It took a pandemic to interrupt the expansion of Mark Knopfler's bespoke catalogue, but happily, his "where were we?" moment has reached fruition with the release of his tenth solo album, One Deep River.

The last time we heard from the master songwriter and guitar inspiration on record was with 2018's typically dexterous Down The Road Wherever, about which Rolling Stone spoke admiringly of "the sensitive English balladeer with a knack for writing about the haunting, pervasive effects of memory and remembrance."

The album was followed by a 2019 tour that played to more than half a million people and culminated at New York's Madison Square Garden, in a show featuring a cameo by opening guest Bonnie Raitt. Then, within months, as for all of us, down came the shutters.

But all the while Knopfler was away from his worldwide audience, he was, as always, adding new pages to his expansive songbook. Then came the joyful day, like the best first day of term ever, when he was reunited with his hand-picked crew of fellow musical travellers, at Mark's beloved British Grove Studios.

One Deep River is Knopfler's sixth album in a row, from 2007's Kill To Get Crimson onwards, to be recorded at the studio that he regards among the greatest of his achievements. As he always tells friends, every day there is a good day, and under the production guidance of Knopfler himself and his collaborator of 40-plus years, Guy Fletcher, British Grove played host to Mark's latest compendium of peerless songcraft.

As longtime compadres gathered at their favourite Chiswick address, virtuoso team members such as Richard Bennett, Jim Cox, Danny Cummings and Glenn Worf would later confess to some slight nervousness at the prospect of being together again for the first time in so long. New team member Greg Leisz, hand-picked by Mark to add pedal and lap steel and acoustic guitar, would have felt that most of all.

But any such worries were out of the window the minute these brilliant musicians picked up their instruments.

"It's been a long process, this one, hasn't it?" says Knopfler reflectively. "For obvious reasons, patience has been required, just because of Covid lockdowns. I love working on my own, and I love working at home and writing the songs. But you live for the days when the band are together. Being held up doesn't bother me, but nothing's quite like having a man in every corner of the room."

Once the coffee was on and everyone had gathered in the studio, Mark would often play the outline of a new composition to the assembled A-team. Then away they went, let loose to add their own vivid colours to this broadest of palettes.

"Everybody's listening to everybody else and you're playing off each other a little bit," he explains. "So being sensitive to what the other person is doing is an important part of playing and the vibe of the band. To counter that, I love being in British Grove just with Guy and we're just meandering along, the two of us. But everybody will tell you that there's nothing like the band, and and of course it's developed over many years."

Jim Cox joked that the other bonus of the reunion was that they all had two more years of jokes to share. "I think the sense of humor is the most important thing," says Knopfler. "When we're playing live and we're walking out onto the stage, usually I've got sore ribs from laughing so much in the dressing room, because the jokes have been so thick and fast."

Back at British Grove, the new material soon had a healthy pulse. Notes Mark: "It was back to the old-fashioned idea of a band making a record together in the room, which maybe in the more youth-oriented side of the industry has become quite rare, because everyone uses loads of technology. We do too, but what we do is we combine the old and the new. If it works, I use it.

"With these songs, you can see them coming together very quickly, with a band like this," he goes on. "You're in a game where you're making the thing and it's happening whether you like it or not. You could push the pace, but I try and give myself a little bit more breathing room. The fatal thing a lot of the time would be to want to rush everything. Something creative always happens by not panicking."

With that unerring approach, One Deep River offers an unstoppable flow of future Knopfler classics, with their customarily learned lyrics and refined guitar textures. They draw on a lifetime of genre-crossing ingredients and influences in blues, folk, rock and beyond, and as usual, reveal their charms with unhurried grace and depth.

Devotees and newcomers will have their early favourites, perhaps including the funky opener 'Two Pairs Of Hands,' inspired by a story shared by percussionist Danny Cummings about a memorable malapropism; the classic riffing of 'Ahead Of The Game'; the country swing of 'Smart Money': the gripping storytelling of 'Scavengers Yard,' 'Tunnel 13' and others; the closing nod to his beloved Tyne on 'One Deep River,' and the list goes on.

The title track reflects Knopfler's deep affection for the river that ran through not just through his childhood, but his whole life. "Crossing the Tyne is always on your mind," he says. "It's what you were doing when you were leaving as a youngster and that feeling is always the same every time you do it. You're heading out or you're coming back, and it just connects with your childhood. The power of it doesn't go away."

'Ahead Of The Game' has plenty to do with Mark's own apprenticeship as a performing musician. "It all goes back to bands playing live," he says. "In some way, I was thinking about Nashville, because when I first went out there, it must have been in the early '80s and all the bands in the bars downtown were playing the hits. And that's fine.

"What I was trying to say is that's an achievement to actually get to a place where you've got employment, and you've got yourself a gig. I mean, statistically, what are the odds of making it? If you stopped to think about that, you'd hardly take a step further, would you?

"'Two Pairs of Hands' would just be a song trying to explain what it's like coping with all of the info and trying to collate everything when you're standing in the middle of the stage with a huge band. You've got a big audience around you and you're just trying to process all of this stuff at the same time."

'Tunnel 13' is a new example of Knopfler's eye and ear for a gripping yarn, an instinct that goes back to his journalistic training in the years before Dire Straits became one of the biggest bands in the world. Reminiscent of his telling of the story of adventurers Mason and Dixon in 'Sailing To Philadelphia,' it centres on the real-life Western tale of a train robbery staged in the Siskiyou Mountains in 1923.

The song's bridge to modern times is skilfully constructed, since the redwood used in the construction of the 'Tunnel 13' at the scene of that century-old crime became one of the most treasured woods in the making of the flat-top guitars that Knopfler reveres so much.

Those and a hundred other carefully-curated lyrical and musical details all go towards making One Deep River a new landmark in what is, for all of his innate modesty, a uniquely storied career. Says Knopfler of his undimmed motivation: "I've never heard a better definition of it since Gillian Welch told me one day: 'All I want to do is write a good song and make a good record of it.' Those two things sum it up for me."

For more information, please contact Krista Williams or Carla Sacks at Sacks & Co., 212.741.1000.