Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, one of the world’s top rock guitarists, got tired of the glitz. So he retreated to his home studio in London’s Notting Hill Gate and, with three buddies, recorded this tribute to the American South.
Hence The Notting Hillbillies, the band’s punning name. Hence the album’s contents: old songs, borrowed songs, blues songs, folk and popular songs that might not be familiar now but years ago would have been sung in the hills or heard on the radio. (There are also a few new songs, which in this context have the virtue of not sounding new.)
The whole project must have been a labor of love. Certainly it was executed with glowing professional skill. But soon the songs seem to disappear in the glow. So maybe what Knopfler and the boys have come up against are the limits of professionalism. They have the skill to do absolutely anything they want – and, despite all its beauty and care, the result comes out sounding like superior Muzak. C+