John Prine Fair & Square

If you’re a John Prine fan, you know painfully well how many years it’s been since his last release — an event rivalled only by discovering no cavities or finding that one last beer in the back of your fridge when you thought you were out. Nine years since hearing John’s homemade cure for all that ails mankind, delivered in his playfully poignant, patented style — sounding like he just woke up — and written with that uncommon gift of common sense that makes us smile and feel stupid all at once. 14 songs, each laced with varying degrees of wit and wile, encompass everything from true love and loons to hometowns and inhumanity. And you’ve got to love anyone who would work the word "Canadian” — with its awkward metre — into a song about being driven to the edge of sanity. The genius of pairing Prine’s small town sound to Allison Krauss’ sweet harmonies is long overdue and guests including Mindy Smith, Pat McLaughlin and Shawn Camp continue a long-time Prine tradition of serving the music first. Instant Prine classics abound, including "Crazy as a Loon,” the live "Other Side of Town” and the back-of-the-class-chuckler, "Safety Joe”. (Oh Boy)