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Standard Songs for Average People

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Album Review

The title tells the story well enough on Standard Songs for Average People, a set of 14 country-leaning classics interpreted by venerable singer/songwriter John Prine and bluegrass balladeer Mac Wiseman. While Prine has never possessed a classically strong voice, he knows how to communicate a lyric well enough (even lyrics he didn't write himself), and it's clear that he loves the songs he's selected for this project (Prine also co-produced with David Ferguson). Whatever Prine may lack in vocal polish, Wiseman easily brings to the table; if his voice is a bit sandier than it was years ago, he can still make the weepers sound convincingly sad and the uptempo numbers bring a smile when he's singing. The arrangements and production recall the smooth but homey sound of Nashville's countrypolitan era, and the pickers bring the songs across with a simple but impressive aplomb (especially Tom O'Brien on guitar and banjo and Joey Miskulin on accordion). And the songs...well, certain songs become standards because they're so good almost no one can go wrong with them, and on this set "I Love You Because," "The Blue Side of Lonesome," "Saginaw, Michigan," and "Old Rugged Cross" sound fresh and engaging, even though you've probably heard them hundreds of time before. And while they may not be as well-known, Tom T. Hall's "Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine," Kris Kristofferson's "Just the Other Side of Nowhere," and Bob Wills' "Don't Be Ashamed of Your Age" sure sound like classics coming from Prine and Wiseman. The craft is strong on Standard Songs for Average People, but at its heart it sounds like two friends singing some old songs they love on a quiet evening, and that's part of the album's strength — these are 14 songs sung by two guys who know a great tune when they hear it, and they allow these numbers to work their magic simply, which serves them very well.


Born: October 10, 1946 in Maywood, IL

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

An acclaimed singer/songwriter whose literate work flirted with everything from acoustic folk to rockabilly to straight-ahead country, John Prine was born October 10, 1946, in Maywood, Illinois. Raised by parents firmly rooted in their rural Kentucky background, at age 14 Prine began learning to play the guitar from his older brother while taking inspiration from his grandfather, who had played with Merle Travis. After a two-year tenure in the U.S. Army, Prine became a fixture on the Chicago folk...
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Standard Songs for Average People, John Prine
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