John Prine

Last week, John Prine passed away.

I had feared that would happen the moment I heard he had been diagnosed with Covid-19.

His passing is enough to make your heart feel like a bruised orange.

There’s a reason why so many singers and songwriters sang his praises in the days that followed.

He was one of the most sharp observers of the human condition, be it that encroaching loneliness of growing old, the toll of war, or just the fact you could get fired for being scared of bees.

He articulated our hopes and fears better than most songwriters you can name.

For that, he got branded with the term ‘New Dylan,’ a lazy shorthand that forgot he was the one and only John Prine.

I can’t help but feel that his work as a mailman contributed mightily to his evocative writing.

After all, when you are out there on your own, doing the same thing day after day, your mind has plenty of opportunity to wander, and I am glad his did.

It resulted in a debut album that was like a cookie jar, in that it was raided several times by other artists who were captivated by the likes of  Sam Stone, Angel From Montgomery, and Hello in There.

You can find many great covers of his work, but they did not always have that spirit, that modest self-amusement that Prine brought to this work.

That sense he was as tickled by what he came up with as you were.

And yet, Prine could break your heart when he articulated lives in disrepair, lovers in despair, or any other shortcomings you care to mention.

It’s kind of odd how what will now stand as his final album, 2018’s Tree of Forgiveness, ended with a song about what he was going to do when he got to heaven.

It demonstrated he hadn’t lost a step in the near-five decades since he first appeared on our collective radar.

It contained all the humor and tenderness that denoted much of his work, only this time married in a way that hadn’t quite been done before, suggesting he had many more ways that he could surprise us, had there been more time and opportunity.

All that had changed was his voice was more gravelly, the result of a bout with cancer.

It’s a surprisingly lively number for one concerned with mortality, so if there is a heaven, then I hope that Mr. Prine is there making short work of that nine-mile cigarette.

A Girl Called Eddy – Been Around

‘Girl, where you been?’

That is the question people have been asking since Erin Moran (no, not that one) dropped her first full-length under her A Girl Called Eddy nom de plume.

Fifteen years and change later, she has finally released her follow-up, and it was almost worth the wait.

I mean, it is an absolutely stunning set of Brill Building-inspired brilliance tempered with that early 70s singer-songwriter bittersweetness that rose from Laurel Canyon.

And the words ‘Girl, where you been?’ are the first you hear on the album’s gorgeously sumptuously melancholic opener, Been Around.

It’s a slow, considered taking of stock, one that you could imagine coming from everyone from Carole King to Aimee Mann.

And yet, it doesn’t quite sound like anyone else.

It does, much like her first album, sound like something from a time before now.

Something overlooked back in the day.

Something that has, indeed, been around.

Which may be why the song is content to take its time, to keep building up, to offer truisms and observations about how even when you are broken,  you can still turn a situation around.

‘If losers never quit then I’m thoroughly equipped to keep on,’ she sings, in a way that suggests you can too.

I hope she does.

And that it doesn’t take another 15 years what she’s been up to and where she’s been.

Jessica Pratt – Aeroplane

I thought Pratt’s On Your Own Love Again was the best album of 2015, and I am feeling confident her new album, Quiet Signs, out Feb. 8, will be a strong contender for best album of 2019.

What strikes me about the material I’ve heard so far is how she has used the canvas of a recording studio to make something even more intimate and gossamer-like than her previous 4-track work.

Like if you opened your eyes while listening to it, it would end the way a dream does.

Anyway, very strongly encouraging you to pick up her new album when it comes out, especially since RTI is pressing it, so it should be flat, centered, and quiet, which almost describes her music.