There are not many of the old original issue John Prines left; that breed of craggy, earnest-but-dryly humorous storyteller-troubadour with Midwestern roots running as deep as ancient maples and ruminations of lives past that are equally old and pulsing and grainy. As a songwriter who poised his characters in a constant state of distress, distaste, wry sly circumstance, or even love with an historic downhome perspective, Prine was (and is, from the sound and furry of his first album in 13 years, The Tree of Forgiveness) a treasure. Add in his usual mix of rough-hewn country and folk with hints of soul and rockabilly, and you’re cooking with gas. Prine’s gruff and ready expressive voice is but icing on a savory confection. And now, Prine – still a mailman at heart, always a contemporary to elders such as Kris Kristofferson, Steve Goodman and Jackson Browne – has hollowed out a new niche as a godfather to the likes of Sturgill Simpson and Brandi Carlisle, and as a man who outran death (two cancers) and the age’s usual ravages to find himself comfortably humble (and hummable).
In a sold out performance at the Merriam Theater, Prine, his crack musical team (including multi-string man Fats Kaplin), and opening act/occasional on-stage collaborator Kurt Vile, formed a circle around material that was bruised, even busted, but never completely broken down and out for the count. Continue reading →