CD Review of All in Good Time by Pure Prairie League

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All in Good Time
starstarstarhalf starno star Label: Emergent / 92e
Released: 2006
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There are a lot of reasons not to care about a new Pure Prairie League album.

The band hasn’t released anything since 1981, for starters, and even during its brief reign as a commercially viable recording act, the League underwent personnel shifts so quickly as to make Yes look like a model of stability. Though technically among the forebears of the “country rock” movement that spawned the Eagles (not to mention indirectly spawning the likes of Uncle Tupelo), Pure Prairie League wasn’t involved with any of the genre’s artistically influential or commercially successful music. The band’s greatest success came in the early ‘80s, as a similar-in-name-only, Vince Gill-fronted, rhinestone-cowboy outfit.

Personnel shifts have their advantages, however – chief among them the ability to render superfluous questions of artistic integrity vis-à-vis the number of original band members on any given recording. It’s likely that no two Pure Prairie League albums featured identical band lineups; as a result, the presences of founding member Craig Fuller and longtime bassist Michael Reilly are enough to cleanse the air of the sort of late-career desperation that typically surrounds albums like these.

Even knowing about the involvement of Fuller and Reilly, though, a person could be forgiven for feeling some trepidation going into All in Good Time; not only for all the reasons mentioned above, but also because of the album’s horrible artwork—it looks like the kind of sub-KTel compilation you normally blow the dust off before deciding not to pick up for $4.99 at a truck stop.

For all that, though, it’s really a pretty good little record.

Pure Prairie League never rubbed artistic shoulders with Buffalo Springfield, or even Poco, and they don’t here; there’s something liberating, though, about not needing to live up to that kind of cultural touchstone. It frees a band up to make the kind of comfortable, low-key return that the band has put together here – though songs like “Gettin’ Over You” and “I Sure Do Miss You Now” aren’t groundbreaking (or even floor-sweeping), they are solidly written, smoothly delivered exemplars of well-made modern country-rock music.

Fuller, as ever, is a fine, underrated vocalist, the band is in great shape, and the production is cleaner and more sympathetic than expected. It’s difficult to say who the band’s audience is at this point, but regardless, they’ve done themselves proud with this album.

~Jeff Giles