John Prine is releasing a new album The Tree of Forgiveness, which features the first single, “Summer’s End.” Any John Prine album is cause for celebration, but The Tree of Forgiveness is extra special because it will be the singer-songwriter’s first album of new material in thirteen years.
The new album contains ten songs written or co-written by Prine. The co-writers include Pat McLaughlin, Roger Cook, Dan Auerbach, Keith Sykes and Phil Spector. Also, the album features special guests Brandi Carlile (harmony vocals on some songs), Jason Isbell (guitar), and Amanda Shires (fiddle and background vocals).
Prine released the first single, “Summer’s End,” with an accompanying video. Joshua Britt and Nielson Hubbard edited and directed the video, which highlights the lyrics.
In the song, which may allude to death as much as the ending of summer, Prine beckons the listener to “come on home.” So, check out “Summer’s End,” which was written by Prine and Pat McLaughlin.
We recently reported on John Prine’s upcoming album of duets For Better, For Worse and his duet with Iris DeMent on “Who’s Gonna Take the Garbage Out.” Now, you may listen to another track on the album, “Color of the Blues.”
Susan Tedeschi joins Prine on the song. Check out their recording of “Color of the Blues,” which is played over a promotional video for the album.
The song about a lover’s letter on blue paper was written by George Jones and Lawton Williams. Jones released his original version of “Color of the Blues” on January 15, 1958.
Prine’s album For Better, Or Worse features duets with women artists such as Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Lee Ann Womack, Holly Williams, and Alison Krauss. It hits stores and the Internet on September 30, 2016.
John Prine is releasing a new album of duets called For Better, For Worse (2016). On the upcoming album, Prine covers a number of country classics with some help from female singers like Iris DeMent, Alison Krauss, Miranda Lambert, Kathy Mattea, Kacey Musgraves, Fiona Prine, Amanda Shires, Morgane Stapleton, Susan Tedeschi, Holly Williams, and Lee Ann Womack.
For Better, For Worse is a follow-up of sorts to Prine’s 1999 album of similar duets, In Spite of Ourselves. Jim Rooney helped produce the 1999 CD, and he is on board again for the new album.
Prine explained to NPR that he was “kinda tricked” into recording his first full-length CD in five years. His wife and his son-manager suggested he record a handful of songs to fill the last side of a vinyl version of In Spite of Ourselves. Once he got started, they encouraged him to round out a new album.
Although we long for a new album of original material from Prine, this one sounds pretty good so far. He chooses some great songs originally performed by artists like Hank Williams, George Jones, Ernest Tubb, and Buck Owens.
“Who’s Gonna Take the Garbage Out”
On the new album, Iris DeMent joins Prine on “Who’s Gonna Take the Garbage Out,” which you may hear below.
Johnny Tillotson and Teddy Wilburn wrote “Who’s Gonna Take the Garbage Out.” The song was originally recorded by Loretta Lynn and Ernest Tubb in 1969. Check out their version below.
One of my favorite songs by John Prine is “Lake Marie,” which first appeared on Lost Dogs + Mixed Blessings (1995). The song, which is also a favorite of Prine’s, tells a love story intertwined with history, legend, murder, and heartbreak. One may interpret the song in a number of ways, but John Prine based some of the images on real people and places.
“Lake Marie” The Song
The tale of the peaceful waters of “Lake Marie” can be divided into three segments. First, the song begins with a story about Native Americans along the Illinois-Wisconsin border discovering two white babies. Although it is unclear how the Native Americans learn the names of the two babies, they name their Twin Lakes after the two little girls. The smaller and less fair lake is named “Lake Marie” after the less fair baby.
In the second part of the song, the singer tells about falling in love with a woman at Lake Marie. Many years later, the two go to Canada to try to save their crumbling marriage.
The third part of the song tells of a crime scene, where police find two naked bodies, apparently by Lake Marie. The singer then brings this third part of the story back to his lost love: “All the love we shared between her and me was slammed / Slammed up against the banks of Old Lake Marie.”
Below, Prine performs “Lake Marie” in 1996.
What Inspired John Prine to Write “Lake Marie”?
There are in fact two lakes like in the song, Lake Marie and Lake Elizabeth. A John Prine fansite, the John Prine Shrine, explains how Prine came to write the song. While Prine was in Wisconsin for a show, a crew member told Prine a tale about the local Lake Marie. As the crew member told a mysterious tale about the lake, Prine decided he wanted to visit the lake. So he and the crew member drove twenty-five minutes to see the lake.
After seeing the lake, Prine and his brother visited a library to read stories about the lake. There, Prine discovered that Lake Marie and its sister lake, Lake Elizabeth, were named after two babies discovered by a Native American tribe.
From there, Prine began writing the song that began with the baby story. The Prine Shrine explains:
But after that [first verse], John went into some fictional story-telling about a marriage on the rocks, and a shadowy double murder that took place in the proximity of Lake Marie. “When I was done, it was exactly what I wanted. I guess the point of the song is that if the Indians hadn’t named the lakes after a couple of white girls, they would still be peaceful waters.” (Puckett 15)
What About the Dead Bodies?
And then there is the crime scene in the story. In an interview in No Depression, Prine explained that the dead bodies in the third part of the song were inspired in part by Chicago news footage he saw as a kid about a series of murders.
Regarding the bodies in the song, though, on various discussion sites, listeners debate the relationship between the story of the narrator and the double-murder at the end. Is the narrator one of the victims of the crime along with his lover (or former lover), or is the narrator the perpetrator of a murder-suicide? Or, is the narrator just someone watching about the murder on TV?
I lean toward the latter interpretation. It seems that the narrator is seeing the story on television. That explains why he is seeing it in black and white: “You know what blood looks like in a black and white video? / Shadows!”
The TV interpretation is consistent with Prine’s statements about the song. The crime scene at the lake seems to reflect on how the land had changed since the white people came and took the land from the Native Americans.
This TV interpretation also fits with another quote from Prine. He reportedly said that the reference to the TV coverage of the murders was not a particular murder. He knew it seemed like a sharp left turn in the song, “but when I got done with it, I kind of felt like it’s what the song needed right then.”
A Great Song
The love story and its struggles and its heartbreak, though, are what tie the song together and make it a classic, not to mention Prine’s wonderful emphasis on certain words and syllables as he talks through the lyrics. It is a brilliant song. Heck, it is Bob Dylan’s favorite John Prine song, which says a lot.
As Prine explained generally about his songs in a 1970 article by movie critic Roger Ebert about the then-young singer, “In my songs, I try to look through someone else’s eyes, and I want to give the audience a feeling more than a message.”
So enough with the analysis, and you should just enjoy the feeling here in a more recent version of “Lake Marie” on Sessions at West 54th, in a John Prine performance that one commenter called, “Arguably, the best 10 mins of music on You Tube.”
Today’s song of the day is Swamp Dogg doing a live performance of a John Prine song he had previously recorded, “Sam Stone.” I have been a fan of Swamp Dogg’s version of “Sam Stone” for some time, so I was excited to see that there was such a recent live version on YouTube of outstanding recording quality to mach the quality of the song and the singer.
My first introduction to John Prine was through a cover of “Sam Stone,” when in the 1980s WMMS in Cleveland broadcast a live performance by John Mellencamp at the Agora Ballroom. I would soon discover the great original version by John Prine, as well as Prine’s other work.
When Prine performs “Sam Stone,” which appeared on his 1971 album John Prine, he performs it as a folk song that emphasizes the tragedy of the suffering of the drug-addicted Vietnam veteran. Swamp Dogg takes the song and finds the soul and anger wrapped around the sadness. Check out Swamp Dogg’s version from a performance at The Echo in Los Angeles on January 9, 2015.
Swamp Dogg was born in Virginia on July 12, 1942 as Jerry Williams, Jr. In addition to being an excellent performer, he has also been called “one of the great cult figures of 20th century American music.”