Since the early Seventies, John Prine has delivered songs that are often as fascinatingly cryptic as they are thoroughly penetrating. “Summer’s End” is not only the latest of these, it is among the very best on The Tree of Forgiveness, Prine’s first album of new material in 13 years, officially released Friday.
The singer-songwriter debuted the tune, an oblique but devastating meditation on love, loss and, naturally, forgiveness on CBS’ Late Show With Stephen Colbert Thursday night, joined by Brandi Carlile and Sturgill Simpson. Introduced by the host as “a special performance from three of my favorite artists who are performing together for the first time,” the tune featured a backing band that also included Fats Kaplin on lonesome steel guitar.
Throughout the performance, Prine’s weathered rasp is beautifully coated and soothed by harmonies from Carlile and Simpson, although the sting of the repeated refrain “Come on home” remains just below the surface.
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