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Prine stands on his own two feet

Club Passim, Cambridge, Mass., November 18, 2023

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

This concert could have been all about the elephant in the room, Only it pretty much wasn't. After all with a surname like Prine, there were reasons why the 130-person club sold out weeks in advance for this show and an earlier show was added.

That was the fate of Tommy Prine, the 27-year-old son of the late and beloved singer/songwriter John Prine. Tommy released his first album earlier this year. He drew hundreds to his generally low key, but well-received short pop-up show at the Newport Folk Festival in July.

All good, but here Prine had to stand on his own. And the Nashville-based singer/songwriter showed that he could do just that over the course of this nearly 80-minute show. He may echo his father in the sense that has well-conceived songs from writing to the musicianship to his singing. Prine offered vocals that suited the songs just fine. No surprise given that some of them deal with the pain of losing a father.

Prine concluded "Ships in the Harbor" with the lines "I'd do anything just to talk to my father/ But I guess he was leaving soon, as we do/Yeah, I guess he was passing through, and I am too."

Or delivering lines in "By the Way"" "I don't wanna talk about the day you slipped away/It's still hard to hear your voice in the songs we used to sing/Well, I miss you and I love you/Some things can't ever change/Although your gone, the world moves along, there's a part of you that will remain."

Tough stuff to say the least.

Maybe John could have sang some of these songs too, but Tommy Prine convincingly inhabited the songs on his own terms.

Prine fortunately wasn't merely resting on his father's laurels by talking about him or doing a slew of his songs. Paying homage to one's father felt appropriate.

Prine was supported by a backing trio with guitarist Josh Halper especiallly standing out by fleshing out the songs without overwhelming them.

Prine will forever be linked with his - at least for now - more famous father. Maybe it provides Tommy a foot in the door. For sure, it gives Prine a ready-made audience of people who loved the elder's music and will be open to what the next generation has to say. It's no surprise that at this stage of his career, Prine is developing his musical chops. But he has overcome the elephant in the room to stand on his own two feet.

Jordan Smart not only served as Prine's road manager, but the northern Kentucky native also was his opening act. Smart doesn't have the highest going music profile, having released an album in 2017 and songs very occasionally since. But hearing Smart made you wonder why. He played a bunch of good songs – some funny with his smart wordplay (the opening "She Drives"), some creating emotions (the more forceful "Back Into Your Arms").

Playing solo acoustic, his singing was a complimentary match for the songs. Here's hoping Smart continues developing his own career because he showed a lot of promise.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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