Personnel: John Prine (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar); John Prine; Mindy Smith (vocals, background vocals); Dan Tyminski, Alison Krauss (vocals); Pat McLaughlin (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, Wurlitzer organ, background vocals); Shawn Camp (electric guitar); John Wilkes Booth (mandolin); Phil Parlapiano (accordion); David Jacques (bass guitar); Kenny Malone (percussion); Dan Dugmore (steel guitar); Paul Griffith (drums); Jerry Douglas .
Audio Mixer: Gary Paczosa.
Recording information: Minutia (10/16/2004); Ryman Auditorium (10/16/2004); Seventeen Grand recording (10/16/2004); The Butcher Shop (10/16/2004).
FAIR & SQUARE's release was highly anticipated by John Prine fans, as the veteran singer/songwriter hadn't recorded an album of new songs in 10 years (the preceding IN SPITE OF OURSELVES was mostly cover tunes). Happily for both Prine and his contingent, FAIR & SQUARE represents that most coveted of phenomena, the Return to Form. Though 1995's LOST DOGS & MIXED BLESSINGS was not without its virtues, some tracks were marred by overproduction. Here, though, the arrangements are scaled back down to Prine's comfort zone, appropriately rootsy to accommodate both the down-home amiability of his tone and the endlessly intriguing twists and turns of his unique lyrical style. While he's not untouched by contemporary events (references to the White House and the war in Iraq crop up), most of the tunes here are the sort of classic Prine material that made the songwriter a cult hero in the '70s. Equally important, the likes of "Crazy as a Loon" and "Some Humans Ain't Human" show that he still has his unique knack for making penetrating observations while maintaining his trademark wry humor.
Rolling Stone (p.76) - 3.5 stars out of 5 - "[A]n excellent set of songs full of rootsy warmth and unpretentious wit."
Uncut (p.95) - 3 stars out of 5 - "FAIR & SQUARE delivers Prine's trademark croak amid simple folk arrangements occasionally spiced by steel guitar or accordion..."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.64) - Ranked #3 in Mojo's "2005 Americana Albums Of The Year."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.94) - 4 stars out of 5 - "[T]his is casual, unpretentious, troubadour-style country-folk, with warm, worn-in vocals, wry, wise, whimsical lyrics, and skilled but unshowy musicians."
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