John Prine – Fair and Square

Gather round, kids, as Uncle Prine relaxes in his reclining chair and tells you some more stories of folksy wisdom. At least he’s a happy old man; really this is the expected trajectory of the last few studio albums. This is his first in ten years, and while he’s still a consummate live performer, lyrically he’s getting increasingly doddering and musically increasingly calm and boring.

Actually, some humor is left, it’s just strangely confined to the two “bonus tracks” at the end – a poignant story about a guy who fantasizes he’s somewhere else while his wife berates him and a song about being too concerned with safety that has Prine and the studio musicians giggling throughout, but the album proper is both serious and trite. Prine’s still got some amused charm, but he wastes it on rambling about the beauty of true love, complaining about the Iraq war, a Kinkade portrait of an idealized small town, “I’m taking a walk / I’m going outside / I’m watching the birds / I don’t need a ride” – riveting stuff! He’s never been more subdued, although there’s a great, lively Rankin Family cover that stands out and a neat-o song called “Clay Pigeons” that’s a winner too, if not particularly catchy.

Don’t itch me badly, there’s no one I’d rather be bored by than John Prine. It’s still a fine album to listen to while you’re sitting on your back deck, but man is it ever senior music. The effort might be there, but with lyrics like “Constantinople is a might long word / Got three more letters than mockingbird” it’s sure hiding. But those two bonus tracks – hee!

My girlfriend and my roommate are both away for almost a week and I have even less to do than usual with my little evenings. This might be a nice bender, though it’ll more likely be a troubled, agitated bender.

6/10

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