Aimless Love

Not Rated

After eight albums on two major labels, John Prine has gone the route of many a fine though commercially marginal singer/songwriter and released an album on his own independent label. It's a treat. Though perhaps it lacks the instant standards like "Hello in There" and "Sam Stone," which made Prine's debut album so startling, Aimless Love is a friendly, human-sized collection of typically low-tech country-folk tunes. Prine's lazy drawl on "Be My Friend Tonight" and "Me, Myself and I" could make you nostalgic for midperiod Dylan (circa The Basement Tapes), and many of the songs recall the whimsical variations of friends and peers like Kris Kristofferson and the late Steve Goodman, who produced one track here. The best songs, though, have that gritty, halfway-bitter perspective on the world that is particular to John Prine. "Unwed Fathers" offers a heart-tugging snapshot of a runaway teenager whispering to her newborn, "Your daddy never/Meant to hurt you ever/He just don't live here/But you got his eyes." And "Maureen, Maureen," my favorite, shows a man who's down on himself trying desperately to scare off a woman who loves him. Of course, the album also features a couple of pretty ballads, "Somewhere Someone's Falling in Love" and "Only Love," which give the brighter side of life its due while proving that John Prine, the elegant pop songwriter, is still in top form.