August 2005

John Prine - Fair & Square
Oh Boy Records OBR-034
Format: CD
Released: 2005

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

As a mailman, John Prine makes a fine singer/songwriter. For over 30 years Prine has been delivering as one of the foremost reporters on the trials and tribulations of human existence. But after a recent brush with the ultimate postmaster general (a bout with throat cancer), he’s taken a few steps back to re-evaluate.

Until now.

Fair & Square is Prine’s first album of newly penned material in ten years, and it is a triumphant return. The CD contains his best song since "Sam Stone." In "Other Side of Town," he sings of a man being berated by his wife, while in his mind, he’s across town drinking beer. Another, "Some Humans Ain’t Human," contains the lines "Have you ever noticed/when you’re feeling really good/there’s always a pigeon/that’ll come shit on your hood?" Only John Prine could find within this simple occurrence the sum total of life -- not always pretty, but usually entertaining.

Since starting Oh Boy Records to ensure control of his songs, Prine has been leaning more toward a Nashville sound, and Fair & Square continues that trend. Sonically it is of better-than-average quality. It’s a bit flat, but demonstrates a decent tonal balance.

But you won’t be buying this album as demo material. You’ll be buying it to hear what one of our pre-eminent singer/songwriters has to say about life today. Thanks, John, and welcome back. We’ve missed you.