John Prine: The Tree of Forgiveness
After surviving two cancer operations and the death of his longtime business partner, John Prine returns with the first album of original songs he’s recorded since Fair & Square in 2005. The simple arrangements here hark back to his early albums, allowing the words and his voice to shine brightly. The songs are short, and his voice is barely a whisper, but they’re pure Prine, with vignettes marked by unforgettable melodies and sharp, insightful lyrics. “I Have Met My Love Today” strings together familiar clichés about true love, but Prine’s cheery tone and the Tex-Mex rhythms make them sound brand new. “No Ordinary Blue” is a country ballad describing his efforts to avoid heartbreak by retreating from the world and watching TV. It is no surprise that he has several songs dealing with mortality. He addresses the subject obliquely on “Summer’s End,” with the changing seasons implying the ages of man as he sings: “Summer’s end came faster than we wanted.” On “Boundless Love” he hopes a good woman can preserve him from the dangers of the world, while “When I Get to Heaven” approaches the subject with the arch humor that’s become his trademark. He alternates spoken verses with an uplifting chorus sung by a studio full of invited friends. He’s never been a prolific writer, but there isn’t a weak track on any of his albums. Prine has said that this may be his last album and, if it is, then he’s ending his recording career on a high note.