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John Prine
 
 
 
 
   
 
     
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JOHN PRINE
"Standard Songs For Average People" - With Mac Wiseman
"Fair & Square"
www.johnprine.net
Both Albums Out Now on Oh Boy Records / Proper Distribution
Available in Ireland through Eclectic Music Distribution

JOHN PRINE: October 2007 Irish Dates
15th - Dublin, National Concert Hall
23rd -Cork, Opera House
25th - Belfast, Waterfront Hall, Queens Festival
26th - Derry, Millennium Forum
Support Act on all dates is Dan Reeder



"Standard Songs For Average People" - With Mac Wiseman
Folk troubadour John Prine teams up with country/bluegrass legend Mac Wiseman for a duets album taking in some startling new versions of classic American songs.
"It's no stretch to call 'Standard Songs For Average people' a masterpiece. Standard songs, yes, but with extraordinary choices and performances. Average people these aren't, but the title carries the message that music like this is not for music snobs and insiders. It's not only for the old or the young or for a demographic or a psychographic. It is, across generation and persuasion, for all of us." - Craig Havenhurst


Track Listing: Blue Eyed Elaine / Don't Be Ashamed Of Your Age / I Forgot To Remember To Forget / I Love You Because / Pistol Packin' Mama / Saginaw Michigan / Old Dogs, Children And Watermelon Wine / Old Cape Cod / Death Of Floyd Collins / The Blue Side Of Lonesome / In The Garden / Just The Other Side Of Nowhere / Old Rugged Cross / Where The Blue Of The Night

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"Fair & Square" - 2006 Grammy Awards Winner - Best Contemporary Folk Album

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 together. It’s always worth the wait !

Now, nearly nine years since the release of the Grammy-nominate ‘Lost Dogs & Mixed Blessings’, the iconic American writer has put the finishing touches on his latest offering, appropriately titled "Fair And Square". With bluegrass queen Alison Krauss on the ode to his Irish refuge "My Darlin Hometown", 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.

Track Listing: Glory Of True Love / Crazy As A Loon / Long Monday / Taking A Walk / Some Humans Ain’t Human / My Darlin Hometown / Morning Train / The Moon Is Down / Clay Pigeons / She Is Everything / I Hate It when That Happens To Me / Bear Creek Blues. Bonus tracks: Other Side Of Town (live) / Safety Joe.

 
 
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“You know who you are – and you can really use that to your advantage.
You’re not settling for something, you know…
It’s a good thing to know who you are:
You know how to walk into a room, where to sit down
& everything except how the play ends.
I called this record
Fair & Square because the songs all came from the gut –
From somewhere between my heart and my gut –
The intention was honest and straightforward; nothing more, not thing less.”

It’s been nine years since John Prine – Grammy-winner, former mailman, iconic American songwriter, voice of a generation, chronic dreamer, child of the Midwest, grandchild of Appalachia – made a record. And in that time, the man whose given us “Sam Stone,” “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness,” “Hello In There,” “Blow Up Your TV,” “Unwed Fathers,” “I Ain’t Botherin’ Nobody,” “Angel From Montgomery,” “Souvenirs,” “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore” and “The Great Compromise” made a full-immersion commitment to living that precluded the watching-the-clock school of record making.

“I can’t believe it,” says the gruff-voiced songwriter with that low rumbling laugh. “Everything’s just been flowing… Days roll into each other… You’re writing songs… You’re thinking you’re making a record… Then you’re not sure the songs are really talking to each other. When you’re not paying attention to how long it’s been – and you’re on the road, raising your family, just being in your life – suddenly, it’s nine years! Who knew?”

Still listening to Fair & Square, it’s obvious that whatever the ever humble musician was doing, it was time well-spent. Not only has he grown more comfortable in his skin, many of the facets that’ve always marked his writing – the open-armed humanity, the gentle compassion, the willingness to shine a light on ordinary tableau – has deepened. There’s a sweetness to songs like the frolicking “Glory of True Love,” the fond “My Darlin’ Hometown” or the aching “The Moon Is Down.”

“I just don’t care any more,” Prine says of his sentimental side. “I don’t care how sentimental I am…In fact, I love it and I want to celebrate it, because it’s the way I am. After all, it’s a real thing…I think if it’s bad sentimentality, it probably isn’t a real thing, it’s just bad. But sometimes, things that some people think are corny – like things that are classics -- are real; they’re classic because they are. So why pretend it’s something else?”
Not that John Prine’s grown overly sentimental. He’s not only unearthed a newfound sultriness on the pining’n’kindling “Long Monday,” the exultant “She Is My Everything” and the purring “Morning Train,” his sense of the moment remains strong. His always clear-eyed social commentary remains every bit as lucid – and perhaps even more incisive.

Whether it’s the straight-up jingoistic indictment of “Some Humans Ain’t Human,” the allegorical “Taking A Walk” or the indictment of voyeuristic culture “I Hate It When That Happens To Me,” the first songwriter to be asked by the United States Poet Laureate to read at the Library of Congress isn’t afraid to illuminate the inherent contradictions in the way some of us walk through this world. With plain verbage and gentle melodies, these songs speak volumes about hypocracy, greed and a reality of abdicating living one’s own life for unhealthy obsession with someone else’s.

“As far as being political, it’s a real, real strange climate right now,” offers the man whose songs have polished small lives until they shine. “There’s nothing at all going on – as much as there was during Viet Nam… and even with all the demonstrations, it’s not as bad as now. There’s this whole are you or are you not an American – and you’re not an American if you don’t agree with politics in office.

“It really felt like the people who spoke up with a dissenting opinion were getting condemned, which was the most un-American thing…and it was done in a real strange way. Though the thing I dislike even more than the policies is that I can’t find any humor in this naturally… The more this administration did, the less humor you could find in it”

The politics that seeps into Prine’s song is just one facet of the journey to Fair & Square. In addition marking Prine’s debut as a producer – a job he shared with engineer Gary Paczoza, it also marks a new comfort to the singing style of the craggy-voiced troubadour.

And the culprit for this new found ease of performing is a rather unlikely reality. Not some high-powered vocal coach or breakthrough technique, but the cancer of Prine’s neck. “My voice dropped after the surgery for the cancer,” Prine allows. “I don’t know if it was that, or the radiation. I’d never even heard of neck cancer and I had to have radiation across the throat area to heal anything touching where the cancer was… which was my vocal chords.

“My voice dropped, so the first thing we had to do was change the key on a lot of songs I’d been comfortable with – and they became totally brand new. I’d never have bet that would happen; but it totally changed my attitude about performing…it got really interesting again

“You know, for better or worse, I’d never liked my voice much before. It was a bit too twangy, and when I sang, I used to go up a register – and I don’t even know why. In fact, I was getting real curious to get in the studio to hear it ‘cause my singing was getting more and more comfortable, so I was looking forward to recording to hear it under a magnifying glass.”

The magnifying glass might be too strong a word for it, as Prine often had moments of wondering about “the new producer.” Though he’s always had a hand in the texture of his records from Aimless Love on, he’s never been hands on – and this marked a challenge for the homey writer.

“Sometimes I’d go home at night with the exact same feeling you have with a new producer: You think you trust them, but then you work a few days and you’re not energy back – and you’re convinced it’s not working. That’s the place where you wanna call’em up and say, ‘Hey, you’re great, but it’s just not happening…’ “We started this a couple times… I’d get a few songs in, then think it wasn’t going anywhere. In the end, I think it was the guy singing them who made it all fit. I didn’t hear it exactly ‘cause I was so close to it. That’s what a ‘producer’ sees…The artist gets almost a cloud over it that the producer can see through.

“I could write the songs; I could sing the songs; I could produce the songs – and still not hear what was going on with them. I figured out you really have to sit down and listen. It’s what a lot of producers miss -- that listening part, because the songs will tell you everything, right down to what to do.”

With Prine’s natural sense of grace and humor, he committed himself to the process – even when it meant sometimes calling players and asking for things they’d already played. “Oh, yeah,” acknowledges the producer, “we’d put up the tracks, then realize we’d already done that, which made you know it was the right call.
“I didn’t mind putting stuff on that I wanted to find out about… We’d literally have people come in and I’d say, “Play from the beginning to the end….’ Maybe we’d use some of it, all of it or realize that was the wrong idea, but we’d figure it out.

“And I couldn’t have done that without Gary being there. Because we’d get all those tracks up, and it became very clear what this monster was. Because we’ve got it all there, and the tracks would start telling you what to do. Gary’d start pulling stuff out – and this record emerged.”

Fair & Square is certainly a jewel in the crown of John Prine’s catalogue. Personal without being intrusive, sweet without being cloying, aware without haranguing, it marks the very best work of a man whose songs are strong enough to warrant the first invitation to a songwriter by the Poet Laureate of the United States to read at the Library of Congress.

It’s that reverence for humanity – and simplicity of intention – that has made John Prine one of America’s most enduring songwriters. Not that the chuckle-and-whatever artist with the twinkle in his eye would ever sit still for that kind of praise.

“I don’t know about any of it,” he demurs. “It’s like when people tell me it’s been nine years since my last record – what was I doing? Well, you know, time just kind of slips away… I can’t even believe it. Time’s just flowing, and I’m not even sure where it went – me scooting through the days, that turned into well, nine years.

“I’ve been on the road. I’ve been with my family. I’ve been writing songs… and I’ve been, uhm, producing a record. I guess it takes times to get all these things right. Although,” he says, pausing for wry set-up, “I know I’m not going for perfection – unless there’s such a thing as the perfect mistake.”

In John Prine’s world, there are no mistakes, of course. Just the perfection of moments seen, polished, worn with warm affection or golden clarity. So it is that Fair & Square is here, finally, and certainly worth the wait.

Fair & Square
Song-By-Song


1. “Glory of True Love”
“Roger and I both love love. We’ve written about it before, and when we get flying on the subject, get out of the way. Though I spent half a day trying to explain their was a very famous song called ‘The Glory of Love.’
“Roger knew and didn’t care. He kept saying, ‘THIS is the Glory of TRUE love.’ It takes us 4 or 5 meetings to get the song done… After the first day, I forgot to keep arguing about it, though. He knows what he’s doing after all.”

2. “Crazy As A Loon”
“Pat told me this line: ’Back before I was a movie star/ Straight off the farm…’ and that character just clicked for me. It wasn’t what Pat had in mind, but I just started scribbling… Here’s this guy who’s just at the mercy of those towns… and he’s crazy as a loon. And this song, to me, the telling of the story is more important than story – and it’s a good story to tell.
“I like the Nashville verse a lot, too.”

3. “Long Monday”
“It was Keith’s idea… and when I’m co-writing, I usually only co-write with good friends, so I don’t have to ask which way we’re going! We could be going in two different directions, not that we’d stop to ask…
“This song is about trying to keep that moment in time going… until the next moment. You know it’s one thing for a guy to be singing about his girl and what a great time they had – that’s intimate. But to have the girl there, it brings it to life. Mindy makes that for me; she puts the cherry on top of there, the whipped cream, too, ‘cause it could’ve just been harmony, but she sings it like she’s the girl in the song.”

4. “Taking A Walk”
“Me and Pat were at one of Fergie’s other studios – the Naughty Pines, probably ‘cause of all the calendars on the wall. We’d written a song the day before just like that, so we were feeling pretty good. We wanted to write a song with Beatles-like chords and Stones-like words that all ended with ‘tion, you know ‘Satisfaction,’ ‘Attraction’… Think about it.
“We only got 30 seconds into it, and we thought, ‘This sounds really good.’ We were mostly trying to entertain ourselves, but this one built up real nice and just kept building. You know, one of those times where you don’t know where he’s coming from, but you think, ‘I really like where this is going…’
“For me, it’s an allegory about the country, but I never asked Pat. With me and Pat everything’s shared rught down the line: I might start a sentence, but the other will finish it. We both like the sound of words, the immediacy of lines – and that can be enough..”

5. “Some Humans Ain’t Human”
“I gotta say I didn’t know this is where I was going – but I did it all in one sitting. We were in Ireland and I knew I had to write for the album. At the time, the whole situation was weighing on my mind, particularly from being in Ireland all summer – because you see what the rest of the world thinks of us.”

6. “My Darlin’ Hometown”
“Roger had been trying to get me to write an Irish song. He came over to visit me a couple of years back – before we got the house – and we met up in (noted guitarist) Phillip Donnelly’s hometown. We just had a ball. But it’s funny that this Brit of all Brits wants to write an Irish song…
“The more time you spend in Ireland, it’s just the most endearing place, but it’s very complicated, too. I feel like I know less about them than I did 10 years ago. It’s not all cut and dried, the politics of it. Some is, but it’s more intricate – and Philip, no matter what the topic was, by 3 in the morning, he says, ‘It all goes back to X Century in Ireland…’ and it’s kind of right… which is why I’d dodge it when Roger’d bring it up.
“Anyway, we put a verse in about kids skating on the river… so it wouldn’t be Ireland, because the rivers don’t freeze over there. But by that time, truly, it could be anybody’s hometown. And that’s what I wanted: a song that could be a movie about YOUR hometown, or the way you’d’ve liked it to be.”

7. “Morning Train”
“I hope people don’t think it’s about a train, that’s all I can say! It’s a saying Pat and I have to describe a feeling we have… We were knocking it back and forth, the idea that it should be a train that really sends me. THAT and the feel, that stroll was really different, the simpler musically, the more difficult it is to get… Dave Jakes finally played it on bass, then Pat doubled it on keyboards, which makes it a great song IF it feels that way. It all comes from that staying up all night, getting on the 5:30 train to New Orleans, you know, have a few Bloody Marys, watch the sun come up over the Delta.
“And we had an aunt, when I was little, we used to get up to take her to Dearborn Station. That was always a special feeling… and that’s what this is about

8. “The Moon Is Down”
“It’s a weird little song, and I didn’t write it so much as it just fell out of me. I had this title that I’d put on post-its all over the house so I wouldn’t forget it. That title was ‘Too Late The Moon.’ Picked up the guitar finally to start writing it, and this came out.
“I’m a huge (John) Steinbeck fan. When I was in highi school, I read just about everything – I even love the movie! I wrote this in the time it takes to sing the song. And what I thought I was writing about, I thought it was about a relationship falling apart, you know splitting up, but after singing it, I realized it was about losing my Mom.
“When I wrote a song, I don’t really know what I’m writing about… I’m just writing straight from the heart. In this case though, the more the artist sang, the more the producer listened – and the more I realized it was about her being gone ‘cause my Mom was such a huge person. I love this song, and when we got done in the studio, we didn’t even have to listen, it was just such a pure performance.”

9. “Clay Pigeons”
“I’m doing a Bonnie Raitt ‘Austin City Limits’ show… and I’d just learned this song. I’m talking to the girl doing my make-up, who tells me, ‘I met you a long time ago at the Armadillo (World Headquarters). You were there with Blaze Foley. He introduced us.’
“I remember talking to Lucinda, she was telling me the story about Blaze Foley, and I was thinking, “Oh, what an interesting character…’ He’d written ‘If I Could Only Fly,’ that Merle Haggard cut and inspired Lucinda’s ‘Drunken Angel.’ Seemed like someone I should’ve known… turns out I almost did… but this song, I loved it when I came across it, and I felt very natural singing it.”


10. “She’s My Everything”
“I wrote this one about Fiona, except for the Bruce Lee verse. THAT verse is about Priscilla Presley. But otherwise, I wrote the entire thing about my wife Fiona.
“Oh, yeah… that verse about the battery, well, it’s not quite true. She uses Durcell.”

11. “’I Hate It When That Happens To Me”
“We were thinking musically Jerry Lee Lewis. All these years, I’m still trying to write a song from Jerry Lee Lewis to sing… probably too many words, though; not for me, but Jerry Lee!
“The idea for the title was Donnie’s. And the guy everything happens to – so many celebrity trials going on, so many people not living their own lives because they’re obsessed with all these other people’s… It’s crazy! Anyway, I still wish Jerry Lee Lewis would sing it, though.”

12. “Bear Creek Blues”
“This is an old Carter Family song from the very first record I had of their’s. Maybelle’s guitar on that song had the same sound as Elvis’ guitar on the beginning of ‘That’s Alright, Mama.’ That’s why we do the song the way we do.
“But the way, that was before he met Priscilla.”

John Prine’s Joins Poet Laureate Ted Kooser
1st Singer/Songwriter To Read/Play at Library of Congress March 9

Washington, DC: Grammy-winning songwriter John Prine has always fashioned his craft, based on telling universal truths about people not so very different from us all. With a gentle eye, he coaxes meaning from mundane moments and major truths from things that go unseen -- and his gift of uncommon insight delivered with common language has earned the former postman and American songwriting icon an invitation to read – and perhaps play a song or two -- March 9th in the Library of Congress' Coolidge Auditorium.

Prine was invited by Ted Kooser, the current Poet Laureate. Sharing Prine's Midwestern roots, Kooser has been described as "a major poetic voice for rural and small town America and the first Poet Laureate chosen from the Great Plains." The pair will come together for "A Literary Evening with John Prine and Ted Kooser," which promises to be a lively discussion of how and why lyrics in popular songs often mirror people's emotions and ideas of the world better than some contemporary poetry.

"I have been following John Prine's music since his first album came out and have always been struck by his marvelous writing: its originality, its playful inventiveness, its poignancy, its ability to capture our times," explains Kooser. "For example, he did a better job of holding up the mirror of art to the '60s and '70s than any of our official literary poets. And none of our poets wrote anything better about Viet Nam than Prine's 'Sam Stone.'

"Lyric poetry is called that because it once was sung, and accompanied by the lyre. All that's left of the music in contemporary poetry are things like assonance and alliteration and rhyme, Prine's writing and music returns us to that earlier way of delivering poetry."

For Prine, who has captured the desolation of marriage ("Angel From Montgomery"), the unthinking jingo-ism of fill-in-the-blank patriotism ("Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Any More"), the isolation of the elderly ("Hello In There"), the innocence of romantic attraction ("I Just Want To Dance With You") and the weight of young male irresponsibility on their partners ("Unwed Fathers"), songwriting is as much about the people he sees as his own measured interpretation. Long a stalwart on the singer/songwriter circuit, The Missing Years, German Afternoons, Aimless Love, Lost Dogs & Mixed Blessings and his upcoming Fair & Square -- due April 26th -- reveal an artist whose worldview has only become richer, clearer and wiser over time.

"I've been asked to do a lot of things," says Prine with a big smile, "but this is definitely a first. And I don't even know how to quite respond to it. For a guy who carried mail, was in the service, did so-so in school, this is kind of beyond the stuff I usually think about. It's the kind of honor that's beyond. So, you can bet I'm looking forward to it - taking all these people in my songs to the Library of Congress and letting 'em look around a little bit. It should be great, and an honor, and everything else."

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
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