Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of John Prine performing his classic, Angel From Montgomery.
John Prine: The Singing Mailman Delivers, John Prine, OnBoy Records, 2011
Over the last several years I have done more musically-oriented reviews that I had expected to on this site in order to flesh out the role of some of the 1960's cultural icons on the times. One of the themes that have kept cropping up is that for some folk/blues-oriented musical artists like Bob Dylan my attachment was immediate, long time and on-going. For other artists like John Prine it has been more of a recently acquired taste. In fact, my first acquaintance with the work of John Prine, at least that I was aware of, was several years ago when I was requested to get a couple of his CDs for a friend for a Christmas gift. Upon listening to those albums, that included material also produced here from his early live concerts like Hello In There, we both agreed that the best bet was to return them and get something else. Go figure.
But that is not the end of the story. I had, obviously, heard Bonnie Raitt do Prine's Angel From Montgomery long ago but I never associated his name with that song. Then a couple of years ago I happened to listen to that Hello In There mentioned above again and Sam Stone. Anyone whose has been affected by the Vietnam War experience in any way will gasp after hearing this very personal take of the destructiveness of that war for many of those who fought it, found hard drugs, and found the black hole as a result. If you want to hear a real anti-war song rather than something wistful like Where have All The Flowers Gone? and the like then listen to this one. Yes, this guy Prine had something to say that I wanted to (and on some songs, needed to) hear.
This compilation represents a very wide selection of his best work, arguably the best representation of that early work in one location that you could get. Mr. Prine is a good guitar player, a very, very good wordsmith who has produced some poetic turns of phrases here that will have you thinking for a while. Moreover on, for example, “Illegal Smile” he can show his “silly”, nonsensical side. He also frankly, has the wry sense of humor (in the classical Greek sense of that word) of a man who has been pushed around by life, has pushed back; has taken his beatings, dusted himself off and gotten back up again. You know, just the kind of guy that I, and I am sure other guys and gals of a certain age, very definitely can relate to, and in some cases like that Hello In There need to relate to. If you have just one John Prine album to get this is the one. Then start saving your dough to get the others.
In addition to the songs mentioned above listen to his cover of Hank Williams’“Jambalaya” and Prine'sParadise. Also Quiet Man, Souvenirs, and A Good Time.