John Prine's ragged drawl and sharp-eyed affinity for the plight of the tortured working stiff, etched with bitter humor and appropriate dashes of cynicism, have spawned a slew of iconic tunes, trailing all the way back to his grand debut in '72. Juggling country, folk, and even occasional bursts of rockabilly, Prine has created a formidable body of work that continues to accumulate as he hits his 60s. His last album of originals, 2005's Fair & Square (Oh Boy), was packed with fresh nuggets, the bite of his cynicism mellowed perhaps a little, except when lacerating Dubya on "Some Humans Ain't Human." A fine collection of country standards with bluegrass singer Mac Wiseman, Standard Songs for Average People, came out last year. Accompanying Prine here will be bassist Dave Jacques and superb guitarist Jason Wilber. Paul Thorn, who'll open with a solo set, is a Pentecostal preacher's kid from Mississippi, a former boxer who once went seven rounds with Roberto Duran, and a primitive painter influenced by Howard Finster. The music on Thorn's latest, A Long Way from Tupelo (Perpetual Obscurity), is a rugged blend of Americana, embracing country, gospel, and blues, and often rocking with a snarly edge reminiscent of somebody like Steve Earle. Like Prine, Thorn is a natural raconteur, feels the gritty pulse of real life, and has a quirky sense of humor, although his has a Southern gothic streak that combines nicely with his Skynyrd-in-Memphis strain of funky soul.
Sat., April 12, 8 p.m., 2008