John Prine: The Tree of Forgiveness review – sounds like an old friend already

The Tree of Forgiveness
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Artist: John Prine
Genre: Singer / Songwriter
Label: Oh Boy Records/Thirty Tigers

John Prine affects a warm and amiable untogetherness in conversation. Those near and dear to him describe this parallel universe as Prineworld. This depiction of genial chaos can mask the deeper truths in his country-inflected songs over the past 50 years.

But then he is a master of disguise. He cloaks his sharp observations in wry and heartfelt plays on demotic language, often lamenting a world long gone. His new album, his first of new material in 13 years, comes as he moves into the part of his career when the upcoming generation of singer-songwriters, such as Jason Isbell, queue up to pay homage.

Indeed, Isbell lends a hand here on guitar and vocals, along with Prine's regular band, while Dave Cobb ties it all together in a predictably no-frills production.

There are 10 tracks, many cowrites, but each a recognisable shade of Prine's oeuvre. Lots of humour with edge, such as When I Get to Heaven (Smithwick's gets a mention) and Egg & Daughter Night . . . ; affecting love songs in the shape of Boundless Love and the descriptive Summer's End; and the wonderfully contrarian The Lonesome Friends of Science. They all sound like old friends already.