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Eddie Huffman: John Prine: In Spite Of Himself

Less than definitive bio of US folk-country genius.

John Prine has long been one of America’s great treasures, mapping out the lives of the lost and the forsaken in songs full of compassion and vivid wit. Stacks of awards and a famous fan base that’s included Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Roger Waters and Kris Kristofferson are further testament to an extraordinary talent.

Such a legacy is deserving of a great biography of course. Sadly though, this isn’t it. Prine may have turned down his interview request, but author Huffman makes no attempt to talk to friends, family, colleagues or fellow musicians to build a portrait of his subject.

The result is that he merely sketches in the facts, taking us through Prine’s albums in chronological order and digging out old quotes in what amounts to a glorified cut‘n’paste exercise.

Arresting details occasionally surface (Prine’s attitude to lack of commercial success; an unfortunate encounter with Dustin Hoffman), but Huffman’s quarry remains maddeningly elusive./o:p