*** John Prine, “Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings,” Oh Boy. Few are as good as Prine at turning a phrase and spinning a yarn with casually deep emotional resonance. On his best work, the music serves those elements with folkie understatement.
The mixed blessing here is that this album, produced by Howie Epstein, may be the best-sounding album of Prine’s 24-year recording career. But at times the playing overruns the intimate melancholy and offhanded irony that is essential to Prine’s art.
Still, there’s plenty of prime Prine: skewed looks at human foibles (“Humidity Built the Snowman”) and faith (“This Love Is Real,” a duet with Marianne Faithfull), summed up perfectly with a resignedly hang-dog version of Floyd Tillman’s classic waltz “I Love You So Much It Hurts.”
New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).