John Prine, now there’s an orig­i­nal. He’s an or­di­nary guy with a beat-up face and a beat-up voice, and his songs get played by folkies and rock­ers in bars and base­ments across Amer­i­ca. Not out­side it though I bet, he is just so Amer­i­can, and I mean that in the best pos­si­ble way. Span­ish Pipedream is a cheer­ful lit­tle up­tem­po num­ber that’ll make you smile. It’s from a long time ago but the sen­ti­ment is fresh: Blow up your TV / throw away the pa­pers / move to the coun­try / build your­self a home.

John Prine by John Prine

I stage-managed a John Prine con­cert some­time in the Seven­ties  —  my beer and rent mon­ey at col­lege  —  and I’d call it in the top five con­certs I’ve seen in my life, and I’ve seen a lot. This was I think on the Pink Cadil­lac tour, which at that point had been go­ing for a year or more, and the band was amaz­ing­ly, fab­u­lous­ly tight. I was stand­ing at the side of the stage with a friend, a black dude with a cool ac­cent (not sure how or­gan­ic, he was from Win­nipeg), he said “Man, they so tight they loose.” You on­ly get that from end­less, end­less prac­tice.

Now it helped that John has writ­ten a half-dozen songs that are among the great­s, and that he’s a fine singer, can do a lot with that hard-workin’ voice, and that the band were re­laxed and mel­low that night. It was close to per­fec­t.

Wel­l, maybe one flaw. After, we were tear­ing down, car­ry­ing stag­ing out to the truck in the freez­ing wee hours, one of the stage­hands I’d hired said, apro­pos of noth­ing “Man, that was a lot of re­al­ly sad music.” And most of his fa­mous songs are. With maybe the sin­gle ex­cep­tion of Span­ish Pipedream.

Which is from his epony­mous first al­bum, a treasure-trove of fine tunes (most­ly sad), one or two more of which should be Songs Of some fine fu­ture Day. I sus­pect that if he’d nev­er record­ed an­oth­er note he could re­tire in com­fort on the pub­lish­ing. I don’t know if any­one buys “albums” any more, but if you do, there are very few out there bet­ter than this one.

This is part of the Song of the Day se­ries (back­ground).

Links · Spo­ti­fy playlist. This tune on Spo­ti­fy, Ama­zon, iTunes. This live video is from a DVD called Live from Ses­sions at West 54th, which I must try to bor­row or buy or some­thing, looks like a good show.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Carol (Mar 17 2018, at 09:50)

I really love the next song "Hello in There". Thanks for the reminder!

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From: Doug K (Mar 19 2018, at 13:03)

+1.

we saw John Prine and Emmylou at Red Rocks in 2014. I was flat astonished how John and his band could rock.. never heard anything quite like it. It's not what you expect from the albums and sad songs.

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March 17, 2018
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