John Prine – Standard Songs For Average People (With Mac Wiseman)

A double down on the theme of being really old, this is an album of twangy country covers with an 82 year-old tenor crooner. They’re all covers this time, and they’re all done in an extremely old fashioned 40s/50s style, so your main use for this one may well be to play over images of post-apocalyptic landscapes.

They’re all good tunes, but a good two-thirds of them are love songs or songs about Jesus, and you know how songs from the 50s songs matched up to the complicated lyrics that we listeners are accustomed to. And there’s no “In Spite Of Ourselves” to be found to bail out the record when it gets a bit much. And it’s a lot much. I dig the whimsical ones, namely “Don’t Be Ashamed Of Your Age” and “Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine,” but I can’t abide by this recording as a whole. Or even as most of its constituent parts. There are even some lounge tunes with dobro.

It makes me feel like a jerk because the performances and the fact that he released a record of covers of old country songs makes it obvious how much he loves these songs, and the two of them don’t do a bad job of performing them, but it’s not for me. Maybe when I’m 60 and up. And what’s with all the backing vocals? Like a county fair in here.

 

4/10

 

LIVE: IN PERSON AND ON STAGE

 

Oh boy, another live album. I have about as much left to say as, I don’t know, John Prine. He’s still trying to belt out the tunes, but the pipes are going even if the tunes aren’t. Everything’s in a way lower registry, half the songs are shoehorned into duettism to help him rest a bit, and even the strumming still sluggish and old.

The song selection’s not the best here, either. Twelve songs, and four of them are from “Fair and Squaure,” which is both fair and square but also not my favourite selection (especially since one of them is “She Is My Everything” – nice that you love your wife, but I don’t). There’s also the tossed-off rockabilly version of “Spanish Pipedream” that he’s been opening his shows with as of late-period live albums, and “In Spite Of Ourselves” with Iris Demint turning her twang knob to full hick for some reason, and a sludgy rock version of “Saddle in the Rain,” and none of those yank my crank.

You know, John Prine’s not a complainer, and I appreciate that. I personally am a complainer, and it’s annoying, but it makes me feel better when I’m upset so I do it, but I’m not writing songs complaining, so there’s that. And I’m not complaining about my status in life, unlike an irritatingly large contingent of internet people apparently convinced that being white guys in North America is the worst thing that could’ve happened to them. You probably know who I’m talking about. If you don’t then just wait, they’re simmering bitterly beneath the lid of respectable society and you’ll hear from them soon enough. The most annoying thing about these people is that these were the same people who, two years ago, were libertarians telling everyone else to stop complaining. They expected other people to stop playing the woman card and stop playing the minority card and stop being victims. But now, as soon as they find a way that they can be the victims it’s a total 180 on the value of having a persecution complex and we should all take care of their comparatively minor issues. I know it feels nice to be part of something antithetical, but you can do far more by being a decent person. Of course, they’re not interested in being decent people; they’re interested in getting theirs. Well, here’s the thing: you’ve already got yours from the stork. That’s why you don’t get to play oppression olympics. It’s going to be alright. Your confirmation bias isn’t a pressing concern to the intelligent society you so desperately want to be a party to. No conclusion to paragraph!

On the plus side, it’s not as though the new songs are all bad (“Long Monday” in particular is pretty nice, just unspecial), and Josh Ritter (of all people) and John do a great slow version of “Mexican Home” that show the song for the sad tale that it always should have been. John’s still got some good stories (particularly one about being a mailman and hating Reader’s Digest, and one about why he doesn’t like writing collaborative songs) and he’s still charming when he delivers them. But really, this album is about what it sounds like to get older. At least, what I’ll sound like when I get older provided my ol’ eye tumours don’t decide to spread to my brain for no good reason before I’m 60. There you are, singing songs about how much you love your wife, scratchy voice, telling the same old stories. Only, of course, I’ll be far less wealthy and talented, so there’s also that.

The days of Prine are almost over. Great sadness! I’ll miss my daily installment of person with a soul. At least, I thought I would until he unexpectedly goes on a rant about how your flag decal DOES get you into heaven and you should be an accepting Republican. But seriously, what’s the deal with people who vote Republican? If they’re people, how come they vote Republican? Part of me is still filled with childlike incredulity that people would support people who are bad for both themselves and humanity. Aging is partly the process of accepting each other’s incompetence.

5/10

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