Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Since John Prine hasn't recorded like clockwork since he was in hock to his labels in the '70s, the absence of new product after 1995's Lost Dogs & Mixed Blessings occasioned no alarm, but it should have: Prine was busy fighting for his life. And though he's been cancer-free for almost two years now, I'm sure we'll all forgive this no-fail songwriter and flaky vocalist for turning out a cover album--especially since In Spite of Ourselves (Oh Boy) is also a duet album featuring female admirers like Trisha Yearwood, Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, and George Jones's old flame Melba Montogomery. Anyway, since Nashville's byways are unknown territory for many folk and rock fans, the cornpone humor of "(We're Not) The Jet Set" (rhymes with "Chevrolet set") and guilt-ridden spouse-swapping of the old Jones-Montgomery hit "Let's Invite Them Over" will be as pleasant a surprise as anything Prine could provide. Except, perhaps, the title tune, featuring four-time partner Iris DeMent: "He ain't got laid in a month of Sundays/Caught him once and he was sniffin' my undies." Plainly a man who's glad to be alive.


Now that Ry Cooder's Buena Vista Social Club has been officially designated the World Music Event of the Millennium, maybe said world is ready for some tradition-minded Cuban music unmarred by Ry and his drum-beating son. Two nominees: Estrellas de Arieto's Los Heroes (Nonesuch), documenting the rhythm-filled amazingly in which an all-star cast including many Buena Vista participants

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Playboy, Aug. 1999


July 1999 Sept. 1999