Monday, May 26, 2008

Kill To Get Crimson

My life has been greatly enriched by listening to the music of Mark Knopfler. I have been on to him since the mid-nineties, when I first heard his Golden Heart album, and discovered a former rock star who could actually think. Wonder of wonders! This man reads! Then I listened again to the Dire Straits stuff he did in the eighties and discovered I had not been listening very closely. His whole body of work is full of stuff that Christians should be listening to, rather than the drivel on the (sub)christian radio station.

I listened again to Kill To Get Crimson today as I was driving down to Three Hills. What a superb album! It seems to me there are not many musicians who can build a thematic album, let alone to develop their theme in such a way that their music is the perfect fit for the songs, but Mark Knopfler is a master at it.

The singer of the songs is old, an old man, (and once an old lady) reflecting on various happenings in his life. He is not the same man from song to song, but he has a long history in all of them. Knopfler is able to get himself inside the head of someone in the latter portions of his life, and to sing his story. There are hardly any moments of great energy (though the one with the accordion and clarinet in Heart Full Of Holes is a great moment.), but there is a good bit of quiet beauty, and some quiet ugliness too, in Behind With The Rent.

I remember the officers watch in my hands
Repair it or die, I was told
It's a wonder to me, I still don't understand
Why I ever survived to be old
With a heart full of holes

He remembers learning to waltz as a twelve year old, under the dreaded tutelage of MacIntyre, an old army commander-turned-teacher. It's funny...

One, two three, Two two... we're all a disgrace
MacIntyre tore us apart
And we danced with ourselves when we all found a space...
Waltzing with fear in our hearts
Waltzing with fear in our hearts

He recalls what it was like for an artist in the late nineteen thirties, with the pressure to go to war and bury the gifts that he had for the common good...

Get a job with a pension
And don't ever mention
You once had a craving for the brushes and paints
So go, forget it, let it all go, let it all go
Go, forget it, let it all go, let it all go.

This is a masterful album. Are there other artists of Knopflers' quality and status in the music world who are doing these kinds of things? It is a delight to me that Knopfler has the vision to write through the eyes of the old, and to beautify and dignify the aged in this way. He has done this for several albums now. Sailing To Philadelphia was about the discovery of America, both early and recent; The Ragpickers Dream was, by and large, a bums-eye-view of life, and it was set in the early twentieth century. All The Roadrunning (with Emmylou Harris) is a travelling, road of life album. Now Kill To Get Crimson does life through the eyes of age, with music that is both aged and very finely crafted.

Putting yourself in someone elses shoes and seeing from their perspective is a good way to gain understanding of that person; it is also a good way to keep you from thinking about yourself all the time. Christian musicians need to learn this lesson, cause we are really stuck on ourselves and how we feel and how we think.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for Mark Knopfler, for the great gifts You have given him and have caused him to share. If he is one of Yours, thank You! And if he is not, would You please change that situation and make him one of Yours?


Country Gardener said...

So nice to see Mark Knopfler written about with real appreciation for his current work. I'm a big fan. He's aged really well, and I'm so glad he still tours. Will be seeing him in Toronto in July on his KTGC tour. See for more.

John said...

Jamie, my inlaws are going to see Mark Knopfler on June 29 at the Britt Festival in Jacksonville, which is just outside Medford. Alas, I don't think I can afford the tickets....

John said...

By the way, I just checked Knopfler's official webpage and discovered that he's going to be in Edmonton on July 7.

Unfortunately, even a balcony would cost you $81.00. =(

Jamie said...

Hey, John,

I checked yours in Jacksonville, but it was sold out...

In Edmonton for main floor is $121 per ticket. Hey! If I charged that, I would only need 10 people to come to my concert and I would count myself as wildly successful...

Jamie said...

Hey, Country Gardener!

How did you run across my blog?

I've read a good number of reviews of Kill To Get Crimson, and very few of them get it. Folks are not used to sticking themselves in someone else's shoes, so they can't grasp it when they watch someone doing it...

Anonymous said...

It's nice to see it when others share your appreciation for a particular artist. I'm a fairly young fan (25) but grew up listening to Dire Straits. My whole family now loves Mark Knopfler's solo work as well.
To echo John: if only I could afford the tickets!