In Praise of John Prine

A friend of mine told me yesterday that John Prine is playing in Dublin next month.  I hadn’t been aware of this. True enough, he’ll be at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre on April 13th.  Funny that, as a few days ago I reminded myself to write a post for this website about how brilliant John Prine is.  Now I’ve got the perfect excuse

I first came to John Prine’s music a few years back through Uncut magazine.  They have a monthly CD attached, and on this particular one was Prine singing a live version of “Sam Stone”.  I gave it a spin, and it stopped me in my tracks.  It’s devastating.  Just about the saddest song ever written.  It’s from his self-titled debut album, but this is the version I first heard:

Well that was it.  I had to get everything he’d ever done.  I started with the album Souvenirs from 2000, the cover of which you can see above.  Souvenirs is an album of re-recordings of some of his back-catalogue.  It was a great introduction to his work, as I then had a couple of reference points when buying the catalogue.

John Prine was born in Illinois in 1946, and having moved to Chicago, recorded his debut album in 1971 with the patronage of Kris Kristofferson.  Along with “Sam Stone”, his debut album also features one of his most arresting compositions “Hello In There”, about the loneliness of old age.  He was pretty prolific for the next few years, releasing a further 7 studio albums by 1980.  He has continued recording and touring, and overcame cancer in 1998, the legacy of which is a gravelly quality to his voice.

While he has written many sad, poignant songs through his career, he’s also funny as hell.  I defy anyone not to raise a smile at such songs as “Please Don’t Bury Me” and “Jesus: The Missing Years”.  The best thing I can do is provide you with a playlist of what I think are his finest tracks, and urge you to see him in concert next month.  His between-song chat is priceless too.  Here’s Prime Prine: