I’ve just finished listening to Mark Knopfler’s new CD, Get Lucky. His guitar work, voice and lyrics have always resonated with me. And this one as much as any since Sultans of Swing (was it really 32 years – half a lifetime – ago).
I suspect my softest spot has always been for the folk rock thing – at least that form of it exemplified by the early electric Dylan, and that reached its peak with the Grateful Dead on Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty and of course Music From The Big Pink.
Which is why I suppose that Ry Cooder is my desert island artist. I could listen to I, Flathead forever. And while listening to Get Lucky, that’s what I kept being reminded of. Songs about ordinary, nameless, invisible men, songs about music(ians), songs about work, songs about putting one foot in front the other. Songs of haunting bittersweet melancholy.
Which is when I started thinking about Paul Kelly. Not the gun guitarist that the other two are, but, at least to my uneducated ear, very similar obsessions, both in terms of investing rock’n’roll with the layers of musics from other times and places (or is it the other way around?), and of writing songs from the underworld.
Perhaps I’m just a sad old man, and identify with music from other sad old men (as soon as this occurred to me I started finding others – Leonard Cohen, Nick Lowe, Dylan, Levon Helm, JJ Cale – there’s a lot of them).
But it’s not that they are sad so much as accepting of their lot. It’s not self-effacing or self pitying (or when it is, it’s always with a an ironic twist). One thing’s clear – it is very male – this is men’s music, but perhaps post-feminist men’s music. Seems to be the very opposite of macho.
Don’t know why I’m writing this really; I’m certainly no music critic. But I was very moved by Get Lucky and this is my outlet – and it’s certainly a matter of culture.
Anyway, now I’m going to listen again to Cohen’s Live in London – ‘there’s a hole in everything, that’s how the light gets in’.