Review Summary: Nostalgia worth crying over
John Prine’s anthology is a collection of warm memories. It’s a dusty, leather photo album with pictures of you on your first day of school, your weird uncle’s third wedding, that street light your dad accidentally backed into with his ’93 Toyota pickup, that Christmas when you finally got that toy from that TV show you don’t ever recall watching. It’s that jewelry cabinet you gave to your first girlfriend who you had your first kiss with, who you stayed up with countless December nights talking about why your parents were jerks, who you secretly wanted to marry at 19 but were too naïve to know better, and who you lost your happy innocence to. It’s that experience of leaving your heartless dormitory at 3am and driving back to your suburban childhood neighborhood where you spent the first 12 years of your life, pointing out who lived where, which houses you’ve been inside, and what hasn’t changed. It’s that moment of clarity when you look into your newborn baby sister’s eyes and realize life is incredible, and that there isn’t much that needs worrying. It’s that fuzzy idea that you used to sit in your dad’s ’93 Toyota pickup next to him, with that familiar scent of cigarettes in the air, listening to Souvenirs for the hundredth time and quietly dozing off to a dream you’d remember for years to come.
The folk remedies included on this anthology have only one goal: to tell stories. When listening to this, you aren’t going to be blown away by Prine’s vocal capabilities, and you aren’t going to be swaying your hips to some funky groove masterfully crafted by a studio bassist, and you’d be mistaken to expect even an ounce of commercialistic value artificially injected into this perfectly wholesome collection of 41 simple, acoustic guitar-driven songs. In fact, the best way to get enjoyment out this collection is to sit down in front of your home stereo with a cold drink and just be ready to reminisce. The folk stylings of Prine and co. are tremendously accessible. Given the fact most of these songs were written the night before being recorded or performed for the first time, and Prine’s love and natural talent for storytelling, nearly every song across his relatively large discography is barebones and shine a glimmering spotlight on the lyrics.
That being said, the stories included on Great Days are plentiful and varied. Prine’s baritone delivers, like mail from a cute postman, debacles of war-torn junkies with holes in their arms and empty pockets who fail to take care of their innocent children, child actors who are forced to travel with scary, greedy old men in sketchy airplanes in hectic cities and are paid little to nothing for the slaving, men who are figuratively arrested by jackasses for simply trying to be in a good mood every once in a while, prisoners who celebrate Christmas by eating cardboard turkey and crying over their fading memories of sweet loves, and other one-of-a-kind genuine scenes. The magnificent centerpiece of this album and ultimately American folk are the stories a quiet postman from the Windy City has to offer. This anthology is the beautiful photobook of a past generation.