Exploring the expansive musical legacy of the legendary John Prine unveils a rich tapestry of poignant storytelling, profound lyricism, and timeless melodies. Renowned for his wit, empathy, and unique perspective, Prine left an indelible mark on the folk and Americana genres. This list compiles the Top 10 Best John Prine Albums, a journey through his discography that showcases his evolution as a songwriter and performer. From his self-titled debut, where he introduced the world to his keen observational skills and heartfelt balladry, to later masterpieces like “Sweet Revenge” and “The Tree of Forgiveness,” each album encapsulates a chapter of Prine’s remarkable career. Delving into this curated selection not only highlights the musical brilliance of John Prine but also pays tribute to an artist whose work continues to resonate with fans across generations.
In Spite of Ourselves is the best John Prine albums
Released in 1999, this album can be described as a conceptual piece in John Prine’s illustrious discography. Marking a significant juncture, Prine’s voice undergoes a transformation influenced by both the passage of time and his triumphant battle against throat cancer. With the exception of a solitary track, the album predominantly features Prine engaging in a series of duets with esteemed country vocalists such as Iris DeMent, Trisha Yearwood, Emmylou Harris, Patty Loveless, and even his own wife. Notably entrenched in the country genre, the album’s thematic core is accentuated by tracks like “Not the Jet Set,” “Dear John (I Sent Your Saddle Home),” and “In Spite of Ourselves,” the latter presenting a playful take on unconventional love. Distinguished from Prine’s usual repertoire, what sets this album apart is that, apart from “In Spite of Ourselves,” all songs were composed by other talented songwriters.
German Afternoons is John Prine albums ranked
In a departure from his typically cross-genre and hard-to-classify musical style, John Prine immerses himself in a profound exploration of his love for country music in this album. The tracks, including the spirited “Lulu Walls,” even venture into the realm of full-on bluegrass, showcasing Prine’s versatility. Notably, even those not traditionally drawn to country music can discover an appealing dimension in this album, thanks in part to the enchanting fiddle accompaniment by Stuart Duncan. Departing from the norm, this album introduces numerous love songs, a departure from Prine’s earlier works. Pieces like “Sailin’ Around” stand out with their beautifully bittersweet tones, laden with a poignant yearning for lost love. While the album’s best-known track is the whimsical “Let’s Talk Dirty in Hawaiian,” this release marked a departure for Prine, who, despite the acclaim and a Grammy nomination in 1986, chose not to replicate the style of his earlier albums. Following this release, Prine took a hiatus from the studio, signaling a temporary pause in his prolific recording career.
Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings is the best John Prine album
Marking a departure from many of John Prine’s earlier works, this 1995 album exhibits a distinct sonic evolution, attributed to the production prowess of Howie Epstein, renowned as the bassist for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The resulting sound is a unique fusion, akin to the musical offspring of the Heartbreakers and John Prine. While the production occasionally veers towards the elaborate, the album is distinguished by its collection of distinctive and thought-provoking songs. A standout moment is the captivating duet with Marianne Faithfull on “This Love is Real,” showcasing a noteworthy collaboration. Another notable highlight is the enigmatic “Lake Marie,” featuring lyrical gems such as “The dogs were barking as the cars were parking, The loan sharks were sharking and the narcs were narcing.” Eliciting a sense of approval reminiscent of E. E. Cummings, Bob Dylan even declared it his favorite John Prine song. Despite critical acclaim and a Grammy nomination, the collaborative journey between John Prine and Howie Epstein concluded after this album.
The Missing Years is John Prine top songs
After a hiatus from recording in 1986, John Prine reentered the studio years later, and the honor of producing his highly anticipated comeback album went to Howie Epstein, triumphing over several eager contenders. Notably, Tom Petty himself makes a guest appearance on the track “Picture Show.” While the album resonates with the folk and country-infused essence reminiscent of Prine’s earlier works, it also incorporates subtle pop and rock influences. A star-studded ensemble includes Bonnie Raitt and even Bruce Springsteen, collaborating on a song co-written with John Mellencamp. The album boasts a diverse range, featuring humorous tunes like “It’s A Big Old Goofy World” and “Daddy’s Little Pumpkin,” alongside poignant tracks such as “All the Best,” later described by Prine himself during an NPR Tiny Desk concert as the ultimate kiss-off song. This remarkable collection earned John Prine the well-deserved Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1991.
Fair and Square is one of the John Prine best songs
This expansive double album presents a compelling array of fully realized songs that traverse the realms of resigned sadness and touching humor. While the musical arrangements carry a distinct country flavor, one need not be a devoted country music fan to fully appreciate the artistry at play. Standout tracks like “Some Humans Ain’t Human” and “Crazy as a Loon” exemplify the poignant and humorous dimensions that characterize another outstanding addition to John Prine’s discography. Originally unveiled in 2005, the album enjoyed a re-release in 2007 featuring a handful of bonus tracks, also made available separately as an EP. Notably, the album clinched a well-deserved Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album, solidifying its status as a testament to Prine’s enduring musical prowess.
The Tree of Forgiveness is one of the John Prine album
This final offering from John Prine stands as one of his most celebrated works, a rare gem in his discography that not only garnered critical acclaim but also enjoyed commercial success. While sprinkled with light-hearted tunes showcasing Prine’s trademark humor, as exemplified in “When I Get to Heaven,” the majority of the album carries a poignant and bittersweet undertone, acknowledging the shared awareness that this marks the end of an era for both the artist and the listener. In the melancholic strains of “Boundless Love,” Prine sings, “Looks like this old horseshoe’s done run out of luck,” encapsulating a potent image that resonates throughout this compelling and profound album. Released in 2018, it earned a well-deserved Grammy nomination, although the coveted win eluded its grasp.
Bruised Orange is the John Prine albums
Marking his inaugural venture with the Asylum label, this album signifies John Prine’s prelude to founding his own label, Oh Boy, which would shape the latter part of his musical journey. Guided by the production of friend Steve Goodman, who also lends his guitar prowess and backing vocals, and featuring additional vocal contributions from Jackson Browne, the album exudes a smooth and catchy sound, thankfully avoiding the over-production tendencies found in some subsequent records. Notable tracks encompass the humorous charm of “Fish and Whistle” and “Aw Heck,” a collaborative effort with Phil Spector titled “If You Don’t Want My Love,” and the cherished fan favorite “That’s the Way That the World Goes Round.” Adding an enchanting layer to the musical tapestry, Jim Rothermel’s masterful penny whistle and recorder playing feature prominently on select songs, offering a delightful departure from the norm. Released in 1978, this album stands as a testament to Prine’s musical versatility and the collaborative spirit that defined this stage of his career.
Sweet Revenge is John Prine discography
A timeless companion that has aged like a trusted friend, this album, released in 1973, remains both relevant and enduringly resonant today, offering a blend of poignancy, humor, and incisive insight. Recorded in both Nashville and New York City, the album features the collaborative efforts of Steve Goodman, who contributes guitar and backing vocals. Representing a maturation in John Prine’s songwriting, the tunes embedded in this collection linger in the mind for all the right reasons. Among the fan favorites are “Dear Abby,” “Please Don’t Bury Me,” “Often is a Word I Seldom Use,” and “Grandpa Was a Carpenter.” Closing with a distinctive cover of Merle Haggard’s “Nine Pound Hammer,” the album showcases Prine’s ability to infuse joy into a song. Notably, the tracklist includes the intriguingly titled “Onomonopeia,” a rare exploration of the frustrating facets of show business, demonstrating Prine’s knack for tackling unconventional themes.
John Prine is the best John Prine songs
After a substantial stint performing in the Chicago music scene, John Prine’s talent caught the attention of movie critic Roger Ebert, who even penned a review of one of his shows in 1970. A pivotal connection was formed when Prine befriended fellow folk-country artist Steve Goodman. Through Goodman’s persuasive efforts, Kris Kristofferson invited Prine to open for him, a performance that caught the eye of a record executive from Atlantic Records. Despite reservations about the cover image, his singing style, and the business aspects of show business, Prine accepted the record deal. The resulting album, released in 1971, featured powerful songs that became staples of Prine’s live performances throughout his career. Notable tracks include “Illegal Smile,” the poignant “Sam Stone” depicting a drug-addicted veteran and father, the original rendition of “Angel of Montgomery,” and “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You into Heaven Anymore.” A testament to Prine’s enduring impact, many of the songs from this album have been covered by numerous other artists over the years.
John Prine Live is one of the best John Prine song
This 1988 live album, while featuring familiar songs found on other John Prine albums, distinguishes itself through the addition of his engaging stories preceding each track. The narratives, particularly evident in gems like “Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone” originally from Bruised Orange, imbue the songs with a newfound depth of meaning. The juxtaposition of humor in the introductions somehow intensifies the poignancy of the songs, creating a unique emotional resonance. Stripped down to just John Prine and his guitar, the live performances exemplify the simplicity that proves to be more than sufficient. Although primarily recorded in 1988, the album includes a poignant rendition of “Angel of Montgomery,” captured at a tribute concert for Steve Goodman in 1985. Serving as an excellent introduction to John Prine’s music, or as a means to captivate someone new to his artistry, this live recording offers an intimate and compelling journey through Prine’s storytelling prowess.
Exploring the Top 10 Best John Prine albums unveils a rich and enduring legacy of musical brilliance. From his self-titled debut, which introduced the world to his keen observational skills and heartfelt balladry, to later masterpieces like “The Tree of Forgiveness,” each album reflects a chapter in John Prine’s remarkable career. His ability to seamlessly navigate across genres, infusing folk, country, and Americana with his distinctive wit and empathetic storytelling, has left an indelible mark on the music landscape. Whether delving into the poignant narratives of “Souvenirs” or the captivating live performances in “In Spite of Ourselves,” Prine’s work transcends time, resonating with audiences across generations. Each album on this list encapsulates the essence of a songwriter who possessed the rare ability to blend humor, sorrow, and profound insight, creating a body of work that remains a testament to the enduring power of his artistry.