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Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris

All the Roadrunning (Warner Bros./Nonesuch)

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Emmylou Harris has made a career of saving the asses of lesser singers, but in Mark Knopfler, she faces a Herculean task. He's not a miserable vocalist; he's merely inconsequential, which isn't really a problem when you're one of the shrewdest guitar players ever to don a headband. The two recorded their first duet album in stolen moments over seven years, with Harris writing two tunes and Knopfler penning the rest. From the eerie Katrina premonition of "Beachcombing" to the Celtic rounder anthem of the title track, Knopfler raids the Anglo-American folk songbook for melodic and narrative form. The results are more personal than PBS, even when he's digging in a mine for diamonds (it's a metaphor) or just singing of wedded bliss on "This Is Us," a tune so catchy and trite it could be a Kodak jingle if it weren't for the dense layering of guitars. Building on the acoustic base and shadowy reverb of the Daniel Lanois mood-roots model, the pair aim for an expert, adult sound. And really, what's wrong with a record both you and your parents will love?

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