Nashville: John Prine takes his own sweet time dancing with his muse - and truly writes what's in his soul. So if it takes him a little longer to write the songs that capture moments and reveal the gently folded human truths that bind us all together, it's always worth the wait. Now, nearly nine years since the release of his Grammy-nominated Lost Dogs & Mixed Blessings, the iconic American writer is putting the finishing touches on Fair & Square, which will be released on Prine's Oh Boy label April 26th.
"It was just time," says Prine in his always understated way. "I had a bunch of songs. I'd started recording em, and it turns out, I liked 'em pretty well. So, now, I get to get 'em all just the way I like 'em - and then I get to let 'em go out to meet the world."
Drawing on Prine's incomparable sweetness, his wicked wit and social commentary and his split rail simplicity, Fair & Square turns on the phases of the human heart - and the way the people getting by live, dream, love and survive their lives. With the occasional wheezing accordion, curlicue electric guitar parts, quick-wristed mandolins, billowing B-3 pads and puddles of pedal steel guitar, the rough-voiced singer/songwriter's first self-produced record is a homey affair that draws generously from the palette of traditional American music - be it folk, bluegrass, shuffles, almost vintage rock & roll, torch, country - for an amalgamation that would be at home on any Wurlitzer in a whiskey-soaked tavern with beer signs flickering from age and the walls stained deeper than sepia from the years of constant smoke.
Whether it's the sultry celebration of post-encounter rapture "Morning Train," the afterglow burning until the next moment can happen "Long Monday" or the down-stroke electric guitar charged "She Is My Everything," Fair & Square captures Prine's candy heart. But there's also the Joshua Tree dry wit of our culture's tabloid obsessive culture "I Hate It When That Happens To Me" and the fame-chasing self-mockery of "Crazy As A Loon", not to mention the gentle political nudge "Some Humans Ain't Human" that's soft-spoken indictment at its most aw-shucks.
With bluegrass queen Allison Krauss on the ode to his Irish refuge "My Darlin' Hometown" and the street corner desolation of "The Moon Is Down" and alt.country princess Mindy Smith bringing allure and tartness to "Morning Train, "Long Monday" and the melted neon ponder of "Taking A Walk," Fair & Square is the work of a man at ease with his life, secure with his place in the world and willing to share the things that he sees.
"It's been a while, so I'm pretty excited," Prine admits with that Oh! Boy! grin. "And that's a really good place to be."
Tour dates will follow shortly. Advance music is being pulled together. But given the working class Midwestern origin of the Grammy-winning songwriter, you can bet the songs will be served - and the fans who want to see and hear them will have their chance.