There are very few treasures that arrive with a battered acoustic guitar and open up the windows on basic lives with passion and grace. But when John Prine hits the road, the darkest corners and smallest joys get illuminated by the light of his gravelly, utterly American voice, his way with the plainest of language and the vintage Guild and Martin guitars he plays.
It's when you take these songs out and play them for people that you really get to know 'em," says the Chicago-born and -raised musician. "And it's funny. When we went in to make this record, some of the songs, because we'd been doing them live already, were just so comfortable to record. They were like old buddies almost. That's what I like about performing, beyond the actual performing.
And this year, the celebration of life's forgotten moments begins at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Asheville, North Carolina on April 8. The tour - which is currently booked through May - will extend through the summer and take the Grammy-winning singer/songwriter to all the places people traditionally gather to hear his tales of distinctly common people and ruminations on the fragile, yet tender beauty of life, love and loneliness.
We're gonna have Keb Mo on some of the shows," says Prine of his musical companions. "And we're gonna bring Leon Redbone out for a bunch of the other shows. That's all part of what we're trying to figure out. It's just a matter of making the details work.
Prine will tour again this year with two pieces behind him - along with all the classic Prine favorites fans expect: "Sam Stone," "Hello In There," "Angel From Montgomery," "Paradise," "The Speed of the Sound of Loneliness" as well as songs from Prine's forthcoming Fair & Square, due in-stores on April 26. Certainly songs like "Some Humans Ain't Human," "Other Side of Town" and "My Darling Hometown" have been making friends everywhere they're played.
Fair & Square marks the first album of Prine original material - in addition to Blaze Foley's "Clay Pigeons" and A.P. Carter's "Bear Creek Blues" - in 9 years. With guest appearances by Mindy Smith and Allison Krauss, it's Prine's usual mix'n'match batch of vintage American styles - ranging from sultry shuffles to finger-picked narratives to molten jukebox weepers. "I don't know what exactly I've been doing all this time, though I have been out playing dates. There's something about the road - you start doing it, sometimes, and you forget about making records," confesses the wry songwriter. "This year, though, I'm gonna do both. I can't wait."