John Prine – Souvenirs

Stately, sedate re-recordings of fifteen of his own songs. Pretty good, mostly because it’d be hard to screw these songs up. Earlier stuff dominates, including half of his fantabulous debut.

The best thing here is that, performance-wise, the production really gets what made these songs so great and doesn’t add a bunch of crappy 90s rock to ruin everything. Plus, Prine sounds pretty rad as a weathered old man. With his voice back in front of the mix we’re free to enjoy how earthy and wise he sounds. The focus is heavy on serious songs that meld well to being played acoustic, so don’t expect a lively “Everybody” or “The Bitch Is Back,” especially considering he didn’t even write the last one. He does play “Please Don’t Bury Me,” but that’s the only real mirth. The meaning of the songs stays about the same with an old man singing instead of a young man, and that’s because Prine was older than his years when he was 25. This album is just him catching up with himself, at least as long as he’s playing “Blue Umbrella” and “Far From Me” and avoiding the funyuns. The only exception to me is “Fish and Whistle,” which goes from sounding like a cheerful song about making nice with your dad (complete with friendly flute solo) into an old man’s sad reflection on his likely dead dad. Aw, now I’ve made myself sad.

I’m glad that it’s a studio recording, and it sounds lovely, but these songs already exist in more distinctive forms. Still, it’s more interesting than a compilation and cheaper than a sprawling yacht. I rather enjoy hearing old men sing softly; as if I didn’t feel bad enough hearing “Hello In There” again. I read a review of a JP album that described him as sounding “content with an consummated life.” Here at least he sounds seriously proud of all these little consummations. That sounds sexual, but you know what I’m getting at.

8/10

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