Saturday, September 1, 2012
John Prine: Poignant and Powerful
On a dusty pew in a vestibule
Sits the Devil playing pocket pool
He’s waiting for the next poor fool
Who forgot that it was Sunday
Whenever I hear a John Prine couplet I never know whether to laugh or cry. Usually I can do both because he is the Zen Master of musical irony. John’s abillity to tug at your heart strings and tickle your funny bones was on full display during the recent evening when he shared the concert bill with Emmy Lou Harris.
Prine doesn’t so much re-invent himself for a tour as he re-tools his sound. This year it is a spare acoustic take provided by David Jacques on bass and Jason Wilber on guitar and mandolin. Looking a bit like nineteenth century undertakers in dark suits, they played serious sounds to accompany’s John’s repertoire of classics.
Here’s a lyric sampling from the evening:
Humidity built the snowman
Sunshine brought him down.
He voted for Eisenhower
Cause Lincoln won the war
Father forgive us for what we must do
You forgive us we'll forgive you
We'll forgive each other till we both turn blue
Then we'll whistle and go fishing in heaven
Prine can move from sublime to ridiculous faster than he can change guitars and that was highlighted in his duets with Emmy Lou. After they did the raunchy, rocking “In Spite of Ourselves” (She gets it on like the Easter Bunny/ He ain’t got laid in a month of Sundays), they crooned the classic, “Angel from Montgomery.”
Prine completely brought the house down as he battled his way through the hysterical, “Let’s Talk Dirty in Hawaiian,”
The steel guitars are playin’
While she’s talking with her hands
Gimme gimme oaka doaka
Make a wish and wanta poka
Just reading this song (www.cowboylyrics.com) will crack you up.
Then as he wrapped up with a solo version of the haunting, “Sam Stone,” I was reminded how many of those protest songs of the sixties and seventies (Your flag decal won’t get you into heaven any more) are still relevant today.
Prine brought everyone back on stage to send us home on an upbeat note with “Paradise” and the satisfaction that once again The Singing Mailman had delivered.