In Person & On Stage
First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2010, Volume 17, #7
Written by John Metzger
Thu July 29, 2010, 06:30 AM CDT
Issued by Atlantic Records in 1971, John Prineís self-titled debut largely went unnoticed. In the intervening years, he has added a steady stream of consistently strong material to his repertoire, but only occasionally have his songs succeeded in bubbling to the surface. David Allen Coe, for example, turned You Never Even Called Me by My Name into a hit single, while Bonnie Raitt, John Denver, and Tanya Tucker are among the many artists who have offered their interpretations of Angel from Montgomery. More recently, Prine has accumulated an abundance of accolades from all sorts of industry institutions, including his induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003 as well as several Grammy Award nominations and victories.
Surprisingly, though, Prine remains a performer who is better known to musicians than to the record-buying public. It might seem odd, then, that with the release of his latest set In Person & On Stage, Prine now has three concert recordings in his catalogue. Stranger still, in the past 15 years, Prine has issued only one album of all-new material (Fair & Square). Although he famously battled throat cancer a decade ago, he long has returned to performing and recording. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Prine no longer is as driven to compose songs as he was in his youth.
Even so, it would be a mistake to view In Person & On Stage as inessential filler that was designed to buy yet another slice of time until Prineís Muse returns. Instead, the outing, like its predecessors Live on Tour and Live, provides context and meaning to Prineís observant compositions about life, love, and community. Although there is some overlap among the collections, there arenít so many reiterations that one could call for the complete dismissal of the set.
Culled from a sequence of shows during which Prine not only was backed by bass player Dave Jacques and multi-instrumentalist Jason Wilber, but also was joined by a series of special guests ó Emmylou Harris, Iris DeMent, and Kevin Welch maintain his country roots, while Josh Ritter and Sara Watkins bolster his indie credibility ó In Person & On Stage pieces together selections from the full-range of Prineís career in order to provide a pseudo-concert experience. With this in mind, there naturally are a few ringers tucked into his set list, most notably Angel from Montgomery and Paradise. Although the former track, which is sung as a duet with Harris, never escapes the shadow of its past, the latter tune is given plenty of room to breathe amidst the gentle intoxication of its bluegrass-tinted arrangement.
Not surprisingly, however, the highlights of In Person & On Stage emerge from within its delightful blend of newer cuts and more obscure nuggets. During In Spite of Ourselves, Prine and DeMent revel in a comical tale of love, and coming in the wake of She Is My Everything, it further elaborates upon the relationship Prine has with his wife. Elsewhere, he explains his impetus for penning Your Flag Decal Wonít Get You into Heaven Anymore, a song that hasnít lost any of its luster, humor, or relevance despite the passage of nearly 40 years, and entertainingly details the truths that lie behind The Bottomless Lake. It isnít often that a singer/songwriter can translate his captivating presence in concert into a home environment, but with In Person & On Stage, Prine maintains his track record of sculpting live recordings that are every bit as good as his studio endeavors. Ĺ
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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