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The Tree of Forgiveness, his first album of originals in 13 years, is not just classic John Prine. When so much of humanity seems closed off, Prine knows when to be a little goofy, too.
"My sense of humor has saved me more than a couple of times in my life," Prine told Morning Edition in April. "If I can make myself laugh about something that I should be crying about, that's pretty good."
"Knockin' on Your Screen Door" finds Prine right in-between, with a down-on-his-luck character who "could use some help here with a can of pork and beans," left to beg after his family "up and left me / With nothing but an 8-track." It's a kind reminder to express empathy in downtrodden times and to look out for your neighbor — with an instantly hummable, hiccuping melody.
In the spirit of the song's sense of community, a younger generation of Nashville artists appear in this video for "Knockin' on Your Screen Door": Margo Price and Jeremy Ivey busk outside the Ernest Tubb Record Shop with Prine in downtown Nashville. Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires and Dave Cobb jam with him in the studio. Dan Auerbach and Sturgill Simpson join in at the legendary honky-tonk Station Inn. Elizabeth Cook sings along in a basement spot. Oh, and John Prine reminds us that he is quite the pool shark.
The Tree of Forgiveness is out now via Oh Boy Records.