Yesterday I praised Neil Finn for writing good slick love songs with commercial aspirations assumed. Today’s spotlight is on a singer-songwriter who writes great funny songs, sometimes about love, with peer affection assumed.
For almost fifty years John Prine has been quietly issuing albums as unmatched for their shaggy dog humor, expert country licks, and wonderful melodies; to hear “Often is a Word I Seldom Use” is to be humming it three minutes later. Bonnie Raitt, Carly Simon, Miranda Lambert, Bob Dylan himself — they all know and they’ve all covered him. I had to stop listing songs from 1971’s eponymous debut (home of “Angel From Montgomery”) and personal favorite Sweet Revenge: they would have taken up the space. If I owned Great Days: The John Prine Anthology, I’d keep in the car so I could throw it on when I please.

His greatest ballad is “Donald and Lydia,” about the spaces between us and whatever we said, about a loneliness so cold that only the imagination can relieve it.

When he dies those obits are gonna sting.

Often is a Word I Seldom Use
Donald and Lydia
Blue Umbrella
Sam Stone
Lake Marie
Sweet Revenge
Pretty Good
Humidity Built the Snowman
In Spite of Ourselves
Hello in There
The Great Compromise
People Puttin’ People Down
Grandpa Was a Carpenter
This Love Is Real
Illegal Smile
The Frying Pan
Maureen, Maureen
Fish and Whistle
All the Best
Quit Hollerin’ at Me
Clocks and Spoons
Bad Boy
That’s the Way That the World Goes ‘Round
Angel From Montgomery
Take A Look At My Heart