock sound they created, for a more traditional folk-rock sound similar to some of Dire Straits' more relaxed songs. From the opener and first single, True Love Will Never, to the album's highlight, Punish the Monkey, and to the closer, In the Sky, Knopfler creates a landscape that is both familiar and a pleasure to visit. His graceful guitar playing, always the highlight of any Dire Straits album, can be found throughout Kill to Get Crimson, although he opts to use the less is more approach, which may disappoint some fans. If you are one of those fans, don't give up on the album right away because it does get better with each listen. It's one of those albums that slowly grows on you, even if it's disappointing at first, until you find yourself playing it every couple of days, marveling at all the subtle sounds and all the intricate guitar work when he does solo. You'll be glad you did, especially after you come to appreciate the haunting solo at the end of The Scaffolder's Wife. Knopfler may not rock out on Kill to Get Crimson, but that's probably one of the reasons he disbanded Dire Straits. He's done rocking and he wants to focus on songs rather than money for nothin' and chicks for free. By staying true to this new philosophy Knopfler will appeal to an older audience that is also looking for more than just a good rock jam.
Lyrics — 10
The sound may appeal more to an older audience, but everyone should appreciate the stories he offers in Kill to Get Crimson. Knopfler is a like a novelist that uses his genial baritone voice instead of written words to create memorable characters throughout this album. The aging painter in Let It All Go would kill to get crimson because of his love for colors, giving the album it's title. The story in Punish the Monkey could be interpreted in several different ways. The narrator, who may be a stockbroker, is in trouble at work because his boss has hung him out to dry, probably for something he didn't do. But he turns on his boss, who was his best friend, and drops his poison cup. It doesn't get any better than this. Knopfler writes lyrics that are a pleasure to listen to, ones that continue to provide entertainment and new meanings long after you've purchased the album.
Overall Impression — 10
It's a treat to listeners that Knopfer has returned to traditional folk rock after the Roadrunning albums. Those albums were very successful for Knopfler and sometimes success means more of the same thing. Don't get me wrong, because I do enjoy those albums, but the best artists are those that can jump from genre to genre and still maintain a high level of songwriting that will keep listeners interested. Kill to Get Crimson proves Knopfler, like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen, is one of these artists.