From \Hello in There" and ""Sam Stone"" to ""Angel from Montgomery"
If you buy Great Days: The John Prine Anthology
, you may live to regret it. He's probably the best American folk-song lyricist of his generation, mixing low-key poignancy and deadpan humor in perfect proportions. His musical limitations serve to reinforce the understated nature of his art, and his short, plain-spoken lines (written in the offhand conversational style of his Midwestern and Appalachian characters) sneak through the back door of your imagination and won't leave. So where does the regret come in? Well, as you listen to the 41 songs arranged chronologically on these two CDs, you're going to ask yourself, "If someone can write 41 songs as good as these, isn't there a good chance he wrote more than 41?" After hearing the anthology's six songs from Prine's 1971 debut album, for example, you may decide to go out and buy that album itself. After you hear songs as delightful as "Pretty Good" and "Your Flag Decal," which didn't find their way into the collection, you may soon find yourself hunting down all 10 of Prine's original studio albums. Then you may regret having bought Great Days
. --Geoffrey Himes