wed 28/02/2024

CD: John Prine - For Better, Or Worse | reviews, news & interviews

CD: John Prine - For Better, Or Worse

CD: John Prine - For Better, Or Worse

An almanack of historical pleasures from the country songbook

The old ones are the best ones: John Prine's 'For Better, For Worse'

John Prine was once touted, along with every other gravelly young huckster with a guitar, as the new Dylan. If this latest release is any indication, he’s more like the new George Jones. For Better, Or Worse is an anthology of classic country duets by the likes of Jones and other deities of the Grand Ole Opry. Prine has revisited them accompanied by a sorority of Nashville’s rootsiest songbirds to parry and spar in break-up songs and make-up songs.

Prine did something similar with In Spite of Ourselves in 1999. This follow-up is another almanack of historical pleasures. They include George Jones’s mournful “Color of the Blues”, sung with Susan Tedeschi, and Buck Owens’s courtroom barney “Mental Cruelty” (with Kacey Musgraves, who once wrote a song called "John Prine", giving as good as she gets). With the luminous Iris DeMent he exhumes “Mr and Mrs Used To Be”, first sung by Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn. “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (and Loud, Loud Music)", here revisited with Amanda Shires, was once recorded by bluegrass totems Flatt & Scruggs. The newest song is Vince Gill's "Look at Us" from 1991. Prine's version with Morgane Stapleton dispenses with the gloop of the original (see video overleaf).

There are choice exceptions too. "Storms Never Last", sung with Lee Ann Womack, is by Jessi Coulter, one of two songs written by women. The other is "I'm Tellin' You", recorded by Audrey Williams in 1949 and here with her granddaughter Holly Williams. Prine and Alison Krauss prettily croon “Falling in Love Again”, best known for the Dietrich version. 

In the spirit of the perky originals, the lyrics veer between cornball romance and the flinging of kitchen implements, but the melodic tone is mostly one of chortling levity. With Miranda Lambert Prine even sounds cheerful on Hank Williams’s “Cold, Cold Heart”. And why shouldn’t he? He sings the enchanting Forties love duet “My Happiness” with Fiona Prine, the third Mrs P. This marriage of Prine and the great country songbook is made in heaven.


The lyrics veer between cornball romance and the flinging of kitchen implements, but the tone is never anything but jaunty


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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