John Prine – For Better Or Worse
Bob, Laughing Lenny and JP, it’s hard to keep the young talent down, isn’t it?
‘For Better Or Worse’, a new studio album, a collection of classic country songs written or made popular by artists such as Hank Williams, George Jones, Ernest Tubbs, Buck Owens.
Recorded here as duets with a selection of female artists from country and roots music – Iris DeMent, Alison Krauss, Amanda Shires and others.
This is a sequel to the 1999 album ‘In Spite Of Ourselves’ which employed the same duet format.
What is unavoidable; let’s get it out of the way, is Mr Prine’s voice. Always a quirky one full of character, it has clearly suffered over the years is now even more unique. But isn’t that part of the charm ?
The playing of the musicians is top class, involving long-time Prine sidemen Jason Wilber, Dave Jacques and Mark Howard. Add in a handpicked few of Nashville’s finest session people such as Al Perkins on slide and dobro. Production by Jim Ronney is just so simple and pure.
The duets are great, two with Iris DeMent, two with Lee Ann Womack and Kathy Mattea. One each with Alison Kruss, Holly Williams, Morgane Stapleton, Amanda Shires,Miranda Lambert and one of my favourites the blues picker Susan Tedeschi. Plus a duet with Mrs Fiona Prine, who can sing with the best in this company. All great and a reminder of the quality song writing of some past masters.
There is a lot of humour in this starting with the wonderful photographs and packaging. The front cover features a young newly married couple sitting on a car fender. The rear features a somewhat more mature couple pictured from the rear leaning over a wall. The gatefold pictures are Mr and Mrs Prine looking across a recording studio at each other. Lovely picture.
For me, though the stand out track is the almost throwaway solo last one ‘Just Waiting’ by Hank Williams. Such a funny song and so like Prine’s own humour which makes his talent so unique.
The grooms just waitin’ for the June bride. And the June bride’s just waitin’ for June. Sunflowers waitin’ for the sunshine. Bees waitin’ for dew. Bees’ waitin’ for honey and, honey, I’m just waitin’ for you.
Ah what might Hank have done in his seventies ?
John Prine plays the Ulster Hall in April 2017, should be worth waitin’ for.