An American treasure came to the Tiny Desk and even premiered a new song. John Prine is a truly legendary songwriter. For more than 45 years the 71-year-old artist has written some of the most powerful lyrics in the American music canon, including “Sam Stone,” “Angel From Montgomery,” “Hello In There” and countless others.
John Prine’s new songs are equally powerful and he opens this Tiny Desk concert with “Caravan of Fools,” a track he wrote with Pat McLaughlin and Dan Auerbach. Prine adds a disclaimer to the song saying, “any likeness to the current administration is purely accidental.” That song, and his second tune, the sweet tearjerker “Summer’s End,” are from John Prine’s first album of new songs in 13 years, The Tree of Forgiveness, produced by Dave Cobb. It was recorded with his longtime band in Nashville’s legendary RCA Studio A. Guests include Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires. There’s even a songwriter’s co-credit with Phil Spector.
For this Tiny Desk Concert John Prine also reaches back to his great “kiss-off” song from 1991 called “All the Best,” and then plays “Souvenirs,” a song intended for his debut full-length but released the following year on his 1972 album Diamonds in the Rough. It’s just one of the many sentimental ballads Prine has gifted us. Over the years, his voice has become gruffer and deeper, due in part to his battle with squamous cell cancer on the right side of his neck, all of which makes this song about memories slipping by feel all the more powerful and sad.
“Broken hearts and dirty windows
Make life difficult to see
That’s why last night and this mornin’
Always look the same to me
I hate reading old love letters
For they always bring me tears
I can’t forgive the way they rob me
Of my sweetheart’s souvenirs”
John Prine’s latest album, The Tree Of Forgiveness, is due out April 13 on Oh Boy Records. It’s available for pre-order from John Prine’s official web site, iTunes and Amazon.
John Prine, Jason Wilber; David Jacques; Kenneth Blevins
Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Maia Stern, Alyse Young; Production Assistant: Salvatore Maicki; Photo: Christina Ascani/NPR.