Mark Knopfler Sailing to Philadephia

Thankfully, Dire Straits' front-man Mark Knopfler seems to stay a safe distance from the alluring need to be "contemporary"; a career plague that reeks of genericism, which ails many a classic rock veteran. Instead, the inventive songwriter and atypical guitarist sets the proverbial burner on "low," slowly creating what is a wonderfully tranquil and affable disc that proves he is at peace with himself and the world. There are no real fast-paced tracks, just drawn-out sweeps of raw country flavour backed with meaningfully introspective storytelling and soaked with genuine emotion. And along the way, chaps like James Taylor and Van Morrison join in to add a little something special to the mix. Not one ounce of bombast here, only fine storytelling and Knopfler's inspired guitar playing, which gently prods the flow throughout the album just enough to keep the fire comfortably burning all night long. (Universal)