John Prine is a songwriters’ songwriter. Bob Dylan has hailed his “midwestern mindtrips”, Kris Kristofferson joked that his songs were so good “we’ll have to break his thumbs” and a younger generation of musicians covered his songbook on the recent tribute compilation, Broken Shrines and Dirty Windows.
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Star rating: * * *
Aged 66, Prine says the songs don’t come so readily anymore and it looked for a while like the increasingly restless audience were to be kept waiting too. Fortunately, when he did arrive on stage, he came with a 40-year catalogue to draw on for this nicely judged set which placed the thoughtful intimacy of Humidity Built The Snowman next to the satirical shaggy dog story of Flag Decal. Prine has gravitas and gravel in equal measure, the kind of voice and presence which invites rather than commands attention and the nuanced phrasing of a seasoned storyteller.
Although he held the audience rapt and amused on his own with the clever rhyming couplets of The Sins Of Mephisto and his first-hand account of the Vietnam draft, he was assisted for most of this journey by the warm, sensitive and dextrous guitar playing of Jason Wilbur, whose mellifluous solos drew admiring applause throughout, and Dave Jacques on upright and electric bass, who came into his own on the relative rumpus of Bear Creek Blues and with his mournful bowing on the reflective Hello In There.