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In their Prine

John Prine tributes bring a “half-hillbilly, half-Nietzsche” vibe.


Jennah Barry conveys John Prine’s warmth. - JENNAH BARRY
  • Jennah Barry conveys John Prine’s warmth.

Christmas in Prison: A Tribute to John Prine
Saturday, December 27, 7pm
King's College Chapel
6350 Coburg Road

Sunday, December 28, 8:30pm

The Carleton
1685 Argyle Street
$10 adv/$15 door

"It was based on this John Prine meltdown thing, it'd be late-night, three o'clock in the morning and we'd all see: 'Anyone got a John Prine song?'" says Matthew Hornell of his pair of Prine tribute shows this week, the idea for which sprung from a tradition in his home province of Newfoundland, where he's calling from. "Shows don't end in Newfoundland till three o'clock so we'd back at 3:30 and playing John Prine songs till six, 6:30 in the morning."

The American singer-songwriter, famously discovered by Kris Kristofferson, is accessible yet poetic, says Hornell. "He sings about all kinds of things, from working hard to love to drinking or whatever, but he always finds a way of keeping this playfulness—it'll be a serious subject, a social issue, and the tagline will be 'You're up one day, the next you're down. It's half an inch of water and you think you're gonna drown. That's the way that the world goes 'round.' He's half-hillbilly, half-Nietzsche."

"What I think is mature songwriting is to be able to be funny," concurs Jennah Barry from her home on the south shore, as D'Angelo croons in the background. "Which is so far from the whiny-ass music most of us play. That's far more superior to complaining."

For Barry, who will join the King's Chapel show, "it's all about the lyrics. He's obviously not a singer. But then again he is. It's perfect. He loves his dirty voice next to sweet lady voices."

"Even his ballads have an overwhelming warmth to them," says Hornell. "Even when he's sad, he's saying 'I love you and I believe you,' you know?"


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