Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Loving the Music of John Prine

One of the most underrated country singers of our age is John Prine. He’s been around for over 30 years now, living the life, and he’s written one of the most brilliant anti-war songs of all time – "Sam Stone". As far as I’m concerned he is one of the most natural, humorous artists performing today. A great way to introduce yourself to Prine is to check out his DVD, John Prine – Live From Sessions at West 54th and also his album In Spite of Ourselves. The album starts with relationships breaking up and expands into broader themes of how relationships get started, go on, and then sometimes break up. Sad, poignant, funny, John Prine sings our lives, and has the amazing ability to sing as if he’s your best friend and he’s there in your living room or your local bar. Don’t forget the great earlier albums including Live and Live on Tour. I also just picked up what I think is the only other Prine DVD – John Prine Live on Soundstage 1980. Last year, following a struggle with throat cancer, he put out the album Fair & Square. On it he sings great love songs such as "Taking a walk", "Long Monday", "Some humans ain’t human", "She is my everything", "I hate it when that happens to me" and the biggest put down of conservatism and incrementalism I’ve ever heard, "Safety Joe".

I’ve got 112 John Prine songs on my iPod. Ok, it’s bordering on obsessive, but listening to him in the early hours of the morning on a long, frustrating crossing over America from San Francisco to Miami last week, was like going to bed with your favorite comforter and teddy bear when you’re a kid. That’s a rare feeling when you’re 36,000 feet high in American Airlines’ not so tender care. In fact, if American Airlines wants to start its own very long journey toward becoming a Lovemark, they might begin by giving their passengers an iPod filled with John Prine’s music. Since writing this I see Prine has just released a new CD called Standard Songs For Average People with Mac Wiseman. I’m guessing the two of them made it because they both love old songs sung simply. They make sounds that feel like you’re putting on your favorite old rugby shirt and washed out 10-year old Levi's.