In 1971, John Prine, a young singer-songwriter from Chicago, released a debut album of original songs, including "Sam Stone," "Illegal Smile," and "Hello In There." Those early songs, along with "Angel From Montgomery," and "Paradise" from the same album are today considered "classics" of the singer-songwriter genre.
Thirty-four years later, John Prine has released Fair & Square, an album that critics are calling one of the strongest in his 18-album catalog.
Fair & Square is John Prine's first album of original material in nine years. He hadn't meant to stay away that long, but a bout with cancer forced him to slow down and put his career on hold for a few years. The illness lowered his voice a bit, but it didn't affect his writing.
The songs on Fair & Square showcase what John Prine does best, write songs that can make you laugh and cry. Prine's at his best when writing about love lost and found. Sometimes, it's even lost and found in the same song, such as "Other Side of Town," the tale of a man who takes a mental holiday whenever his loved ones start haranguing. It's one of the two live tracks on Fair & Square.
"Crazy As A Loon" is another good example of what a John Prine song "is." He often writes about the state of life in general, giving voice to things the rest of us are thinking about. In this case, it's the common dream of escaping the "rat race", and exchanging the working life for a better one. But, as John Prine says in his song, things don't always work out as planned.
John Prine recently received the rare honor of being invited to read and perform at the U.S. Library of Congress. United States Poet Laureate Ted Kooser is a longtime fan who describes John Prine as "a truly original writer, unequaled and a genuine poet of the American people." Their conversation is now available online, and has proven to be the most popular Library of Congress webcast available, with more than double the number of "hits" than any other program. You can find it at the Library of Congress website.
John Prine's new CD, Fair & Square, is a solid album by one of America's finest songwriters. It's a "must have" for longtime fans. And, songs like "My Darlin' Hometown" make it a wonderful introduction for new fans.