Skip to content

In Memory of John Prine, An Old Review Of “For Better or Worse”

jp_betterworse_cov_3000

(John Prine died yesterday at the age of 73, a dire trick lung cancer couldn’t pull off. Two years ago Steve Crawford wrote this review of Prine’s duet album from 2016 -IL)

John Prine provides the perfect example of the difference between a “good” and an “effective” singing voice. Never Frank Sinatra in his youth, Prine always had the ability to deliver a sincere song with devastating emotion. On his 1970s protest material, he seemed more bemused than angered – like someone who knew we were living in a big old goofy world. Having survived neck and lung cancer, Prine is pushing seventy and lucky to be among the living. He’s clearly relaxed and having a good time on “For Better or Worse,” a collection of duets with female singers on classic country songs. This is very much a companion piece to his 1999 album “In Spite of Ourselves.” The thread between the records is the classic country material and the presence of Iris Dement, who provides a sass quotient that could rival Loretta Lynn.

“For Better or Worse” is somewhat of a comfort album. Very traditional and clean production values, no histrionics or manufactured urgency. It’s an early morning, cup of coffee, front porch effort. Prine is never condescending to the material and every female vocalist has the maturity to serve the song. Material ranges from the pre-rock era pop standard “Falling in Love Again” to the early 1990’s Vince Gill lifelong romance number “Look at Us.” Prine goes to the Hank Williams well three times, most effectively on the Luke the Drifter recitation “Just Waitin’.”

Highlights include covers of two Ernest Tubb/Loretta Lynn duets. (In the 1960s, Tubb was the established star and Loretta was the up and comer. Once she became more famous, she transitioned to singing duets with Conway Twitty who was more a contemporary than a father figure). On “Who’s Gonna Take the Garbage Out,” DeMent tosses out her cheating spouse, who defends his role in the relationship based upon performing a menial task. “Mr. and Mrs. Used to Be” documents a broken family – divorce was still a statistical rarity when this song was originally released in 1965. DeMent carries a sense of disappointment in her singing, with both parties showing more empathy than blame. “Falling in Love Again” is performed with Allison Krauss (it was reportedly her father’s favorite song) in an elegantly understated and beautiful manner. Also, it’s nice to hear the underrated Kathy Mattea who contributes on ballads made famous by Waylon (“Dream My Dreams With You”) and Willie (“Remember Me (When Candlelights Are Gleaming”).

There really isn’t a bad cut on the record. I do get less enjoyment out of the few better known songs (“Cold, Cold Heart” with Miranda Lambert and “Color of the Blues” with Susan Tedeschi) since they compete in my mind with perfectly made original versions. The reason this record works so well, better than “In Spite of Ourselves” in my opinion, is that Prine selected better material – mainly mid-level chart hits that have been most likely completely forgotten or where never known to his current audience. Still, he picked the wrong closer. The poignancy of singing the 1959 Connie Francis hit “My Happiness” with the star of his life, his wife Fiona, is the cherry on this sundae.

Grade – A

Leave a Comment





Amazon_Smile_logo
LET-ME-HELP-LOGO

Support Let Me Help Inc by shopping at smile.amazon.com

Cyborg Drummer/DJ DRMAGDN Headlining Montauk Music Fest

By admin | April 9, 2024 |

Major Label BMG Records Artist & Producer DRMAGDN Cyborg Drummer / DJ will be making his Montauk Music Fest debut this year in May. DRMAGDN will be the Official Host & MC of The Montauk Music Fest plus play headlining sets on Friday 5/17 and Saturday 5/18 from 10pm-12am at Gurney’s Montauk Resort (290 Old…

RED CARPET EVENT @ Chelsea Table & Stage 4/12/24 Featuring THE AMERICAN RELICS & DRMAGDN

By admin | March 25, 2024 |

On Friday April 12th, 2024 beginning at 6:30 pm ET  there will be a Red Carpet event pre-show sponsored by Tribeca Records at the trendy nightspot Chelsea Table and Stage located in the heart of Chelsea at 152 west 26th street (inside the Hilton Fashion Hotel) in NYC. The Red Carpet will be followed by…

Live Review: Composer Randy Edelman Live at Chelsea T&S “2nd Annual St. Patrick’s Day Massacre” 03/16/24 and Record Release in NYC

By admin | March 17, 2024 |

There was an infinite vitality of velvet green flowing deliciously through the air as Composer Randy Edelman presented his 2nd Annual St. Patrick’s Day Massacre at the trendy new nightspot Chelsea Table & Stage in the heart of NYC on March 16, 2024….. a vivacious close to the spirited Irish Parade. His music is the…

DRMAGDN: Cyborg Drummer/DJ Debuts @ Chelsea T&S With Retro 80’s Party & Red Carpet Event 4/12/24

By admin | February 29, 2024 |

BMG recording artist, producer and World renowned, Global Touring Electrifying Powerhouse, DRMAGDN: Cyborg Drummer and DJ will make his debut at the popular, trendy night spot Chelsea Table & Stage (located at 152 west 26th street inside the Hilton Hotel) on  Friday April 12, 2024 @ 9:00PM. DRMAGDN will be celebrating his high energy brand of Electronic Dance Music (EDM)…

Going Steady: New Singles 2-23-24- 2-29-24 Reviewed

By Iman Lababedi | February 26, 2024 |

dance pop, gooey confection

US Top Ten Albums Tracking 2-16-24 – 2-22-24

By Iman Lababedi | February 26, 2024 |

75K EAUs is abysmal

Our Friend Tony Orlando’s Farewell Tour

By admin | February 25, 2024 |

“I still hit the ball, I just can’t run the bases!!!”

Sneak Peaks: New Album releases 3-1-24 – 3-7-24

By Iman Lababedi | February 25, 2024 |

contenders for the best punk rock around

Child Bite, Lamb Of God, Pantera At Madison Square Garden, Thursday, February 22nd, 2024, Reviewed

By Iman Lababedi | February 25, 2024 |

A three hours of hard rock, metal not metal, swift, loud, egoless pure metal

UK Top 10 Albums 2-23-24 – 2-29-24

By Iman Lababedi | February 24, 2024 |

worse than I remembered it being

Scroll To Top