John Prine – John Prine Live
Oh Boy, 1988
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2013
John Prine has great fans. His music has that extra something special that really ignites something inside of people. Every now and then some guy will come into the store looking for Prine CDs and we’ll talk for five minutes about how great John Prine is and I’ll check the inventory on the off chance we have a copy of Great Days stashed away somewhere. These are people who get it and wholly appreciate Prine’s gift for spinning yarns full of wit and heartbreak. These people know that barely anyone else ever wrote songs this good. I’ll probably never get to see John Prine live, and I’m OK with that because this live album is one of those rare live album’s that really captures the essence of an artist’s stage show. This isn’t just a straight up, perfectly recorded live album where the only real difference between the studio recordings and the live ones is some applause tacked on the end. While this album picks and chooses lives cuts from various circumstances rather than chronicling one set, it works (The songs are primarily culled from a set at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano with a few from a set at The Cannery in Nashville, one from the Arie Crown Theater in Chicago and one from Austin City Limits). You get the crowd signing along to “Illegal Smile,” which is just totally wonderful. You feel like you’re right there, singing along with a room full of people who love that song just as much as you. Prine’s pre-song banter is fantastic, but that is too be expected. The way he carries himself is such a huge part of his song. He’s not quite self-deprecating, but it feels like that. His commentary on the world at large, from the story behind writing “The Oldest Baby in the World” with Donnie Fritts to a really poignant bit about the Vietnam War Memorial that precedes “Sam Stone,” which might well be the greatest anti-Vietnam song ever. The whole affair feels more like hanging out with a really great dude rather than seeing a concert. It feels like a communal thing. Like a we’re all in this together thing. There’s something really beautiful about feeling connected to a room full of people courtesy of a musician who’s pretty much just like you. I usually start people off on Prime Prine or the first disc of Great Days if they’re keen to get into John Prine, but maybe this one is even better. You get such a sense of who this guy is and where he is coming from, and the song selection is pretty much impossible to beat.
"That's the Way That The World Goes 'Round"