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More Rough Touring: Hitting the Road with Prine

John PrineAfter the debacle of what could have been a life-changing recording session for me, and a missed opportunity, I was still slated to keep on rehearsing for the John Prine tour, which had the misfortune of being in Canada for the winter, and the deep south for the summer! It’s not usually planned that way, but the tour got postponed by six months, so we ended up with a “flipped” schedule!

We had our own Silver Eagle tour bus, which was nicely appointed, and had been leased apparently, from a touring Gospel group from Georgia, with a leader by the name of “Sam Sermons”! It quickly became our home away from home, and many times it was, because the gigs were often far apart, and we couldn’t get motel accommodations. The bus was often a real zoo scene, between the kidding around, the girls on the road, the fun we’d have with our driver, and on and on.

But still, I felt that when we hit the stage, it was incredibly lacking. The band that had been assembled was in my opinion, marginal at best, and certainly, not the right group of players for John Prine’s music. I could also see that Prine’s naivete’ when it comes to things like a band also was a factor, because he had no idea how to express himself about whether or not the band was really “making it” or not! I can tell you for sure, that from my perspective, I was the only one truly fit for that band! I was much more of a folk, country and blues-rooted player who played for the song, while the rest of the band were a bunch of “funk” players who couldn’t play the stuff “straight”. Instead, everything had way too much syncopation, and was too herky-jerky for John’s nice country melodies and rhythms.

The beauty of his music was in its simplicity….I can remember one time, when in all seriousness, he actually said to me, “Arlen, can you teach me a new chord, so I can write a new song!” That blew my mind, but it sure showed me how he, as a songwriter, really epitomized the statement that “less is more”. There were so many wild moments, like the first chord of the tour, when john broke 5 strings with his first strum, and the roadie didn’t know how to put new strings on and tune them up! I would also always go up to him in the middle of a song and whisper in his ear something like “your B string is flat”……after that particular show, John told me that if I ever hear a tuning problem like that, which was basically all the time, I should just reach behind him and tune it myself while he kept grinding away at those chords! Needless to say, that actually became a funny part of the act! More Prine tour stuff next time……………

Arlen Roth


Posted: 2/16/2009 5:52:02 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink
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