Long considered a “songwriter’s songwriter,” John Prine is a rare talent who writes the songs other songwriters would sell their souls for. Evidence of this is the long list of songwriters who have recorded gems from his extensive catalog, including Johnny Cash, Bonnie Raitt, the Everly Brothers, John Denver, Kris Kristofferson, Carly Simon, Ben Harper, Joan Baez, and many others. With immeasurable accolades, including two Grammys and the distinction of being one of the few songwriters honored by the Library of Congress and US Poet Laureate, Prine is more than a musician…he is an American treasure.
“He’s so good, we’re gonna have to break his fingers,” Kris Kristofferson once said after being justifiably stunned by a Prine performance. Bob Dylan remarked, “Beautiful songs… Nobody but Prine could write like that.”
Long before the awards, all the concerts and many, many albums, John Prine trudged through snow in the cold Chicago winters, delivering mail across Maywood, his childhood suburb. "I always likened the mail route to a library with no books," says John Prine. "I passed the time each day making up these little ditties." Many of the songs he penned on the route landed on his classic self-titled debut record.
Now over forty years since his remarkable debut, John Prine recently released The Singing Mailman Delivers, a two-disc archival set featuring his earliest studio and live recordings dating back to 1970, one year before his premiere album. These tracks reveal a younger Prine as an honest and unassuming songwriter, writing words on his mail route by day and moonlighting as a folk singer in Chicago clubs at night.
The albums first disc features a recording from Chicago's WFMT radio's studio with Prine performing many of the songs on his aforementioned debut and the second disc features a live recording from the Fifth Peg.
This past fall marked the 40th anniversary of that first album, John Prine, and these amateur recordings on The Singing Mailman Delivers truly show Prine as a poet whose consummate songs were refined since inception.