Sing Out! - 11-12/94-1/95, p.127
"...a must-have....Estimable singing and playing from a legend, with studio country/pop/folk backup musicians of L.A./Nashville ilk..."
Personnel: John Prine (guitar, vocals), Howie Epstein, Bill Bonk (guitar, background vocals), Phil Donnelly, Jim Rooney (guitar), Mike Cass (steel guitar, dobro), Leo Le Blanc (steel guitar), Jaydee Manness (pedal steel), Mark Howard (mandolin, guitar), Shawn Camp (fiddle), Phil Parlapiano (accordion, mandolin), Del Wood (piano), Benmont Tench, Bobby Whitlock, Spooner Oldham (keyboards), John Ciambotti, Duane Jarvis, Roy Huskey Jr. Chris Etheridge (bass), Joe Romersa (drums, percussion), Kenny Malone, Tony Newman (drums), James O'Rooney (sleigh bells), Kathy Johnson, Pat McLaughlin, Rachel Peer (background vocals).
Producers: Howie Epstein, John Prine, David Ferguson, Jim Rooney, John Conlon.
Engineers: John Falzarano, David Ferguson, R. Skye, C. Charucki, S. O'Brien, Jack Grochmal, John Donegan, Jimmy Stroud.
All songs written or co-written by John Prine except "If You Were The Man And I Was The Woman" (Michael Timmins), "Silver Bells" (Evans/Livingston) and "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" (Thomas Connor).
Personnel: John Prine (vocals, guitar, acoustic guitar); Rachel Peer (vocals, dancer); Kathleen Johnson, Margo Timmins, Pat McLaughlin (vocals); Howie Epstein (guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, background vocals); David Lindley (guitar, acoustic guitar, bouzouki, zither); Bill "Luigi" Bonk (guitar, acoustic guitar, background vocals); Ken Myhr, Jim Rooney, Michael Timmins (guitar); Mark Howard (acoustic guitar, mandolin); Philip Donnelly (electric guitar); Mike Cass (steel guitar, dobro, steel pan); Leo LeBlanc (steel guitar); Phil Parlapiano (mandolin, accordion); Jeff Bird (mandolin); Shawn Camp (fiddle); Spencer Evans (clarinet); Del Wood (piano); Spooner Oldham, Benmont Tench, Bobby Whitlock (keyboards); Joe Romersa (drums, percussion); Tony Newman , Kenny Malone, Peter Timmins (drums); James O'Rooney (bells).
Audio Mixers: Cowboy Junkies; David Ferguson ; Ed Seay; Jack Grochmal; Bob Cobban; Jim Rooney; John Prine.
Recording information: Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, CA; Cowboy Arms Hotel And Recording Spa; Huh Sound Theater, Los Angeles, CA.
Unknown Contributor Roles: JayDee Mannes; Rachel Peer-Prine.
For anyone who'd lost track of John Prine after the 1970s, the idea of a rather cynical singer/songwriter recording a holiday album must have seemed a rather odd one. But Prine, while never relinquishing his wry sense of humor, had mellowed quite a bit since writing about getting kicked off of Noah's ark in "Sweet Revenge." Besides, by 1988 he had his own record company, and it's always nice to have a perennial favorite in the catalog. The first two songs are originals and are probably the best songs on the album, with Prine once again offering his observations on relationships gone sour. The first, though, surprisingly relates that even though the narrator's girl dumped him a year ago on Christmas, he's learned to go on with his life. The bitterness, however, creeps back in to "All the Best." Prine opens this live piece with a funny monolog about him and a friend nailing a train set to the dining room table, and then delves into a sad story of love thrown away like yesterday's Christmas tree. He also includes a new version of "Christmas in Prison," a solid song from his third album, Sweet Revenge. The remainder of the album is filled with holiday classics, including a fun take on "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." The downside of the album is that it's awful short -- 32 minutes -- and even then, one of the songs -- a duo with Margo Timmins on "If You Were the Woman and I Was the Man" -- doesn't even come close to fitting the holiday spirit (though it may have fit on the Dirty Santa soundtrack). Still, this isn't the run-of-the-mill holiday product, and Prine can still write a good song when he sets his mind to it. Old fans will be glad to see that even cynics can age gracefully. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.