John Prine and Jason Isbell

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.

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

14 thoughts on “John Prine and Jason Isbell”

  1. Very nice. Thank you, Ryan.

    Interesting fact – first time I ever heard about Jason Isbell was on Braves Journal some years ago.

  2. Thanks so much for this, Ryan. My history with John Prine stretches almost fifty years. I bought his first album (an amazing collection of songs—virtually all of which became classics that have held up over time) within a year of its coming out in 1971. I saw him perform several times at the Great Southeast Music Hall in Atlanta in the early and mid seventies.
    I saw him at the Fox in Atlanta within the last decade and he was just as compelling as ever.
    I took the news of his hospitalization pretty hard. Hope he pulls through.

    And I agree completely about Jason Isbell. A worthy successor.

  3. Define ‘need’.

    Those government stimulus checks are due out soon – $1200 per person, $2400 a couple. Created to do two things – help the millions of the new needy and stimulate the economy when they are cashed and spent. Note that if we as recipients merely deposit it, have no need to spend it for now, the second goal goes unmet.

    So say there were 4 couples, or 8 singles, or any other civic minded combination here on Braves Journal who wanted to be sure their check counted. We have $10, 000 to donate, to be spent. To one recipient/group to be decided by poll here.

    Mac might like this I suspect. And we in turn would have done something in his and the Journal’s name.

    One detail. 12 or 24, no 50s please, no wonky bookkeeping required. It must hurt a little, to be meaningful. Of course it must. That makes it all the more special.We are special. Your input?

  4. Unfortunately, we won’t be getting the stimulus checks and are in a real bind right now as we are building a home, all the while still owning a home of which we would’ve been able to sell in about a day before the world came to a halt. Long story short, our cash is locked up right now.

  5. Perhaps this would be a good time to mention the Patreon account link at the top of the blog. I imagine $10-20 goes a long ways to keep this site running. And if you already are one of the blog’s patrons, I bet Ryan would appreciate you upping your level (yes, I just did. What happened to the $30/month tier?)

  6. @9
    You are amazing, Snowshine. The upper tier seemed to catch some criticism so I did away with it and put a $3/month tier.

  7. @8

    Nae’ matter, as we would say in Scotland. We only need 8, already have two I believe. Anon – they’re terribly shy.

  8. Good luck, Ryan. And everyone who’s struggling right now. This is unlike anything I’ve ever known.

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