Mark Knopfler, ‘I Used to Could’ – Song Premiere
Mark Knopfler‘s long-awaited double-disc ‘Privateering’ album is finally coming out in the U.S. on Sept. 10. You don’t have to wait that long for a sneak peek at the record, though: we’re premiering one song, ‘I Used to Could,’ right here at UCR.
“It is about an invitation to join a ship’s company, if you like,” Knopfler told the Daily Telegraph last year when asked about the album’s title. “I feel as though it kind of relates to me, certainly in terms of touring. I get a buzz out of having this little group of people that sallies forth across the world. I enjoy being in command of it, the band, the crew, traveling through this ever-changing landscape and playing in all these different places. A privateer is what I am, really.”
The new 20-track set represents a veritable outpouring of new material from the former Dire Straits guitarist, who’s never been afraid to take his time between releases — or whittle them down to abbreviated length when necessary. But now, he says, “I’m almost tripping over songs…The older I get, the more I want to write. Whether that is just panic at time running out, I’m not sure.”
Longtime fans will not be surprised to learn that there’s no audible panic in ‘I Used to Could’ — or in the rest of ‘Privateering,’ which finds Knopfler returning to what he calls “portrait songs” and “situation songs.” As he explained to the Daily Telegraph, “The Sultans of Swing are playing, and there’s nobody in the pub except a guy playing pool, but you are there observing, or there’s a store with TV screens playing videos and the delivery man is complaining about rock stars and you are into ‘Money For Nothing.’ Other times, I could be reading a book and traveling and there is a collision of time and place, ‘Telegraph Road’ or ‘Sailing to Philadelphia,’ there’s a geography to the thing.”
Overall, Knopfler says ‘Privateering’ exists at that spot on the musical map where “the Mississippi Delta meets the River Tyne,” and that’s reflected in ‘I Used to Could,’ which boogies over a standard blues progression, with barrelhouse piano and a fat harmonica riff to complement Knopfler’s customarily tasteful guitar licks. Sung from the vantage point of an old cruiser looking back on his glory days, the song finds its narrator remembering “All those horses underneath the hood” before admitting, “I don’t do it no more, but I used to could.”
Fortunately for us, Mark Knopfler’s still doing what he does best — and as ‘I Used to Could’ capably demonstrates, he hasn’t lost his touch. Check it out below.
Hear Mark Knoplfer’s ‘I Used to Could’