John Prine & Mac Wiseman
Standard Songs for Average People
Oh Boy Records
As one might imagine, John Prine’s collaboration with Mac Wiseman is flanked by a star-studded cast of musicians including Nashville darlings Pat McLaughlin on rhythm guitar and Lloyd Green on pedal steel. The album constitutes the duo’s pick of standards, which means the collection is more of an offbeat revival than a fresh offering—and it’s anything but predictable.
“Blue Eyed Elaine” (an Ernest Tubb tune) kicks things off with charming bump and swing. Even when Prine and Wiseman float their way through lamenting tales like Tom T. Hall’s “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine” they remain playful with their phrasing, supplementing every other salty line with an impish wink. In “Just the Other Side of Nowhere” Wiseman’s satiny voice brings out Prine’s craggier tenor, supplying the tune a split character and lively texture. Slow crooning numbers like “Old Cape Cod” exquisitely evoke their subjects; in this case a moonlit stroll on ocean shores.
Even if you’ve heard these tunes before, Prine and Wiseman render them with fresh appeal. It’s sometimes quelled and sometimes waggish, but each one hits its mark. (Erika Fredrickson)
John Prine performs Saturday, May 19, at 8 PM at UM’s University Theater. $47.