Ranking The 10 Best John Prine Studio Albums of All-Time

John Prine

From 1969 until April 7, 2020, John Prine has entertained the audience with his musical talent in the genres of Americana, bluegrass, and country folk. The originality behind the mix of humor and various activism viewpoints all comes from Prine’s life experiences since the day of his birth on October 10, 1946. The earliest memories of Brine’s childhood revolve around Chicago, Illinois, the city he was born and raised in. He also spent his summers in Kentucky, which was where his parents were originally from. As a teenager, John Prine first learned how to play the guitar from his brother before attending classes to upgrade his skills. After graduation from high school, Prine worked as a mailman for the US Postal Service for five years where he was also singing at a local bar. Originally, Prine was merely a patron at the establishment before accepting a challenge to perform on stage. Over time, as the confidence of John Prine grew as a performer, so did his popularity.

John Prine’s Discography

Upon the discovery of John Prine that would officially launch him into a career of world-class entertainment, the personal and professional life of John Prine saw the first of his studio albums released in 1971 by Atlantic Records. In total, there are eighteen studio albums to his credit, as well as five live albums, two compilation albums, and a video album. Prine’s musical style was designed to cater to an audience that favored the genres of Americana, bluegrass, and country folk. In other words, this meant catering to the whims of billboard charts was not John Prine’s forte. The US Billboards only charted his albums, not his songs, as none were officially released from his label as singles. The only single to his credit is the collaborated (Sweet Suzanne) he performed with Buzzin Cousins in the 1992 soundtrack for the motion picture, Falling from Grace.

10. Bruised Orange


After the less than impressive 1975 album, Common Sense, met with issues that caused John Prine to end his working relationship with Atlantic Records, he would sign to the label Asylum Records who would release (Bruised Orange) in 1978. Although the US Billboard 200 only charted this album at 116, the overall reviews by the music critics were considerably better than what they gave the previous album. Now with a new label and more say to how he wants his material produced, Prine’s freedom to simply be who he is instead of meeting expectations really shines through in what is regarded as some of the best work he’s ever recorded into the format of a studio album.

9. Sweet Revenge


The third studio album released by John Prine was (Sweet Revenge). Although the US Billboard 200 only charted it at number 135, the music critics mostly gave positive reviews, sharing the appeal of a surreal delivery of Prine’s passion in political matters without coming across as some kind of protest. Full of humor, yet thought-provoking, Sweet Revenge is one of Prine’s best recordings to his credit.

8. John Prine


The debut album from John Prime also shares his name. It was released in 1971 and earned near-perfect reviews by music critics. The US Billboard 200 charted the album at number fifty-five. Most of the recording stemmed from Prine’s personal life experiences, plus inspiration he’d experience while he still worked as a mailman. He also briefly served in Germany during the timeline of the Vietnam War. The songs, namely Hello In There, Paradise, and Sam Stone are regarded as heralded as some of Prine’s best which won over a number of fans and music critics alike.

7. Standard Songs for Average People (with Mac Wiseman)


On the US Billboard Independent Albums chart, (Standard Songs for Average People) peaked at number thirty-seven after it was released in 2007. Although it did not appear on any of the other billboard charts, the overall appeal to the album, track for track, sounds like the kind of music played out by a sixty-year-old Prine and an eighty-two-year-old Mac Wiseman. It’s one of those albums where one can close their eyes and pretend they’re sitting in on a jam session of two talented artists who love doing what they do.

6. In Spite of Ourselves


In 1999, (In Spite of Ourselves) became John Prine’s thirteenth studio album. On the US Billboard 200, it barely squeed in at 197. On the US Billboard Country Albums chart, it fared much better at number twenty-one. This was Prine’s first album since battling his throat cancer. Much of the music recorded features duet performances with some of the industry’s best-known stars such as Iris DeMent, Emmylou Harris, Delores Keane, Patty Loveless, Melba Montgomery, Connie Smith, Lucinda Williams, and Trisha Yearwood, Prine’s third wife, Fiona, also performed with him.

5. Fair & Square


(Fair & Square) was released in 2005, which won a Grammy Award in 2006 for Best Contemporary Folk Album. It was his fifteenth studio album and was somewhat less scrappy than his previous album releases. John Prine is best known for a mix of rebellious humor and satire in his music, but this particular run saw a less political influence in the material. On the US Billboard Independent Albums chart, it peaked at number two. The US Billboard 200 charted it at number fifty-five.

4. In Person & On Stage


In 2010, the live album release of (In-Person & On Stage) featured a collection of live performances John Prine performed on stage for his audience. A number of the songs in the album have collaborated performances that include Irish DeMent, Josh Ritter, and Emmylou Harris. The album reached the top spot on the US Billboard Country Folk Albums Chart. On the US Billboard Top Rock Albums chart, it peaked at number twenty-seven, and on the US Billboard 200, at number eighty-five.

3. Singing Mailman Delivers


(Singing Mailman Delivers) was the fourth out of his five live albums, which was released in 2011. The collection of music found in this album features material from Prine’s first demo tape, which was cut at a radio station in 1970. There is also a recording while he was on stage at a folk club. Much of the music featured on this album comes from a time when Prine was still working for the United States postal service. What made this album so appealing is hearing Prine in raw form. With the US Billboard 200, the album charted at number ninety-four. On the US Billboard Country Folk chart, it peaked at number four. The US Billboard Independent Albums chart saw the album reach as high as twenty and on the US Billboard Top Rock Albums at number twenty-two.

2. For Better, For Worse


Released in 2016, (For Better, For Worse) was John Prine’s seventeenth studio album. Featured on it are an array of vintage classic songs performed by a number of female artists Prine teamed up with for the recordings of each track. The album was released in vinyl format, as well as an MP3. It was also the first time John Prine released a studio album in nine years. On the US Billboard 200, the album charted at number thirty. The US Billboard Top Country Albums peaked For Better, For Worse at number two while the US Billboard Folk Albums peaked it at number five. Number seven was the top placement for the album on the US Billboard Independent Albums chart. As of 2017, a total of 43,700 copies of this compilation album have been sold.

1. The Tree of Forgiveness


The final studio album recorded and released in 2018 by John Prine proved to be the best charting. On the various US Billboard albums chart, it peaked at number one on US Folk Albums, and at number two on US Top Country Albums, US Top Rock Albums, and US Independent Albums. In the UK, it also peaked at number two on its Country Albums chart. The Canadian Albums Chart saw (The Tree of Forgiveness) chart at number twenty-six. Even on the Swiss Albums Chart, it appeared at number fifty-three. The US Billboard 200 peaked the album at number five. Within the first week of the album’s release, it sold over 53,000 copies. Records show as of September 2019 that 156,000 copies of The Tree of Forgiveness have been sold overall.

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