Blue-collar buddha John Prine returns to Colorado with “The Tree of Forgiveness”

John Prine has scrawled almost an album’s worth of tunes into the American Songbook. His self-titled 1971 album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame at 2015, set involving a John Coltrane album and Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode. ” Bob Dylan lists him one of his favorite songwriters of all time.

Yet, 48 years in his profession, Prine is a largely unknown legend. When I told friends I had been imagining Prine, the ones who didn’t beg to listen to the call asked: “Wait, who’s John Prine? ”

You might see this as injustice. However, it might only be a magic trick.

Because unlike numerous family names, Prine, 72, has somehow been bettered, not bittered, in era. He’s still every little Taoist poet that sang about what it might be want to cozy up to the skylight and talk to God — “Father forgive us for what we must do You forgive us we’ll forgive you. ” Nowadays, his nose is only a little nearer to the glass. On his newest album, “The Tree of Forgiveness,” he fixates on heaven’s conveniences — vodka and ginger ale and 9-mile cigarettes — while sparring with theological advice his dad told him : “Buddy, if your dead, you’re a dead peckerhead. I hope to prove him wrong. That is, once I get to paradise. ”

In dialogue he’s exactly the same bright blue buddha that once said of his own ratchety singing voice: “If you keep making the same mistake enough, it becomes the personality. ” After bouts of cancer — one in his lung and you in his own throat — his voice is raspier than ever. But he really likes it more now. (“It dropped down lower and feels friendlier,” he told NPR’s Terry Gross.) Proceed.

Then again, Prine has always defied convention. He had been a mailman until he had been a singer-songwriter, writing tunes to inhabit his mind while walking miles-long routes throughout the Chicago suburbs. He took the stage for the very first time at 24, and only then because he had been dared to.

On tour, he doesn’t keep to a clique, as many musicians his age are not to do, preferring instead to ferret out fresh voices. His latest tour has observed him share the stage together with Valerie June, Conor Oberst and Denver’s own Nathaniel Rateliff. Rateliff, that has prepped a special, stripped-down folk set for the event, unites Prine for three displays at Colorado: The Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge (Nov. 7); The Avalon Theatre at Grand Junction (Nov. 8); and Denver’s Buell Theatre (Nov. 10). (Tickets to three nights are currently sold out; added tickets to the Buell Theatre show may be published through

“John is one of the few great authors still left living, in my opinion,” Rateliff said on a drive from Breckenridge to Denver on a rare break from the road. “He’s only … you don’t catch a great deal of those people anymore, you know? Just having a conversation with him is so humbling. ”

Prine phoned us from his home in Nashville on a recent Monday afternoon to chat about Rateliff, the “weird mystery ” of songwriting, and pork chops.

Q. It looks like you’Id replied about every question possible on the media circuit because your album came out six weeks ago.

A. That’s OK. I don’t remember two or more days past, anyway.

Q. Congratulations on your recent nomination to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, incidentally. Have you ever assessed your standings now?

A. (Laughs.) No, not yet today. That amuses me. We didn’t know that they were even thinking about nominating me. However, I doubt very much theyrsquo;re going to pick me within Devo.

Q. You’re beating Kraftwerk at this time.

A. Well, that’s just because theyrsquo;re in Germany.

Q. (Laughs.) Touché. Regardless of what you claim, you appear to have an uncanny memory. I saw in a previous interview with The Denver Post that you remembered the layout of the background in a long-gone Denver club. Do you keep a journal?

A. No, when I did keep a journal I wouldn’t remember where I put it.  I just remember different things . I would remember the background, but I doubt I remember anything else about that day. I guess all of that helps me when I sit down to write, since I use a good deal of information in my own songs. When I went to college, I couldn’t remember a thing they taught me, but I would stare at a instructor ’s button on his shirt until the bell rang.

Q. Are you familiar with the social networking expression “influencer”?

A. (Laughs.) I’m speaking to you on the first iPhone that they ’t let me have. I’d been utilizing a reverse phone. I go to supper with seven people and everybody’s watching tv on their phone. I feel as bringing a coloring book .

Q. The main reason why I bring up it I see you turning your crowds on to each of these musicians on tour, such as Nathaniel Rateliff.

A. Nathaniel arrived to meet me if I played Red Rocks. To tell you the truth, I hadn’t heard some of his music until then. But there was something about his own personality — very immediate and sincere. Sure enough, his music was only like him.

In Newport, he sang “Sam Stone” along with me, of everything. I don’t believe I’t done a duet on “Sam Stone” earlier.

Q. “Tree of Forgiveness” is the first album of new songs in 13 decades. What compelled you to write a different album?

A. My son, that shot Oh Boy Records (Prine’s record label), and my wife, who’s my manager, came for me and said ’s no period for a listing. They might as well have told me I’m heading to the electric chair. (Laughs.)

They booked me a package at the Omni in downtown Nashville, also put me there with three guitars, a ukulele, and 10 boxes of bare lyrics I didn’t know about. I pulled possibly only one verse for ldquo;Lonesome Friend of Science” from these boxes. That and the Phil Spector song (“God Only Knows”-RRB- I couldn’t complete. I’d been working on it for a long time, and it just wouldn’t complete for me. However, this time it still stuck.

Q. It’s just like you’re working on a weird puzzle, trying to jam different bits in.

A. I meanthat, exactly. It’s a weird puzzle. And when the piece finally fits, like a jigsaw puzzle, I’m always amazed. It’therefore like I found a piece in the cuff of my pants or something. It had been there all along.

If they let me have a second week to compose, I probably could have come up with a different album.

Q. Maybe you would have started stripping out Kraftwerk tunes.

A. (Laughs.) Well, I spent two decades in Germany when I was in the army.

Q. A few of those tunes, such as “Lonesome Friends” &; ldquo;Caravan of Fools,” texture politically on the nose right now. Can you tease these meanings from old tunes, or is that merely a nod to the nation getting mired in the very exact messes decade after decade?

A. I think that it is, since I composed “Caravan of all Fools” together with three other men, and no one else asked nobody about their politics. I just knew that by the opening chord, we’re writing something about impending doom. And doom, to me, is Trump.

I put down “Lonesome Friends” and “Boundless Love” roughly six years ago with Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys. Dan was speaking about a solo album. We had two afternoons together, we wrote five tunes. I walked out of it believing maybe Dan is going to be able to receive a few music out of this, not knowing Irsquo;d be getting some tunes for my own album.

At the hotel, I wrote a new verse for ldquo;Boundless Love. ” I phoned Dan and stated, “I’m thinking about taking this song and John Prine-ing this up. ” He stated, “What can you believe? ” I said, “Well, I’m gonna put pork chops in there and also a verse in my heart beating as a washing machine. (Laughs.)

Q. Have you found your relationship with music has shifted since possible ’t gotten older?

A. When I started out, I was 24. I’d just come from the post office. Songwriting was my get away out of the world. It ’therefore my job. When I hear the word “function ” or “job,” I obviously run the other way. Otherwise, Irsquo;d maintain the studio every year.

Q. Now that music is the task, have you ever considered doing mail paths again to unwind?

A. (Laughs.) That would be a fantastic idea. I could try, but I used to roam 485 homes. Don’t believe Irsquo;d need to go back to doing this. Perhaps I could find a rural route somewhere.

Q. Fall is here, which means that the holidays are around the corner. Do you make New Year’s resolutions?

A. No. I know I won’t store themso I let my wife do them for me. (Laughs.) She constantly resolves I’will shed weight.

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