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Fair & Square

136 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 26, 2005
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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', 'Fair & Square' is finally here. Oh Boy. 2005.

Good things come to those who wait. During John Prine's nine-year interval between albums of original material, fans who hailed his recovery from cancer wondered whether he'd ever return to full creative speed. Here, Prine puts doubts to rest with an album that ranks with the finest of an inspired career. The big heart of "Glory of True Love," the socially conscious bite of "Some Humans Ain't Human," the reflective grace of "Taking a Walk," the wry whimsy of "Crazy as a Loon"--the hallmarks of Prine's artistry are reaffirmed on Fair & Square. The album also reflects Prine's first attempt at producing himself, with the warmth of his rough-hewn vocals finding a comfortable fit among the organic, largely acoustic arrangements. Though Prine penned 12 of the 14 cuts (including two bonus tracks, one recorded in concert), a pair of covers prove revelatory: Blaze Foley's "Clay Pigeons" sounds like it could well be one of Prine's own (with a melody that recalls "Hello in There" and a lyric of renewal that sounds like personal testament), while A.P. Carter's "Bear Creek Blues" carries an electric charge as the traditional song rocks harder than anything else on the album. With a generous selection of close to an hour of music, the album stands as a creative triumph for Prine, a fully satisfying effort that rewards the patience of his loyal fans. Welcome back. --Don McLeese

Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 26, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Oh Boy Records
  • ASIN: B0007VROHE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (136 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,884 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

133 of 144 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 26, 2005
Format: Audio CD
I notice the two negative reviews I've seen here are both upset because of JP's anti-Bush stuff on "Some Humans Ain't Human." Specifically, he says "...some cowboy from Texas, starts his own war in Iraq..."

Oh....please. This is a guy who's been anti-war, anti-establishment and anti-a-whole-lot-of-other-stuff since he's been writing music. Maybe you'll recall "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You into Heaven Anymore," from his first album, or "Take the Star Out of the Window," from his second album. There's a lot of them. Either you haven't been listening, or you've just got your head so far up Bush's (...) that you're unable to hear any honest criticism without throwing the baby (an outstanding album) out with the bathwater (your political views). This is still America, more or less, and the guy has every right to say what he feels.

I've been a big Prine fan since the mid 70s, and used to go see him live with Steve Goodman back in the day. For my money, this is one of his best albums. His voice has aged (go figure), but not in any way that detracts, for me. His soul shines though on these tunes, and a few of them are really just beautiful.

I'm so happy he seems to be on the other side of his throat cancer, and is still on stages, grinning.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By nate on January 9, 2006
Format: Audio CD
...I'd fall in love with "Fair & Square" anyway. But I've been a John Prine fan for years, and I think this may be his best since his 1st album over 30 years ago. That's saying alot because Mr. Prine's 1st album is one of my favorites of any style in all of time. I grew up as a rock/funk/jazz fan and never cared much for country or folk music (Merle Haggard & Johnny Cash being 2 of a small handful of exceptions).

It would be redundant to repeat all the other reviews describing the songs, so here's why I like "Fair & Square" so much: aside from having all the elements that make John unique (wry wit, lyrics that make you think, etc.), his voice gives these tunes a dark, sentimental - even innocent charm. It would be tough for anyone else to give the same songs the same flavor. Also the melodies are refreshingly simple, as are the instrumental arrangements. "The Glory of True Love" bounces along with a friendly vibe, then out of nowhere, the mandolin takes a dark minor scale solo and the guitar lurches out with the rockabilly blues, then right back to happy again. But ain't love just like that? Therein lies the subtle genius of Prine.

Jason Wilbur plays what the old folks call "sideman", a term for lead guitarist of a famous name (Scotty Moore was Elvis Presley's sideman, Don Rich was Buck Owen's sideman, etc.). Mr. Wilbur has much to do with taking these songs to a unique refreshing place. I saw JP in concert supporting this album accompanied by Jason Wilbur (electric guitar) and Dave Jacques (stand-up and electric bass). Taking nothing away from Dave, but Jason displayed some amazing chops - not fast, but different. Steel guitar licks, interesting double-stops, triple string bends, drew enthusiastic applause from the audience after many of his solos. I mention this because this kind of playing is all over the album as well.

Do yourself a favor and trust me on this one. It's a great album by anyone's standards.
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103 of 116 people found the following review helpful By David T. Steere, Jr. on June 4, 2005
Format: Audio CD
It's been a number of long years but well worth the wait. Who writes better songs? A great record in its own right and a fine introduction to those essential themes Prine has been working with since the 1970's. John's unique love songs: "Glory of True Love," "Long Monday," and "She is My Everything." His home and homesick songs: "My Darlin' Hometown" and a great cover of Blaze Foley's "Clay Pigeons." John's satirical eye and social conscience: "Some Humans Ain't Human" and "Crazy as a Loon." The relationship troubles we can all laugh at and identify with: "Taking a Walk," the bluesy "Morning Train," "The Moon is Down," "I Hate it when that Happens to Me," A.P. Carter's "Bear Creek Blues," and "Other Side of Town." John's sense of humor is as sharp and wonderful as ever and appears throughout. He has the most recognizable song writing voice-even when co-writing (which he does on seven of the songs here). There are two numbers with John's trademark talking/singing and a live number recorded at the Ryman Auditorium. If all this weren't enough, there are other great voices in addition to John's deep and gravelly one:: Mindy Smith and Alison Krauss doing harmony, Phil Parlapiano's ever present accordion, a great chorus on "Taking a Walk," a "call and response" group on "Safety Joe," many wonderful acoustic and electric guitar players, and a host of fine instrumentalists.Read more ›
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Sam Stone on November 1, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Like all of Prine's work, this one takes time to sink in, but boy has it snuck up on me. It occurred to me this morning that it hasn't left my 5-disc CD changer (a Marantz CC4300 modified with OPA627 op amps - try it and you'll never leave the house :-) in weeks. So what is it about this album that finally got me?

Prine deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Dylan as one of our greatest songwriters. But unlike Dylan, who maintains some distance from his work, Prine's work is intimate and personal. He can move you to tears. His voice has gotten more rough-edged with the years and his treatment for neck cancer - but the gruff voice suits his work well. Compare "Souvenirs" to his debut album - to me, at least, Souvenirs is much more moving because it is delivered with perspective and experience. Well, the same goes for Fair and Square, which is not only delivered with perspective and experience, but written with it as well.

"Glory of True Love" is written by a man who has lost love enough times to know that it should be cherished when found. "Long Monday" and "My Darlin' Hometown" are full of loss and longing and perspective that can only come with age. And in case you're worried that time and illness had worn down his trademark sense of humor, "Crazy as a Loon" and "I Hate It When That Happens to Me" will put your mind at ease. He even includes a version of the Carter family staple "Bear Creek Blues" that has some real bite to it. And it's all wrapped in his most laid-back delivery yet, with the best-sounding backing since he played with Steve Goodman at his side.

Another masterwork from an underappreciated master.
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