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In Spite Of Ourselves (Oh Boy Records)
by Bob Mitchell
Prine likes country duets, so he asked nine of his favorite female singers to help on this project. They said 'yes,' and the rest is recorded history. This collection of cheatin' and retreatin' songs includes a lineup of some heavy hitters, including Emmylou Harris, Patty Loveless, Trisha Yearwood, Melba Montgomery, Iris DeMent and Connie Smith.
If you like "traditional" country music, you will love this CD. It is a great set of classics and new songs with a chance to become classics. For example, Kieran Kane's "In A Town This Size" has lyrics and melody that effectively remind would-be lovers that there is no safe place to steal a kiss or meet. (Kane also plays a pretty nice mandolin on this track.) It is the "old classics," however, that hold this project together. "Back Street Affair" with Patty Loveless is THE centerpiece and Sam Bush's fiddle makes it even sweeter. Melba Montgomery still knows how to belt out a tune and she is masterful with one of her best known works, "We Must Have Been Out of Our Minds." In the same vein, Connie Smith is right on target with "Loose Talk." Iris Dement is delightful in "We're Not The Jet Set."
The title cut, a Prine original, contains unnecessarily crude lyrics. It was a disappointment in the midst of so many good tunes.
Prine assembled a fine group of backup musicians. Some of the more outstanding work comes from Phil Parlapiano and Glen Hardin, (piano) and Buddy Emmons, Dan Dugmore and Al Perkins (pedal steel).
About ten years ago I was in Florida on business when a cab driver noticed my guitar case and asked, "Do you play guitar?" I wanted to say, "No, I just carry it around so the airlines can take turns loosing it or beating it to death." But, I was nice and said, "I try." The cabbie told me he also played and proceeded to tell me about a local nightspot that needed a singer. He made it through the tryouts until only he and another man were left. He did not think the other fellow sang all that well, but the other singer got the job. The driver then gave a hearty laugh and told me his competition had been John Prine! I do not know what the cabbie is doing these days but I do know that Prine is still singing. Give it a listen!
To learn more about Prine or get a copy of the CD contact Oh Boy Records, 1-800-521-2112. His website is www.ohboy.com