John Prine - vocals, guitar; Angelo Varias - drums; Tom Piekarski - bass; Howard Levy - keyboards, harmonica, mandolin; John Burns - guitar
This performance was recorded for the King Biscuit Flower Hour at the famous Greenwich Village nightclub, the Bottom Line. Popular singer-songwriter John Prine was touring in support of his critically acclaimed 1978 release, Bruised Orange.
Prine's 18-song set features a few songs from four of his first five records; his self-titled 1971 debut, 1973's Sweet Revenge, 1975's Common Sense, and 1978's Bruised Orange, though he curiously does not play a single song from his 1972 release Diamonds in the Rough. He strikes a nice balance between his most popular songs ("Sam Stone," "Sweet Revenge") and lesser known numbers ("Please Don't Bury Me," "There She Goes).
Prine is accompanied by a full band, which brings spice to his acoustic country/folk ruminations. Upbeat numbers like "That's the Way the World Goes Round" and "I Had a Dream" demonstrate the rollicking energy the group adds to his performance. Though the band is great, Prine is phenomenal when he plays his stripped-down, acoustic guitar driven ballads, especially on "Paradise" and "Illegal Smile." However, the gem of the performance is his stirring performance of the crushing "Sam Stone." He passionately delivers the iconic lyrics, "There's a hole in Daddy's arm, where all the money goes / Jesus Christ died for nothin' I suppose." The story eerily resounds in our country's current situation, as a new generation of soldiers are set to come back home from our foreign conflict. Hopefully, it will serve to remind us that these men and women deserve our support, as they deal with their injuries, both internal and external.
Prine is an exceptional performer, who has written incredible songs, and this performance is a testament to what he has accomplished. If you are a fan of American folk music, this performance is essential to your collection.
John Prine was born on October 10th, 1946 in Maywood, a town of under 30,000 in Northeastern Illinois. He first picked up a guitar at the age of 14, and after stints in the army and with the postal service, Prine decided to move to Chicago and try his hand at music. By the early '70s, Prine had built a solid buzz in Chicago, and in 1971, the singer-songwriter released his self-titled debut on Atlantic Records. The album was a great success, highlighted by the classic songs "Sam Stone" and "Angel from Montgomery," both of which became country-folk standards.
"Sam Stone" is a touching ballad about a man coming home from war, who, due to his injuries, becomes addicted to morphine, which leads to his death by overdose. "Angel from Montgomery" is an introspective number about an old woman looking back at her life. Both songs are prime examples of how he writes beautiful, poignant compositions, full of depth and melody.
From there, he would release well over 10 studio albums, all featuring his warm voice and his undying commitment to write songs about real people's lives. As artists become more popular (read: richer), they often struggle to continue to write songs that have relevance in the lives of the everyday person, because they no longer live those kind of lives. Prine never struggled with that, and that is what made him so special.
Prine, now in his early 60s, continues to release albums. His most recent release, the aptly-named Standard Songs for Average People, hit #37 on the indie charts and was greeted with critical praise. He also continues to actively tour and fills most venues around the country.