John Prine, "In Spite of Ourselves"The Verve Pipe "The Verve Pipe"(Click on a CD title or cover to order that CD from Amazon.com)Play These Songs"Blue Indian""Surprise Valley""The Waker"Real Audio Required
-->John Prine, "In Spite of Ourselves"
(Oh Boy) For his first new recording in five years, Prine forgoes his own writing talents to pay tribute to some of his favorite classic country songs in 15 duets with a group of Nashville's finest female singers.
Even with Prine's husky baritone, it's hard to go wrong with partners who include Iris DeMent, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams and Patty Loveless. DeMent's true-to-life voice lends both pathos and humor to "We Could" and "The Jet Set." Loveless cuts hard on "Back Street Affair," and Melba Montgomery pairs well on "We Must Have Been Out of Our Minds."
Overall, however, this effort meets with mixed success. Fans craving a fresh group of Prine's intelligent and witty musical vignettes will be disappointed; only the title song is his. But for those who share Prine's appreciation for timeless country tunes from the '50s, '60s and '70s, "Ourselves" is a fine collection made with much respect and love. Ames ArnoldPlay These Songs"Summertime""My Funny Valentine""All Soul"Real Audio Required
-->The Verve Pipe "The Verve Pipe"
(RCA) You know the scene: A guy drags out his acoustic guitar and poetry at a party. The girls swoon. You flee.
The Verve Pipe's Brian Vander Ark is the guy with the guitar and his "deep" musings turn the band's new album into a soggy mess.
Not that the music is any great shakes on its own. It's the type of bland but sometimes enjoyable modern rock dominating the airwaves. Remember "The Freshman"? You must. The biggest hit for the Pipe, it spent about a year in heavy rotation with Matchbox 20 and friends.
"The Verve Pipe" has crunchy guitars and decent hooks in some spots, but every time the band gains momentum, Vander Ark breaks in with his falsetto sensitive-man voice and the thing stops dead. Only the opener, the somewhat bombastic "Supergig," offers any sustained punch. Dave Renard, The Virginian-Pilot