Wednesday, June 22, 2016

12 Albums: John Prine

This is the third in a series of posts on"formative albums," records that shaped by musical taste and the direction of my listening. I've always admired the fine storytelling type of songwriting that has often come out of Nashville. Many of these songwriters have been featured in my Songs of Place series. Tom T. Hall, Guy Clark, Merle Haggard, Townes van Zandt, and Kris Kristofferson are all in that pantheon of personal favorites. But I sometimes think the best songwriter of our day has been John Prine.

Somewhere along the line as a kid I stumbled upon Prine's self-titled first album, picking it out of a discount bin as I recall. There is no one that can paint pictures in a song quite like Prine. He writes from a big but weather-beaten heart. No one tells stories with characters, living breathing characters, like Prine. In the tradition of much country music, he sings about the lonely, the broken, the old, and the drifting. This album's best examples are Donald and Lydia, Sam Stone, Hello in There, Illegal Smile, and of course Angel from Montgomery.

But the song I've chosen to feature here is yet another "song of place." It manages to be wistful and quietly angry at the same time, as if the voice you hear is that of an old man, remembering a long ago injustice. The version below comes from a live performance some ten years after the album's release.

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