John Prine

Fair and Square – 2005 (Oh Boy)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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John Prine's first album of new original songs in nine years has a mostly folk sound, full of acoustic guitars with the occasional accordion and harmonica thrown in. "Morning Train" is a sultry song with an organ, low steel guitar, and fantastic background vocals from Mindy Smith. Overall, the songs are good, but not great - many of the lyrics are mundane, although there are some creative highlights.

"She Is My Everything," a sweet love featuring the line, "If I get lost you can always find her standing right beside me in the rain," is a standout. Lest the song get too sentimental, Prine also manages to rhyme "everybody" with "Maserati" and throws in a line about his love's Eveready batteries. One of two bonus tracks is a live rendition of "The Other Side of Town," a hilarious song about a guy who manages to achieve a Zen-like state of detachment when his wife is on his case. "My body's in this room with you just catchin' hell, but my soul is drinking beer down the road a spell," Prine sings, with a hint of laughter in his voice.

"Fair and Square" might not measure up to the high hopes of Prine's longtime fans who have waited nearly a decade for this release, but it's an enjoyable collection of songs nonetheless.