John Prine sings soulful, sweet at Roots N Blues N BBQ Friday

The three-time Grammy award winner put on a masterclass of folk songwriting for all festival-goers to see.
Grammy-winner John Prine performs during the Roots N Blues N BBQ festival on Friday, September 27. Prine’s latest album, “The Tree of Forgiveness”, was released on April 13, 2018. Photo by Senior Photographer Levi Cevjan

Three-time Grammy winner John Prine brought his unique country-folk style to Roots N Blues N BBQ Friday. The performance was soulful, sweet and nostalgic.

The singer-songwriter is known for his always profound, often comedic and occasionally protest-filled music.

Prine's career began in the early ‘70s and his age showed, both in his skill onstage and the age of the crowd, decidedly older than the Maren Morris crowd across the festival grounds.

The crowd was no less enthusiastic. Audience members whooped and cheered throughout the set, pausing to laugh, when appropriate, at Prine’s whimsical, sometimes PG-13 rated lyrics.

Although Prine commanded the stage effortlessly, his presence at the festival this weekend wasn't without trials. Prine battled Squamous Cell Carcinoma, a type of skin cancer that infected his neck in 1998.

The disease caused his voice to lower to a gravelly tone, but didn't affect his clarity as he sang hits like “Hello In There” and “Knockin’ on Your Screen Door.”

Music legends like Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Roger Waters, have praised Prine’s songwriting ability and unique viewpoint. Dylan, in a 2010 NPR interview, called Prine's songs “Midwestern mind trips to the nth degree.”

Despite his Grammys and Songwriters Hall of Fame induction, Prine’s performance was humble. He told the story of a fishing trip, where he caught no fish, and a story which led him to maybe the most interestingly titled song on his newest record, “Egg & Daughter Nite, Lincoln Nebraska, 1967.”

The song was characteristically humorous and was made more so when Prine paused during the performance and, as if it were a part of the song, explained, “I swallowed a bug.”

Aside from the humor, Prine’s lyrics focus on life and love. Although some of the songs he played were written in the early ‘70s, the lyrics seemed even more authentic coming from the mouth of a much older man.

Songs like “Sam Stone,” the story of a scarred Vietnam War veteran rang eerily relevant and haunting as Prine’s used his now lower register to its full advantage, creating a still upbeat but serious tone.

Prine ended the night with arguably his biggest hit, “In Spite of Ourselves,” he kept the audience laughing and swaying as big and small fans alike let out a raucous cheer for the folk legend.

Edited by Janae McKenzie |

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