John Prine – Sweet Revenge

I’d better make this quick, because I’m making a dinner of double fakery: fake chicken breasts made a la Chick Fil-A, which I wouldn’t eat at even if I ate meat due to their abhorrently public anti-gay stance. I’ll show you, bigots and factory farm supporters, with my personal choice that affects next to nothing!

This album is maybe the happiest you’ll ever see John Prine, and happy suits him well. This is much more country-rock than the last, more folky albums. Nearly every song here has at least some kind of rhythm section going on. He’s so happy in the opening title track that it borders on snarky. Nevertheless, the last three songs are probably the best three-song stretch of Prine’s career: “Please Don’t Bury Me” is a cheerful, catchy ode to organ donation that’s touching and amusing. Then “Christmas in Prison” keeps up the ol’ Prine tradition of compassion for the weak with a touching ode to being in the slammer and missing your lover out of it. Then “Dear Abby” is a funny live song that manages to send up both people seeking advice from advice columnists and the advice columnists themselves (all get the exact same advice – “You are what you are / And you ain’t you ain’t”). All three are classics, carried by lyrics that manage to hit their exact emotional impact with help from Prine’s twangy matter-of-faction.

The rest of the album is generally filler, which is a shame, but it’s such gosh darned enjoyable filler that you won’t mind. “Grandpa Was A Carpenter” has even become something of a standard in its own right as a bluegrass ode to being an old-fashioned honourable man. Where a jerkoff like Charlie Daniels might play it for admonition, the song works because of Prine’s cheerful lack of judgement. Elsewhere, “Onomatopoeia,” “Often is A Word I Seldom Use” translate their good titles into likable toe-tappers, “Mexican Home” is a great sad song hidden behind an upbeat keyboard riff, and “The Accident (Things Could Be Worse”) has a nice moral way down, even if I’m not nuts about including “raped by a minority” among a list of things that could be worse. Really, only the lighter-than-Milan-Kundera’s-bieng cover of “Nine Pound Hammer” and the two earnest first-person acoustic love songs really bore up the place.

This is the last album of the early Prine times, so get in while you can. At the least don’t miss the big three.

8/10

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