prine

John Prine at the Boulder Theater - 03.25.11

97.3 KBCO & the Daily Camera are proud to present John Prine at the Boulder Theater on Friday, March 25th, 2011.

The first time he got onstage to perform – at a Chicago open mic night – there was absolute silence. Here comes a guy nobody had ever seen, a mailman from nearby Maywood, and the very first songs he ever sings are miracles, songs like “Hello In There” and “Angel from Montgomery.” But this stunned silence spelled disaster to Prine. “They just sat there,” he said. “They didn’t even applaud, they just looked at me. I thought, `Uh oh. This is pretty bad.’ I started shuffling my feet and looking around. And then they started applauding and it was a really great feeling. It was like I found out all of a sudden that I could communicate deep feelings and emotions. And to find that out all at once was amazing.”

That one night changed his life. The club-owner offered him a gig, and from that moment on he quickly became one of Chicago’s most beloved local heroes, a guy who would honor the Windy City with as much love and grace as Studs Terkel and Carl Sandburg. Prine soon befriended another local hero, Steve Goodman, and with Goodman he met the world. Kris Kristofferson heard his songs, helped him land a record deal, and soon everyone knew what Chicago already did, that Prine was the real deal. From that first album on, he came known as a genuine “songwriter’s songwriter,” one of the rare ones who writes the songs other songwriters would sell their souls for.  Evidence of this is the long list of songwriters who have recorded his songs, including Johnny Cash, Bonnie Raitt, the Everly Brothers, John Denver, Kris Kristofferson, Carly Simon, Ben Harper, Joan Baez, and many others. Even Bob Dylan was stunned. “His stuff is pure Proustian existentialism,” said Bob Dylan.  . “He’s so good,” said Kristofferson, “we’re gonna have to break his fingers.”

Dylan and the rest were simply recognizing that which we have all come to know, that Prine’s songs are so hauntingly evocative of the laughter and tears inherent in the human condition, so purely precise and finely etched, that lines from them linger in our hearts and minds like dreams, separate from the songs. There’s the rodeo poster from “Angel from Montgomery,” the hole in daddy’s arm and the broken radio (from “Sam Stone”), the old trees that just grow stronger (from “Hello In There.”) The kinds of lines you carry around in your pocket, knowing they’re in there when you need them. With a staggering penchant for detail, a proclivity to be both hilarious and deeply serious (and often in the same song), and a visceral embrace  of roots music, he’s  made the kinds of songs nobody ever dreamed of before, or since.

Born on October 10th, 1946 in Maywood, he grew up spinning Roy Acuff and Hank Williams 78s in his dad’s collection, as well as tuning into WJJD to hear Webb Pierce, Lefty Frizell and others “back to back, all night long.” And then a new kind of music arrived: “I was coming of age just as rock and roll was invented,” he said, and along with his country heroes he added Elvis, Little Richard, Fats Domino, and the one he loved the most, Chuck Berry: “Because he told a story in less than three minutes.”

At 14 he started playing guitar and never stopped, starting with old folk tunes taught to him by his brother Dave. After high school he enlisted in the army, and was happy to be stationed in Germany, far from Viet Nam. He spent most of his time in the barracks playing guitar and singing Lefty Frizzell and Hank Williams songs with a friend.After the army, he became a mailman, which he loved because he could write songs while walking his familiar route. “It was like a library with no books,” he said.

He haunted the fringes of Chicago open mic nights, mostly at the old Fifth Peg on Armitage in Old Town. Once he summoned up the courage to perform, although terrified, he knew he was home. The rest is singer-songwriter history. It was 1971, the dream of the Sixties was over and Goodman and Prine emerged with a new kind of song, eschewing abstractions to write story songs about real people:  “Midwestern mindtrips to the nth degree,” as Dylan put it. Songs with the concrete details and imagery of a novel, but compounded, like Prine’s hero Chuck Berry’s songs, into mini-masterpieces.

After landing his first gig, he went home and wrote more masterpieces that made up his first self-titled debut, released in 1971. It was received with near-unanimous raves: “… absolutely one of the greatest albums ever made,” wrote a hometown paper, “by one of the most creative and evocative songwriters of our time.” There was the recognition then, which has been confirmed by the passage of time, that even among the best, he stood out. “Good songwriters are on the rise,” wrote Rolling Stone, “but John is differently good.”

Fans hungry for meaningful new music discovered him, unconcerned if he was the “new Dylan” or not, as he was often labeled, but drawn to the complex simplicity of his songs, the heady amalgam of sorrow and whimsy. Always seeking to strike a balance in his work, Prine said he wrote funny songs so as to get back to the tragic ones.

He made eight albums on two major labels, including Sweet Revenge, Common Sense, and Bruised Orange. In 1980 he moved to Nashville, and with longtime manager Al Bunetta, formed his own label, Oh Boy Records in 1981. They’ve since released a chain of great records, including 1991’s Grammy-winning The Missing Years, which featured cameos by Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. In 2000 he recaptured his own legacy by recording Souvenirs, new recordings of many of his classic songs.

In 1998 he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer centered in his neck. The removal of a tumor and subsequent radiation seems to have eradicated it completely. Although his singing voice was lowered significantly, he faced his illness with the same blend of wistful humor he instills in his songs. In a post-surgery letter to his fans, he wrote, “Hopefully my neck is looking forward to its job of holding my head up above my shoulders.”

Now he’s back with a brand new live album, John Prine: In Person & On Stage, which contains both solo and duet renditions of some of early songs such as “Angel From Montgomery” (here in a breathtaking duet with Emmylou Harris) as well as later classics such as “Unwed Fathers” (with Iris DeMent) and one of the most poignant songs ever from a husband to a wife, “She Is My Everything.”

“If he’s this good this young,” wrote Rolling Stone in 1971, “time should be on his side.” Truer words have rarely been written. Some four decades since his remarkable debut, Prine has stayed at the top of his game, both as a performer and songwriter. Recently honored at the Library of Congress, he has been elevated from the annals of songwriters into the realm of bonafide American treasures.  Poet Laureate Ted Kooser introduced him at the Library of Congress by likening him to Raymond Carver for making “monuments of ordinary lives.” But the greatest testaments to his lasting legacy are the songs themselves. Unlike so many which belong only to the time in which they emerged, his, like the old trees in “Hello In There,” seem to just grow stronger with the passing years.

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Tickets are on sale at Boulder Theater Box Office. Call (303) 786-7030 for tickets by phone.

Tickets are also available through our website @ www.bouldertheater.com.

Tickets are On Sale Saturday, February 5th!

$40 GA / $48.50 Res / $65 Gold Circle

John Prine Hits The Road

John Prine - Photo by: John Chiasson- for the Grateful Web

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."

John Prine's 'Fair & Square' hits stores on 4-26

- for the Grateful Web

Nashville: John Prine takes his own sweet time dancing with his muse - and truly writes what's in his soul. So if it takes him a little longer to write the songs that capture moments and reveal the gently folded human truths that bind us all together, it's always worth the wait. Now, nearly nine years since the release of his Grammy-nominated Lost Dogs & Mixed Blessings, the iconic American writer is putting the finishing touches on Fair & Square, which will be released on Prine's Oh Boy label April 26th.

"It was just time," says Prine in his always understated way. "I had a bunch of songs. I'd started recording em, and it turns out, I liked 'em pretty well. So, now, I get to get 'em all just the way I like 'em - and then I get to let 'em go out to meet the world."

Drawing on Prine's incomparable sweetness, his wicked wit and social commentary and his split rail simplicity, Fair & Square turns on the phases of the human heart - and the way the people getting by live, dream, love and survive their lives. With the occasional wheezing accordion, curlicue electric guitar parts, quick-wristed mandolins, billowing B-3 pads and puddles of pedal steel guitar, the rough-voiced singer/songwriter's first self-produced record is a homey affair that draws generously from the palette of traditional American music - be it folk, bluegrass, shuffles, almost vintage rock & roll, torch, country - for an amalgamation that would be at home on any Wurlitzer in a whiskey-soaked tavern with beer signs flickering from age and the walls stained deeper than sepia from the years of constant smoke.

Whether it's the sultry celebration of post-encounter rapture "Morning Train," the afterglow burning until the next moment can happen "Long Monday" or the down-stroke electric guitar charged "She Is My Everything," Fair & Square captures Prine's candy heart. But there's also the Joshua Tree dry wit of our culture's tabloid obsessive culture "I Hate It When That Happens To Me" and the fame-chasing self-mockery of "Crazy As A Loon", not to mention the gentle political nudge "Some Humans Ain't Human" that's soft-spoken indictment at its most aw-shucks.

With bluegrass queen Allison Krauss on the ode to his Irish refuge "My Darlin' Hometown" and the street corner desolation of "The Moon Is Down" and alt.country princess Mindy Smith bringing allure and tartness to "Morning Train, "Long Monday" and the melted neon ponder of "Taking A Walk," Fair & Square is the work of a man at ease with his life, secure with his place in the world and willing to share the things that he sees.

"It's been a while, so I'm pretty excited," Prine admits with that Oh! Boy! grin. "And that's a really good place to be."

Tour dates will follow shortly. Advance music is being pulled together. But given the working class Midwestern origin of the Grammy-winning songwriter, you can bet the songs will be served - and the fans who want to see and hear them will have their chance.