Prine scratchy, yet satisfying | AspenTimes.com
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Prine scratchy, yet satisfying

Stewart OksenhornAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN Music isn’t strictly about the sounds that come out of a singer’s mouth, or what a guitarist can coax out of his instrument. There’s more to the art than that; music is about communicating something, connecting with an audience, even more than it is about making an appealing noise.Which explains the fact that John Prine’s show Monday night could not only nearly fill the Wheeler Opera House, but also satisfy the crowd. The sound coming out of Prine’s mouth – or, more descriptively, his throat – could best be called a croak. The inflexibility and one-dimensionality of Prine’s vocal instrument can be chalked up to his age, 60, and more so to his bout with throat cancer.The muddiness of the music produced by Prine and his two-piece group, bassist David Jacques and Jason Wilber, has to be attributed elsewhere. And probably not to the Wheeler sound system or staff. Prine’s primary guitar emitted an overly booming sound, and when he switched to an electric instrument, the combination of two electric guitars and electric bass seemed ill-advised.Prine’s songs, however, consistently emerged through any sonic muck, to tickle the funny bone, touch the heart – and sometimes both, at once. Prine has a way with a phrase that is piercing. For me the one that stood out was from “Sam Stone,” his empathetic saga of the returning Vietnam war soldier: “Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.” The simplest language, the most resonant of meanings – that’s Prine in a nutshell. And somehow that brittle bark of a voice added, rather than distracted, from the song.And the same could be said of “Angel From Montgomery,” “You Got Gold,” and “In Spite of Ourselves.” In fact, the only song where the sound – those two electric guitars – spoiled the moment was on “She’s My Everything,” a beautiful song from Prine’s more recent output.


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