John Prine, "The Tree of Forgiveness"

John Prine,

The best John Prine song is probably just the last one you listened to—and now there are ten more of them. In April, the seventy-one-year-old singer released “The Tree of Forgiveness,” his first album of all-new material in thirteen years. To say that the new tracks get neatly absorbed into his back catalogue is not to slight the album, but only to note that there has always been a kind of timelessness within Prine’s work. Prine himself, of course, has changed over the years. He’s survived two kinds of cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma, in 1998, which required the removal of part of his neck and left his voice deeper, more gravelly. But that voice had a little gunk on it already, and his earlier music seemed to presuppose a few bumps in the road. The songs on his début album, released in 1971, sound wise, and wistful, and lived-in—tracks like “Hello in There” are weathered by the same psychic lifetime as “Summer’s End,” a gem from the new album.

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