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John Prine; Cowboy Junkies

Pairing of singer-songwriter Prine and roots-oriented Canadian band is promoted as "two headliners"; indeed, acts perform sets of roughly equal length and take turn closing the show from one city to the next. Appearing on Hollywood Boulevard just over a week after the L.A. riots, show brought a taste of intelligence and calm to the area.

With:
Bands: Prine: Prine, Phil Parlapiano, Bill Bonk , Duane Jarvis. Junkies: Margo Timmins, Michael Timmins, Peter Timmins, Alan Anton, Ken Myer, Spencer Evans, Jeff Bird.

Pairing of singer-songwriter Prine and roots-oriented Canadian band is promoted as “two headliners”; indeed, acts perform sets of roughly equal length and take turn closing the show from one city to the next. Appearing on Hollywood Boulevard just over a week after the L.A. riots, show brought a taste of intelligence and calm to the area.

Prine guests on new Junkies album; show included duets between him and Margo Timmins near the end of both acts’ sets.

Prine’s current disc “The Missing Years,” on his own Oh Boy label, is his most successful in years, and his set drew a standing ovation from the near-capacity (on the floor level, at least) crowd.

Thought of as a folk singer when he debuted about 20 years ago, Prine was a rocker compared to the Junkies. Though not promoted as such, current act is almost a tribute to Johnny Cash, with Prine dressed as the Man in Black and arrangements of several songs–including opener “Blow Up Your TV” and clever “There She Goes”– sounding like something that might have been cooked up by the Tennessee Three.

A clever touch was arrangement of “If You Don’t Want My Love,” written by Prine and Phil Spector, on which Phil Parlapiano’s cascading organ riffs and Duane Jarvis’s electric guitar emulated the Spector Wall of Sound.

Backing on other songs varied from Prine’s acoustic guitar on oldie “Donald and Lydia” to various combinations of multi-instrumentalist Parlapiano, bassist Bill Bonk (who record together as the Brothers Figaro) and Jarvis.

Margo Timmins joined in on “Angel From Montgomery,” an asset that didn’t keep Prine from singing the opening line, “I am an old woman …”

Junkies opened this evening. Drawing from folk and country influences, band’s gimmick is that they perform their songs, mostly by guitarist Michael Timmins, as quietly as the Modern Jazz Quartet, with most of the musicians sitting in the shadows.

Junkies’s sound treads the fine line between subtle and boring, keeping on the entertaining side most often thanks to diverse instrumental coloring–certainly the tempos of the songs never excite (the Velvet Underground’s languorous “Sweet Jane” is their barnburner, this time around) — and to Margo Timmins’ dryly witty spoken introductions.

Timmins is becoming a more forceful singer, notably this time on “A Horse in the Country” from group’s fourth RCA album, “Black Eyed Man.” Prine wandered onstage to duet on “If You Were the Woman and I Was the Man” from that disc. Another highlight was the Junkies’ version of Canadian songwriter David Whiffen’s “Driving Wheel,” popularized in the ’70s by Tom Rush.

John Prine; Cowboy Junkies

(Pantages Theater; 2,700 seats; $ 26)

Production: Promoted by Parc/Nederlander. Reviewed May 20, 1992.

Cast: Bands: Prine: Prine, Phil Parlapiano, Bill Bonk , Duane Jarvis. Junkies: Margo Timmins, Michael Timmins, Peter Timmins, Alan Anton, Ken Myer, Spencer Evans, Jeff Bird.

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