John Prine and Jason Isbell are 2 of the most influential songwriters in our country and remind us that time is the real gift on this earth.
I was late to the John Prine scene. It was about 7 years ago that I got hooked on Prine. I was sitting over at a friend’s house, playing a card game called Hanabi, when his duet with Bonnie Raitt “Angel from Montgomery” came over the speaker.
Prine was talking with a friend about song ideas and his friend suggested he write “another song about old people”. Here’s Prine on the vision of the song:
“…a song about a middle-aged woman who feels older than she is…[Eventually] I had this really vivid picture of this woman standing over the dishwater with soap in her hands….She wanted to get out of her house and her marriage and everything. She just wanted an angel to come to take her away from all this”.John Prine
John Prine and Jason Isbell: One Day at a Time
I’m a big Prine fan, and I’ve long felt the next in line of great folk lyricists is Jason Isbell. My brother, Jeffery Cothran, is a great man. However, for 20 years he was a shell of the man he was as he battled drug addiction. Now, nearly 5 years sober (his sobriety is tied to my daughter’s age, which is one of my favorite facts), my brother takes to Facebook on a regular basis to help guide others through their addiction problems through music. It’s working, too, as many regularly comment on his pieces and find peace in his words, which always ends with “One Day at a Time”.
A few years back, he did a 10 for 10 challenge “favorite bands” and asked me to participate. Not being much of a Facebooker, I was hesitant, but gave it a go after sitting on it for a few weeks. I wrote about one of my favorite songs of Jason Isbell’s titled, “If We Were Vampires”:
John Prine and Jason Isbell: Passing the Torch
In my opinion, the best country lyricist since John Prine. His latest is a beautifully written 10-song soul search that leaves you wanting to hear it over and over just to understand the underlying meaning to all the songs.
Excerpt from “If We were Vampires”:
“It’s knowing that this can’t go on forever
Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone
Maybe we’ll get forty years together
But one day I’ll be gone
Or one day you’ll be gone”
That’s some hard lyrics to hear, to know that we will be alone, or we may leave someone behind alone when we pass from this world. However, listening to just the chorus is likely a partial picture of the meaning, especially when it’s Isbell. Here’s another excerpt:
“If we were vampires and death was a joke
We’d go out on the sidewalk and smoke
And laugh at all the lovers and their plans
I wouldn’t feel the need to hold your hand
Maybe time running out is a gift
I’ll work hard ’til the end of my shift
And give you every second I can find.”
Now the real meaning comes out…without death, the celebration of life ceases to exist. The ideology of “do it tomorrow” is put off until tomorrow. For me, this means to get off the phone sometimes (for me, it’s to put down Twitter and stop talking about the Braves so stinkin’ much) or turn off the TV and be fully absorbed in “one day at a time”. As much as we want to stay in contact with everyone through social media, the real people that need us lay eyes on our face daily, not a picture of it.
John Prine and Jason Isbell: Time is the Real Gift
Time is the gift, people. The time we have here. The time we have with others. It’s the gift. If we all can look at life so simply, the AA slogan of “One Day at a Time” can come into full meaning.
Thanks for reading this piece on Jason Isbell and John Prine! If these pieces interest you, take a look at a piece on my favorite movie.