Warming Up

Warming Up

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Album Spotlight: John Prine

When I get ready for a gig the last thing I do before I leave the house is to pick a few CDs to listen to during my drive to and from the gig.  Sometimes, I don’t listen to any music when I drive.  I just try to clear my head.  Or maybe I’ll listen to the news.  But usually I listen to music.  Sometimes I want to hear something in the vein of what I’m about to play.  Or maybe something completely different.  On the way to last weekend’s gigs I was listening to Bill Dixon and John Coltrane’s Africa Brass.  Awesome.  Got me ready to play!

But driving home after a gig is a different story altogether.  I’m usually tired.  Physically, mentally, emotionally.  Playing can take a lot out of you, especially if the music is hard and requires a lot of concentration.  After the last few gigs I keep putting on the same album.  I have listened to this album countless times over the years and I have yet to ever get tired of any of the songs as there is always something new that catches my ear and makes me think.  The album is the eponymous debut record by John Prine.  “John Prine” came out on Atlantic Records in 1971.  It’s a badass record.  Simple songs.  Powerful words.  Prine was only 25 when the album came out but he was already deeply in tune with what it means to be human, and maybe more specifically, what it means to be American.  And this is American music about American people.  Prine creates characters and paints pictures about them.  The housewife from Montgomery, Alabama.  Sam Stone, the drug-addicted Vietnam war veteran.  The unlikely couple, Donald and Lydia (were they even a couple?). The old folks in “Hello In There.”  The simple times of childhood that are lost and irreclaimable in “Paradise.”  His words are simple but there’s more meaning there than you think.  He can be political without being overtly political.  Sarcastic without being obvious. He says "Illegal Smile" isn’t about pot.  It isn’t???  “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You In To Heaven Anymore.”  Take that, you false patriots!

I love Prine’s lyrics and always sing along  – often in some sad attempt at harmonizing.  But the music gets me every time.  Simple, kinda country/kinda Appalachia folk music with a little rock and roll in there too.  These songs have progressions that we’ve all heard a million times.  But who cares.  They’re played so well here (Arif Mardin is the producer so you know the record is gonna sound good) and the music services the lyrics perfectly.  Together, the music and words make me feel happy to be alive.  And happy to be a musician.  Kinda makes me want to play some country trumpet.  It would be so cool to play in John Prine's band!

Check out John Prine.  All of his records are good.  H is voice has sure aged but he’s still playing.  Still kicking ass.  And his music is good to drive to.  

Hey John Prine, Thanks for Caring, Thanks for Sharing.  Hire me.


  1. Yes! Big John Prine fans in my household... No surprise you love him too.. Let me know when you debut your country trumpet ;) awesome.

  2. Yay Monica!! Thanks for reading! We should have been playing some Prine together back in the day! And if I do end up doing some country trumpet it might sound something a little like the track in today's Outside Pants listening contest :) What an awesome surprise to read your name in the comments - hope you are doing great! Any trips back east in the not too distant future??