In 1999, John Prine released a thoroughly charming and engaging album called In Spite of Ourselves, in which he covered a handful of classic country tunes (tossing in one new original for good measure) as duets with nine talented female vocalists. Prine has given the same approach another try 17 years later, and though For Better, or Worse isn't quite as good as his first go-round with this concept, it's still a fine collection of songs from a man who knows a bit about crafting a tune. The greatest strength of For Better, or Worse is also one of its weaknesses -- Prine himself. Prine was nearly 70 when he recorded this album, and his voice has grown worse for wear (his battle with throat cancer in the '90s and a more recent brush with lung cancer haven't helped). But if he sounds his age on these tracks, he also spins that to his advantage; on numbers like "Who's Gonna Take the Garbage Out," "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke," and "I'm Telling You," he sounds like an wily old rascal who's seen it all and has plenty to tell. Prine's female co-stars are all in better shape than he is in terms of their instruments, and across the board they sound happy and honored to be working with the great man. Alison Krauss, Lee Ann Womack, Kacey Musgraves, Susan Tedeschi, Miranda Lambert, and Kathy Mattea all bring their A game to these sessions, and help to give Prine a boost when he needs it. Of course, the best tracks are the ones where Prine teams up with Iris DeMent; the two singers have long shown they're simpatico, and hearing them together on "Who's Gonna Take the Garbage Out" and "Mr. & Mrs. Used to Be" is a delight. Add in a studio band that delivers the classic Nashville honky tonk sound these songs demand, and a closing solo performance of "Just Waitin'," where Prine makes Luke the Drifter's lyrics sound like something he could have written himself, and you get a fine latter-day album from a seminal artist. It's still troubling that one of America's best songwriters seems to have lost the desire to pen new material, but For Better, or Worse shows John Prine hasn't lost his spirit as a performer.