Thursday, 16 August 2018

2018 Contenders: Egg & Daughter Nite, Lincoln Nebraska, 1967

When it comes time to compile my Top 18 of 2018 in December, you can pretty much guarantee that  you'll find the latest album from John Prine somewhere very near the top. There's a warmth and wit to this record unlike anything else I've heard this year, and every song feels like an old friend.

The album kicks off with a new entry into the pantheon of great screen door song (I still intend to do a Top Ten of those one day), a great bluesy lost love lyric, followed by a sweet little duet with Brandi Carlile, I Have Met My Love Today. It's the kind of love song you'd think it'd be impossible to write these days, given the weight of 80+ years of popular love songs that precede it, but Prine makes it look easy. Similarly, if you're going to write a new song called God Only Knows, you better make it a belter. And he does. (That's got Jason Isbell on backing vocals too - even more bang for your buck.) Then comes The Lonesome Friends of Science - the end of the world as we know it, but John feels fine...

Poor ol' planet Pluto now
He never stood a chance no how
When he got uninvited to
The interplanetary dance
Once a mighty planet there
Now just an ordinary star
Hangin' out in Hollywood
In some ol' funky sushi bar

My favourite track has to be this one. It's parenthetical titled is (Crazy Bone), and that probably gives you more of an idea of what it's all about. S-e-x. From being a horny teenager to a randy old man in a nursing home. It also contains my favourite verse of the year thus far...

Don't be stuck up in Alaska
When you should be in Nebraska
On a Thursday when it's Egg & Daughter Nite
When the farmers come to town
And they spread them eggs around
And they drop their daughters down at the roller rink
Well you're prob'ly standin' there
With your slicked-back, Brylcreem hair
Your Luckies and your daddy's fine-tooth comb
If they knew what you were thinkin'
They'd run you out of Lincoln
Just blame it on that ole' crazy bone

I've seen a few critics calling The Tree of Forgiveness "John Prine's last album", and considering he's 71 (as old as Johnny Cash got), this is his first album of original songs in 13 years, and he's been dodging the bullet healthwise recently, I guess I can understand why they might write that. But I dearly hope it isn't so, because when we do lose John Prine, we'll have lost one of the greatest songwriters to ever walk the earth. Still, at least he knows what he's going to do when that day finally comes...

When I get to heaven, I'm gonna shake God's hand
Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand
Then I'm gonna get a guitar and start a rock-n-roll band
Check into a swell hotel; ain't the afterlife grand?
And then I'm gonna get a cocktail: vodka and ginger ale
Yeah, I'm gonna smoke a cigarette that's nine miles long
I'm gonna kiss that pretty girl on the tilt-a-whirl
'Cause this old man is goin' to town


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