Thursday, December 20, 2012

In Spite of Ourselves

Thanks to the WayBack Machine, this was rescued from the Netherweb. Originally appeared on the Proud Truth Electric Web Site Jamboree. 

Early 2001. Dolly and Porter, George and Tammy, John Prine and Connie Smith (and John Prine and Dolores Keane and John Prine and Melba Montgomery) -- the lovebird duet is a one of the war horses of the county genre, and John Prine has breathed new life in the old beast in his recent outing with a host of partners. It's called In Spite of Ourselves. The CD is minus a Prine penning, except for one, but is nonetheless noteworthy. The selections are various and often touching. And the pairings are complementary pretty much across the board.
This marks a welcome return to the scene for Prine, who has recently battled illness. Although his throat was effected, his voice is like a shingled house a little more weathered now. Til a TearBecomes a Rose, When Two Worlds Collide, Milwaukee Here I Come, Back Street Affair, these are featured numbers, all country and intoned in heavenly guy and girl breaths.

Unreal in its sublime laggardliness is In a Town this Size, which is right up there with Kate and Anna's My Town, Iris D's Our Town, the Pogues' Dirty Old Town, Kieran Kane's This Dirty Little Town, and what the heck, Gene Pithney's Town without Pith, in picturing the cozy dead ends that artists tend to seek escape from.

In the interest of fairness to people with perfect pitch we note that Iris DeMent appears twice -- and Lucinda Williams appears once on a two-song medley -- on the CD. Forewarned should not be foreshortened, as John' s unique approach to pitch melds neatly with that of Iris, especially on We Could. Talented Lucinda, too, stays with John and fails to drag the tempo, as is her sometimes want.

Meanwhile, there is Dolores Keane. She partners with Prine on In a Town this Size and It's a Cheating Situation. When we first heard her here we thought Marianne Faithful had flown to Nashville. But this is Dolores, this is a voice. Yikes!

Emmy Lou Harris tends to show up on these things so much that her presence imparts a kind of imprimatur. Here it is especially apt, however. In Spite of Ourselves somewhat evokes one of the best LPs of all time, Grievous Angel by Gram Parsons, which got over the top by virtue of the presence of Emmy Lou's youngster warblings, Gram being just barely a singer in his young and only days. Like Parsons, Prine finds in life a grievousnous, but he finds it worthwhile to temper with bemusement and amusement, which we consider angelic in the highest order.

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