The Missing Years

John Prine’s best work has always been slightly cinematic and hallucinogenic, full of images that transport as well as provoke. There’s plenty of that on this new album The Missing Years (his first studio recording since 1985), especially on ”Jesus the Missing Years,” which imagines the adolescent savior’s boho travels through Europe, his seeing Rebel Without a Cause on his 13th birthday, and his eventual stint as an opening act for George Jones. Most of these country-folk songs, though, find Prine in a more serious mood, skipping whimsy and aiming instead for tangled regions of the head and heart, tracing his divorce in ”All the Best” and his subsequent redemption in love (”Unlonely”). While little here is stunning — except for the Dylanesque ”Take a Look at My Heart,” a ”dear sucker” letter to Prine’s ex-old lady’s boyfriend, with a subdued cameo vocal by Bruce Springsteen — all the songs are keepers, perfectly relaxed and wry. And so what if a lot of them start out to be about one thing and end up being about another? Doesn’t life? A-

The Missing Years
  • Music