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November 20, 2009 John Prine at The Dodge Theatre, Phoenix, AZ. Back up: Jason Wilber. Opener: The Grascals


By: Anthony Sandoval

John Prine plays intimate Dodge show - full review here
Listening to a John Prine song is a lot like taking a shot of whiskey - a little harsh and hard to swallow, but strangely you can find yourself going back for more. The country/folk singer-songwriter with a voice as coarse as gravel serenaded what looked to be 1,000 fans at the Dodge Theatre Friday, Nov. 20. Normally performing as a trio, Prine was without bassist Dave Jacques, who was recovering from meningitis. That left only Prine and guitarist Jason Wilber. Performing in a relatively large venue, Prine still managed to make the experience feel intimate for concertgoers. Due in large part to a voice that has been weathered by time, throat cancer and tragedy (it's no secret what Prine's songs are about), his voice often didn't carry the volume needed to fill the air. However ,fans obliged by listening intently and softly singing along. Prine's steady acoustic strumming highlighted by Wilber's electric guitar riffs and mandolin playing, the pair delivered an array of songs compiled over the decades. Also playing solo for a portion of the two hour set, Prine covered crowd favorites such as, "Please Don't Bury Me," "Souvenirs," and "Fish and Whistle."Although his voice has grown particularly distinct, Prine's words are what echoed on in the night. "Crazy As A Loon" was both candid and revealing, while "Love, Love, Love" resonated with those hard lessons learned over time. You couldn't help but feel a connection as he sang the chorus, "If I should live to a ripe old age, the only lesson I may ever learn, is to not stand so close to the flame of love unless you are willing to get burned." The Grascals, from Nashville, opened with a rambunctious and rowdy 40 minute set. With rapid-fire picking, the group stirred the audience early with its breakneck pace of bluegrass. A medley of Hank William Jr. songs and a cover of The Monkees' "Last Train To Clarksville" particularly pleased the crowd. The sextuplet of strings included two acoustic guitars, stand-up bass, mandolin, banjo and fiddle. The Grascals also came out later to perform a two-song encore with Prine. While the evening was filled with plenty of melancholy and somber undertones, it was strangely comforting to hear the words as sung by Prine. Much like that shot of whiskey. Cheers.

By: Danial
Wow, what a show! All the best and then some from opener Spanish Pipedream to a 3 song encore of Speed of the sound, grampa, and my favorite Paradise. Don't stop John, see ya tonite in Tucson, Peace, Danial

By: Serene Dominic
Q & A with John Prine at the Dodge Theatre


John Prine Primed and Prone to Work
   John's Prine's upcoming appearance at the Dodge Theater in Phoenix is not to promote anything but the continued propagation of John Prine’s lifeblood —singing and performing for the people, which he clearly still loves. Our nation's Poet Laureate called John Prine a "national treasure," but as his recent spate of brilliant albums prove, he's far from being a buried treasure.
   I had the privilege of interviewing John Prine for azcentral and here's some of our conversation that wasn't included due to space requirements. Here's Prine on spinning stages, songwriting partners, working with Mac Wiseman, Billy Bob Thornton and major record label deals.
   Phoenix is a market a lot of touring acts just skip over but you’re playing here pretty consistently.
   Prine: I wouldn’t skip Phoenix. I love coming here. It’s a great little town. It’s got everything.
   Normally when you play here, you’ve been at the Celebrity Theater with the spinning stage. Did you ever have any bad experiences playing in the round?
   Prine: I like the Celebrity. Usually I don’t like playing in the round, I feel like a birthday cake. I played a place in Houston that’s made more for theater so they had monitors but you went past the monitors, they didn’t move but the stage did. I tried to tell the guy that owned the place that it was like playing on the back of a truck in a parade. And every two block I get to hear myself. And he just looked at me like I was crazy.
   How’s you get through that? Did you just sing extra loud?
   Prine: I just pretended I was somewhere else. I picked a previous concert from another year and did that (laughs).
   When you’re touring without a new album, are you testing new stuff out on the road?
   Prine: I do that. You'll see if a song feels to you that it needs work or if the bridge is in the right place, like crossing the river at the right time. I know when I got something-I know when I‘ve got a John Prine song. And I also know when I got something different that the crowd that comes to hear me, it’s gonna be very different for them, I got a pretty idea whether they're gonna like that. Sometimes you’ve gotta be a little careful and tell them a story to get them into it (laughs). And sometimes. a new song won’t go over so good live and you get it in the studio and it will be one of the better songs on the record.
   You’ve been recording a lot of other people’s material the last few years, those in-between albums like “In Spite of Ourselves.” Do you pick songs that feel like something you’d write?
   Prine: These are songs I’ve been singing more or less to myself over the years. I recorded the album “Standard Songs For Average People” with Mac Wiseman because they were songs I wanted to hear Mac sing. He was really happy to be asked to sing those standards because all people want to hear him sing is bluegrass. And he’s a big fan of pop music and he cut his teeth on Bing Crosby and I can tell by his voice that he’s a crooner. I’m not but I’ve got my own record company (Oh Boy records) so I can do what I want and that’s why I do those kind of records in-between my regular records. I figure why have a record company if you can’t make records the kind that you want. And I was never any good at outguessing the public anyway. Why should I make money for anybody but myself?
   With you heading your own record label Oh Boy, it’s come full circle to the days where you got signed and you had people who were actually into music running a label, like Jerry Wexler at Atlantic. Someone who actually has a hand in making music.
   Prine: I was there when it all changed. That was part of the reason I started Oh Boy. When I was signed to Atlantic, I had a ten record deal. I was supposed to deliver two albums a year of fresh material. Well that all sounded great to me when I was a mailman. I was happy to be on that label. Jerry Wexler was hands-on, he put me in the studio with producer Arif Mardin and Wexler would be listening to stuff as it went along and I didn’t feel that (attention) after he left. So they let me out of my contract but it cost me. I never made a dime for them but it cost me. I owed them seven albums so I had to pay up. I stayed within the Warners Group, Asylum signed me and after that I've been independent ever since. I started my label in ’84 and people told me I was committing suicide. They told me “you can’t do that.” I know I have an audience and I want to go directly to them and then whatever I get on top of that is cream on the top.
   You say people don’t come to you to ask you to write songs for them but you did write "In Spite of Ourselves" for a movie (Daddy and Them, in 2002).
   Prine: Yeah, Billy Bob Thornton asked me to write that but I wrote it in less time than it takes me to sing it, (laughs). Luckily it was a song I wanted to sing myself.
   You did a lot early Sixties country favorites on the “In Spite of Ourselves” CD. like “Backstreet Affair.” That’s what’s lacking in country now. Cheating songs! Everything seems hunky dory in a modern country song. Everybody's got a job and a truck. ----> Prine: It all goes back to who’s running the record companies when the corporate guys took over. They figured out a way to make hits that had nothing to do with music. Get someone who looks good on a video and teach him to sing. And get people to write songs for him that sound like pop or rock and roll songs.
   You’ve written with some heavyweights in the pop field, like Donnie Fritts who's written for soul artists as well as country, and Roger Cook, who did all those 60s and 70s hits for British groups.
   Prine: Exactly. Like Roger, we’re best of friends. He’s just one of the people I met through my association with Cowboy Jack Clemens. There was this whole gang of people who came from all different backgrounds and Jack was the force that brought them all together. Me and Roger shoot snookers or play dominoes. Roger’s written hundreds of songs but you’ll never see his name alone on a song. He wrote all that stuff with Roger Greenway like “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” and “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress.” It was just like a Lennon and McCartney arrangement. Roger’s still that way today. He’ll come to me with a song that just needs another verse and a bridge and say “I can't do anything with this.” And I say “Jeez the thing is almost a tree.” If I like a song, I can get a real clear picture of what it needs. If something is already there and just not some coloring or shading I like to do that. And we also have stuff we start from scratch. But it’s nothing I look at as a job because he’s such a good buddy. We just come to a table with “Uhh, you got any ideas?” I know guys that just like to write from titles. Then if you get excited within the first half hour you might have something but if it gets to be too much of a grind, I’d just rather get a hot dog.
   Do you have a list of titles you haven’t been able to write a song around?
   Prine: I’ve had this idea for a song for 25 years trying to write a song about the Vulcan in Birmingham Alabama. There’s this big statue overlooking the city. I read the history about it. They used it for advertising, they put overalls on him. He’s a Greek god. They put a real light on the statue’s torch and if there was a traffic fatality the light would turn red. And I thought wow, Can you imagine a mother sitting up looking out of her picture window seeing that light turn red and wondering if it was her son. A little movie starts going in my head. I’ve been trying to write this song for years, it’s not the kind of song I want to bring t the table with somebody else so I’m thinking now I’ve got two songs going. And that’s what’s stopping me. I’m trying to tell two different stories. It’s called The Iron Man From Birmingham. It’s an historical narrative like "Sink the Bismarck."
   Where was the first place you played "Angel From Montgomery" live?
   Prine: Back in Chicago. I wrote that in ’69. Bonnie Koloc was the first to record it.


Sat 11/21 - Tuscon, AZ - Fox Tuscon Theatre with The Grascals opening. Back up band Jason Wilber and


Friday 11/18 Flagstaff, AZ - Ardrey Auditorium - with The Grascals and Back up Band Jason Wilber

Venue: NAU Ardrey Auditorium
Date: Nov 18

  Time to daydream
   Grammy Award-winning musician John Prine comes to NAU's Ardrey Auditorium.
   Full Preview here
   There used to be a time when time was all John Prine had. So he let his mind wander to places where stories are born, rich characters spring to life and meaning is revealed in poetic grace.
  "When you got a lot of spare time and you do nothing but daydream all day, you're able to use your imagination," the singer-songwriter said during a late October interview from his Nashville home. Prine's daydreams have led him to write some pretty amazing songs -- "Hello in There," "Paradise," "Illegal Smile," "Dear Abby," "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore," "Angel From Montgomery." Many of those songs, which were never big radio or chart hits, have become nearly iconic and are mainstays of Prine's live shows. You can bet you will hear several of them when he plays at NAU's Ardrey Auditorium on Wednesday, the Dodge Theatre in Phoenix Friday, Nov. 20, and Fox Theatre in Tucson on Saturday, Nov. 21.
   Which sort of surprises Prine. He was never one to project into the future when he started his music career nearly 40 years ago. But he certainly never imagined songs like "Sam Stone" would have a vibrant life nearly 30 years after he wrote them, or that he would have a tour schedule that kept him on the road a good third of the year.
  "It's not like I had hits, but there are certain (songs) I have to sing because people are expecting it," Prine said. "They want to hear 'Sam Stone,' 'Hello in There,' a lot of the early stuff. I'm out there singing them every night and if they were going to get old, I would be the first one to know it."
   Prine's daydreaming time was interrupted when he became a father 14 years ago. He has two sons -- one 14, the other 13 -- which has "really, really grounded me," he said.
  "Now when I sit down to write it's more like, 'OK, it's Tuesday. Five o'clock and I got to be somewhere'," said Prine, 63. "It might be two weeks before I get a chance to sit down again."
   Prine has never been one to write on demand, which he said is part natural inclination, part stubborn resistance. His songwriting is inspired, and when the inspiration strikes, he acts on it.
  "I can write behind the steering wheel if something appeals to me. If an idea gets ahold of me, I don't let anything stop me. It stays in the back of my mind until I can actually sit down and commit it to paper," he said in a rough-hewn voice that has witnessed years of use and a fair amount of abuse.
  "The best songs come along all at once, all tidy and wrapped up. When that happens, the best thing you can do is sit back and accept it. ... Sometimes they are just delivered, like a child, and they are just perfect."
   One of those songs was "I Just Want To Dance With You," which Prine cowrote with the George Strait in the 1980s. Prine cut the song soon after writing it. But it was Strait's version, released in 1998 when Prine was undergoing cancer treatments, that became a monster hit. Six months after Strait released it, Prine received a $600,000 royalty check -- enough money, he recalled, to pay his medical bills.
   Prine rebounded from the cancer with renewed energy and a new appreciation for life and his music. The biggest change, though, came in his live shows. He had to rework his catalogue to match his new voice, which had dropped a register or two. Suddenly songs that he had been singing night after night for decades felt new. "A simple thing like that was like I discovered the songs all over again," he explained. Prine is not a prolific recording artist. His live shows have always driven his career, fueled by a constantly changing fanbase that includes older folks and their children and grandchildren. It is this universal appeal that stumps Prine. He muses aloud that his music career didn't start out as a career; it started out as a dare, evolved into a hobby and then turned into an enduring legacy. "I couldn't say I had dreamed of doing this, but (I had) a yearning to do it. I would be making up songs even if I was a retired mailman right now," he said. "It's amazing to me that I have been able to make a living out of it. "Right now, as far as I'm concerned, what I do, I'm at the top of my career," he added. "I'm playing nothing but places I want to play. The dressing rooms are real nice; there are no rats in them. The pizza's warm. What else could you ask for?"



By: Mary Tolan
Long and Winding Road: Prine in our prime ---
Full Review here
   I woke up this morning humming ...
   That's the way the world goes round You're up one day and the next you're down ... and by the time I hit my running trail I was singing this gem full tilt.
   John Prine came to our little town last week and gifted Flagstaff with a two-and-a-half hour concert. The man is an amazing storyteller in his songs, of course, but also as a stage presence, often sharing tales of how his songs came about. Like the time, after he thought he was all done recording a new album, when his "stubborn producer" told him he needed to write one more song. The way Prine tells it, he argued to no avail with the man and then stomped back to his hotel, determined to write "the worst thing he'd ever heard." So, he grabbed his guitar, started strumming and came out with his classic "Fish and Whistle." Boy, did he show him. Hearing that story and listening to the song's lyrics made me laugh. Because it does start out as something that could aim to displease:
   I been thinking lately about the people I meet
   The carwash on the corner and the hole in the street
   The way my ankles hurt with shoes on my feet
But then moves deftly into classic Prine:
   And I'm wondering if I'm gonna see tomorrow
   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...
   We all have stories to tell, and part of mine is Flagstaff becoming home. The friendships built. I went to the concert with a couple I've treasured for 20-plus years, and I knew half the audience. Sure, the crowd could have been a photograph from an AARP conference -- with a few under-40 babes sprinkled into the Ardrey mix. After all, Prine turned 63 last month.
   Those of us growing up Beatles-crazed followed them from pop to rock, and onto psychedelic songs. So stuck on the English lads and their ilk that it wasn't until I hit my 30s that I discovered John Prine, immediately enchanted by the mix of serious and fun.
   Today, a tad past 30, I appreciate his life observations. I mean, who else sings the truth of loving someone from 10 miles away?
   When I'm feeling down, I think of the guy whose bowl of oatmeal stared him down -- and won. And I laugh.
  His insights about people are at once touching, deep and absurdly true.
   Sally used to play with her hula hoops
   Now she tells her problems to therapy groups
   Grampa's on the front lawn staring at a   rake
   Wondering if his marriage was a terrible mistake.
   Ouch. I've been both those folks -- sans the rake.
   And yet, as my life moves along this long and winding road, I like to think there's a rainbow ahead (without that dead end).
   Someday, I may again hear someone singing to me, and it won't be from my living room speakers:
   She is my everything
   When she wakes up in the morning
   That's when the birdies start to sing.

   Meanwhile, when I'm feeling crazy as a loon and in need of spirituality, I hear Prine's appeal to the Angel of Montgomery:
  Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
And she does.


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