Classic rocker and guitar maestro Mark Knopfler ranks right up there with T Bone Burnett, Daniel Lanois and Ry Cooder when it comes to guest appearances and collaborations. Even before his band Dire Straits dissolved in the mid-'90s, Knopfler had already worked with some of rock's most highly revered artists, including Bryan Ferry, Van Morrison, Scott Walker, Steely Dan, Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott and mighty Bob Dylan.
Knopfler's time with Dylan is interesting, and rather infamous. The folk rock icon first asked Knopfler to contribute to 1979's Slow Train Coming. Yet the invite, according to Knopfler, failed to mention anything about the record being a collection of Christian songs! Four years later the two again teamed up for Infidels. This time around, however, Knopfler was more than a contributing musician; he was the producer as well. The sessions apparently were strained, and the album that was released (more polished, with an altered track list) differed significantly from the one Knopfler and Dylan had recorded. Opening our playlist is the version of "Blind Willie McTell" that Dylan cut from said track list while making several 11th-hour revisions without Knopfler's knowledge. Though Knopfler felt strongly enough to disown his contributions to Infidels, he has long considered "Blind Willie McTell" to be one of Dylan's most sublime tunes, and most Dylanites agree with him.
But not all of Knopfler's collaborations have been so tumultuous. In contrast, his extensive recordings with Nashville legend Chet Atkins and Americana diva Emmylou Harris seem to be born out of genuine friendship and admiration. The same can be said about much of his work in the country and folk fields, with artists like Iris Dement, The Notting Hillbillies, Tony Joe White and Nanci Griffith. These are definitely the singers and musicians Knopfler holds nearest and dearest to his heart.