John Prine

In Spite Of Ourselves – 1999 (Oh Boy)

Reviewed by Brian Steinberg

Even when he's not singing his own songs, John Prine manages to explore the world's inherent goofiness. And this time, love and the lack of it become fodder for ruminations built for two. All selections are duets, with Prine's singular sandpaper voice melding as best as possible with angelic tones from Iris DeMent (on four selections), Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, Patty Loveless, Connie Smith and Melba Montgomery.

The songs - written by Jack Clement, Kieran Kane and others - can take you from high to low in seconds. Just witness Dement and Prine finding love despite poverty in "(We're Not) The Jet Set," and then be careful not to let your ears burn on the saucy "Let's Invite Them Over," in which they consider swinging with their neighbors. Meanwhile, "It's A Cheating Situation" - sung in tandem with Dolores Keane - explores another side of the equation. We're lonely when we're together, and we long for more when we're lonely, Prine seems to be saying with his choice of songs here. And on his one original, the title track, he and Dement get downright raunchy with a tale of a couple who sniff panties and get horny by watching convict movies. Love, lust, loneliness - there's something here for everyone.