For Better, or Worse
Oh Boy Records
Founding Father of Alt. Country Has Fun On Some Classic Country Duets.
This album appears to have come right out of the blue for not just me and you but John Prine too.
While putting together the vinyl release of his previous album of duets, In Spite of Ourselves (1999) his wife and son suggested he record some new ones to fill the fourth side of the double album. So pleased with the ensuing six songs, more singing partners were sought and this is the result; and he must have some special address book judging by the names on this album.
The album opens with a delicious slice of Old School Country when one of his ‘oldest’ (as in longest) friends Iris Dement joins him on Who’s Gonna Take The Garbage Out? The two bounce of each other like George and Tammy at their very best and even if the rest of the album was disappointing; it would be worth buying just for this song alone……but its not.
To some degree the elderly statesman of Americana has never sounded better than on songs like this one and Mr. & Mrs. Used To Be also alongside Iris Dement; as he has finally ‘grown into’ his trademark gravelly voice.
One of the songs that ‘got me into Country Music’ was Elvis Costello’s version of Colour of the Blues on Almost Blue; and over the years I must have heard another dozen versions but none as bittersweet at this version where Prine is joined by the ever wonderful Susan Tedeschi.
Perhaps it’s my age, or where I am in my life but a couple of songs somehow managed to overwhelm me on first listening. I’ve always been a sucker for a good love song; but wasn’t expecting to be so effected by the way his voice and Kathy Mattea’s intertwine so well on Remember Me and Dreaming My Dreams, which also features some stinging guitar and a haunting harmonica. Both are great songs in their own rite, but here the couple seem to find a new resonance in the way they structure the lyrics.
This disc may be John Prine’s ‘swansong’ , as he’s not getting any younger but the way he interacts with Miranda Lambert on the hoary old Cold, Cold Heart and Miss Amanda Shires on Dim Lights, Thick Smoke it proves there is more than a little bit of life left in the old dog yet!
I’ve only had time to listen to the album three times so far; but this is a winner from the get go….and on that very first listen I fell in love with two songs, and both are at opposite ends of the Country spectrum.
First is the intricately beautiful Falling in Love Again alongside Alison Krauss; which shows off the great man’s sensitive side in a way I didn’t expect and then towards the end the latest Princess of Country Kacey Musgraves helps John get his ‘Honky Tonk on’ with a swinging version of the long forgotten Buck Owens and Rose Maddox song Mental Cruelty; taking a song that’s over 55 years old and making it as relevant in 2016 as it was the day it was written.
The album comes to a close with John Prine doing what John Prine does best; him all alone on a confessional ‘talking Blues’ Just Waitin.’
That song has made me want to dip back into his back catalogue for the first time in years; but the other 14 songs have me waiting with baited breath for a follow up album of yet more Classic Country songs be given the same loving and charming treatment, and if I can make a suggestion or two….I’d love to hear John duet with Neko Case, Kelly Hogan and especially Laura Cantrell.
Just a thought….but a bloody good one!
Released USA 30th September 2016
Released Europe ?????