Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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John Prine: Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings [Oh Boy, 1995]
Although ex-Heartbreaker Howie Epstein gets more hooks out of his acoustic warrior than his old boss is tossing off, his idea of radio-ready does leave one waiting for the guitarist to shut up already. But usually that's because you're impatient for the next line, and usually it's a winner--if anything, Prine's waggish pathos and lip-smacking Americanese have been whetted by the divorce that keeps nosing in where it's not wanted. Homely thematic/metaphorical leaps are a common structural device--first the TV is hollering at him, then his wife ("They already think my name is where in the hell you been"), then the voice in his head that won't leave him alone. A