Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris

Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris

All the Roadrunning

(Mercury Records)

Emmylou Harris' pure country voice and Mark Knopfler's sweet-toned guitar and Geordie growl combine so well it makes you wonder why they never got together before.

In fact, the album has been several years in the making, with sessions snatched here and there whenever Harris could hook up with Knopfler and his band.

It should be no surprise that it works well. Knopfler's trademark guitar style has always owed plenty to Harris' first two Hot Band instrumental stars, James Burton and Albert Lee, and both principals have a gift for singing duets.

Both are also painstaking and meticulous artists. Knopfler's songwriting, never less than respectable, has improved as his record sales have declined from the gargantuan volumes he used to move as the leader of Dire Straits.

Harris, who has yet to make a bad album, has always had a gift for picking songs that suit her, as all of these do. She has brought just two of her own to this project - Love and Happiness and Belle Starr - and they're among the best.

Knopfler contributes the other 10, a series of philosophical reflections from a middle-aged perspective on men and women and how they do or don't get along.

Dreams and disillusionment, hopes and memories, are all lightly sketched in the lyrics, with a deeper subtext to be heard in the two mature voices, harmonising and alternating lines.

The opener, Beachcombing, is particularly strong, and people who liked the rockier Dire Straits tunes will enjoy Right Now, while Donkey Town wouldn't be out of place in a Notting Hillbillies set.

This is an album of many moods, but without a duff track. They continue to tour together and a live album or DVD would be a fine idea.