Sunday, March 07, 2010

A Prine Introduction

Concert Review

John Prine
Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago
March 6, 2010

Other than knowing his name, until last night I was almost completely unfamiliar with John Prine.

Clearly my loss.

Although I don't know that I'd ever heard any of his songs, couldn't name any of his albums and had no clue that he had a show scheduled at the Old Town School of Folk Music, based on a sense that he was generally well-regarded, I was smart enough to take up a friend's offer when he called with a free ticket to last night's show, which was actually a pricey benefit for Old Town, where Prine had cut his teeth in the '60s.

After spending the day checking out else something largely unfamiliar at a friend's suggestion--audio documentaries at the Third Coast Filmless Festival--I was pretty exhausted and on my way home to a relaxing evening when Dave called with the Prine offer. Not knowing that I should instantly jump at it, I didn't, but quickly realized that it would be silly to pass up the chance to hear a revered musician of whom I had been ignorant.

Coupled with it being a benefit gala, in the course of learning before and after showtime that Prine is 63, a good deal overweight and had a good chunk of his neck removed along with a cancerous growth a few years back, I expected it to be a rather short performance. But Prine, accompanied by another guitarist and bassist, played for more than 3 hours and was completely engaging, musically and in introducing his songs with amusing stories and anecdotes.

In downloading and listening to some of his music today, his voice is now a far cry from what it once was, but his singing is still quite expressive and his songs are wonderful. And given the high esteem in which the former "Maywood Mailman" is held, I certainly should've caught on earlier, but am glad I have now.

Before getting to a video I'll post of a 2008 performance of the song "Sam Stone" from his acclaimed first album, consider this paragraph I was compelled to pull in full from his Wikipedia bio:

{ Prine has taken his place as one of the most influential songwriters of his generation. In 2009, Bob Dylan told the Huffington Post that Prine was one of his favorite writers, stating "Prine's stuff is pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mindtrips to the nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs. I remember when Kris Kristofferson first brought him on the scene. All that stuff about "Sam Stone," the soldier junkie daddy, and "Donald and Lydia," where people make love from ten miles away. Nobody but Prine could write like that." In Johnny Cash's autobiography Cash, he admitted "I don't listen to music much at the farm, unless I'm going into songwriting mode and looking for inspiration. Then I'll put on something by the writers I've admired and used for years (Rodney Crowell, John Prine, Guy Clark, and the late Steve Goodman are my Big Four)..." When asked by Word Magazine in 2008 if he heard Pink Floyd's influence in newer British bands like Radiohead, Roger Waters replied "I don't really listen to Radiohead. I listened to the albums and they just didn't move me in the way, say, John Prine does. His is just extra-ordinarily eloquent music—and he lives on that plane wit Neil Young and Lennon." Prine received the Artist of the Year award at the Americana Music Awards on September 9, 2005. The award was accepted in his name by awards host and long-time friend Billy Bob Thornton. }

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