It’s been a long time since John Prine released an album of original material, and some long-time fans, like me, might be worried that he might sound different, or the material might not be as true and touching. Well, stop worrying. The Tree of forgivenesss is as wry and wise as Prine has ever been.
Sure, Prine’s voice is not perfect, but then t never was. He went through neck surgery and treatment for lung cancer since the last album, and his voice creaks a bit. But his voice suits .his words and reflects the sheer honest humanity of his music. With harmony support from Brandi Carlile, Ananda Shires, and Jason Isbel, the album shines just like the earlier ones did.
Prine is 71 now, so the songs deal a lot with age and mortality. But don’t think it is all grim. Sure, there is the sensitive beauty of “Summer’s End” with its plea of “Just come on home,” but there is also the raucous humor of “Egg & Daughter Nite, Lincoln Nebraska, 1967(Crazy Bone).” I don’t know why he gave it that name instead of just “Crazy Bone” but it is pure Prine humor. There is romance, as in”I Have Met My Love Today” and the beautiful “Boundless Love.” There is social commentary, in “Lonesome Friends of Science” and the biting “Caravan of Fools.” And there is a man looking unflinchingly at death and planning to “smoke a cigarette ten miles long” and have a cocktail in “When I Get to Heaven.”
if you ever have been a Prine fan, if you loved “Angel From Montgomery” or “Illegal Smile,” you will want this album in your collection. I have been listening to it over and over and it just gets better. It’s like magic when an album does that!