Mother Banjo on the John Prine tribute show at 331 Club

Mother Banjo on the John Prine tribute show at 331 Club

Many singer-songwriters count the likes of Kris Kristofferson and Bob Dylan among their favorites, but few writers can brag that Kristofferson and Dylan have said the feeling's mutual. Dylan has called John Prine's songs "pure Proustian existentialism... Midwestern mind trips to the nth degree," and it's said Kristofferson quipped after an early performance, "John Prine is so good, we may have to break his thumbs." Endorsements like those earned Prine an early record deal, countless fans, and for the sixth year in a row, a tribute concert in celebration of his half birthday. Yes, his half birthday.

This Saturday at the 331 Club, local Prine fans/roots and Americana musicians Mother Banjo and Art Vandalay host the sixth annual "Big Fat Love" celebration of John Prine's half birthday, featuring tribute sets by the hosts as well as Dana Thompson, Baby Grant Johnson, Brianna Lane, and Ben Cook-Feltz. The event will feature songs spanning Prine's 35-plus-year career ranging from beloved to lesser-known songs. Plus, there are prizes! This week, Gimme Noise got the dirt on the upcoming event from Mother Banjo's Ellen Stanley.

See also:
John Prine at the Minnesota Zoo, 6/29/12

Mother Banjo's Ellen Stanley: I hit the hell out of that banjo

Gimme Noise: Okay, so you're celebrating John Prine's half (not full) birthday at the 331 Club. What's that all about?

Ellen Stanley: When Brandon Henry (a.k.a. local songwriter Art Vandalay) and I first cooked up the idea to do a tribute to John Prine, we looked for a date that had some actual connection to him, and we didn't want to wait another six months for his actual birthday so...we landed on his half birthday, which has proven to be a great time of year to host this event.

What can we expect from Saturday night's show?

Every artist will sing three John Prine songs of their choosing, spanning his whole illustrious catalog, from hits like "Angel from Montgomery," "Paradise," and "Hello in There" to lesser known gems like "One Red Rose" and "Only Love."

Mother Banjo Band
Mother Banjo Band
Photo by Anna Kostochko

This is your sixth annual tribute show - what will returning Prine fans find different about this year's event?

Every year has new artists doing fresh batches of songs. This year we're especially excited to be presenting alt-country veteran Dana Thompson, acoustic blues master Baby Grant Johnson, and folk favorite Brianna Lane -- none of whom have been featured performers at any of the past Prine tributes.

We also hear tell of special John Prine prizes. Tell us one is a fishing expedition with Prine himself.

Ha! If I had that, I probably wouldn't give it away! In the past, we have given away Prine T-shirts, keychains, and CDs. One year we even had cake to celebrate his half birthday. Folks will just have to come to Saturday's show to see what we'll give away this year.

Say you have a John Prine novice who'd like to come down to the show; what are a few of his essential songs they should look up on YouTube so they can sing along come Saturday?

"Angel from Montgomery," "Illegal Smile," "Hello in There," "Spanish Pipedream," "Paradise,"... and if you want to seem real cool, work up a harmony part to "Sweet Revenge."

Big Fat Love: 6th Annual Celebration of John Prine's 1/2 Birthday at the 331 Club, hosted by Mother Banjo and Art Vandalay. 10 p.m., Saturday, April 6. No cover.

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