Among the most influential and unmistakable songwriting voices of the past four decades, John Prine continues to cast his perceptive eye upon the subtle complexities of the human condition, delivering his observations in his uniquely concise, illuminating compositions. On May 25th, 2010, Oh Boy Records (founded in 1981 by Prine and manager Al Bunetta) will release In Person & On Stage, a beguiling live album drawn from performances spanning the past several years.
Drawing songs from as far back as Prine’s revelatory 1971 debut and as recently as 2005’s acclaimed Fair & Square, In Person & On Stage showcases the remarkable continuum that Prine’s catalog has become. Newer songs, such as the casually awed "She Is My Everything," sit comfortably alongside established classics like "Angel from Montgomery," performed here as a rapturous duet with Emmylou Harris. Longtime collaborator Iris DeMent is heard on "Unwed Fathers" and "In Spite of Ourselves," the uproariously yet insightful title song from his 1999 album of duets. Prine’s impact on the rising generation of roots music renegades is amply demonstrated by duets with songwriter Josh Ritter ("Mexican Home") and Nickel Creek’s Sara Watkins (a haunting take on "The Late John Garfield Blues"). Delivered with Prine’s trademark laconic, conversational ease and backed subtly by his longtime touring musicians, In Person & On Stage is an illuminating yet unpretentious snapshot of a great American storyteller at the very peak of his formidable powers.
Offering an intriguingly different slant on Prine’s still-growing legacy is Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine, which will be released by Oh Boy on June 22nd. Consisting of a dozen classic Prine compositions vividly re-imagined by a selection of maverick musical alchemists, Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows includes contributions from My Morning Jacket, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, The Avett Brothers, Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band, Old Crow Medicine Show, Lambchop, Drive-By Truckers, Deer Tick featuring Liz Isenberg, Justin Townes Earle, Those Darlins, and, reprising their respective tracks from In Person & On Stage, Nickel Creek’s Sara Watkins and Josh Ritter.
Today’s avant-roots renaissance owes a great debt to Prine’s wry, ever-questioning poetic genius, and Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows is the sound of this upstart generation paying tribute to one of their heroes and mentors. That’s not to say they do so with sterile reverence – quite the opposite, as the interpretations span everything from stark stringband strains to R&B backbeats, gurgling synths, and relentless rockabilly rhythms. Astonishingly, despite the various perspectives, studios, personnel, and voices, Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows holds together as a compelling unified statement. More of a heartfelt thank-you note than a tribute (after all, as In Person & On Stage demonstrates, Prine is still alive and creating some of the best music of his career), Prine’s irreverent spirit permeates every note.
Oh Boy will begin a pre-sale for In Person & On Stage on April 20thand for Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows on April 27th at www.musicfansdirect.com.