I love John Prine. Songs such as "Angel From Montgomery" and, especially, "Sam Stone" are works for the ages. Yet I've always wanted to love Prine more than I do, always wanted him to go further in performance, as Swamp Dogg did when he covered "Sam Stone."
Well, a mule is not a horse, and mules are wonderful, too. Of all the singer-songwriters to get saddled with the Next Dylan tag, Prine was the first and best. Now here he is at 64 with a new live album, a crack little band, and the affect of someone's grandpa singin' and reminiscin' on the front porch—which is terrific if he's your gramps, dull at times if he's not, and probably a fair preview of the show Prine brings to Missoula. There are high points: "Bear Creek Blues" has a hot-rod tastiness with Jason Wilber's electric picking, as does "Saddle In The Rain"; and "Angel From Montgomery," in a duet with Emmylou Harris, is dependably gorgeous. A fair stretch of this album, which feels like a valediction, isn't. I don't need fireworks to be satisfied, but a glass of warm milk, like someone else's grandpa, will always just be warm.
John Prine plays the University Theatre Friday, Sept. 16, at 8 PM. Tickets range from $45 to $59.50 from GrizTix.com.