Now Listening: John Prine’s Unforgettable Newport Folk Set

A new double album of the late songwriter’s 2017 headlining performance features Margo Price, Nathaniel Rateliff, Jim James, and more

Photo: Taylor Hill, courtesy of Newport Folk Festival

Justin Vernon of Bon Iver with John Prine during his Newport Folk Festival set in 2017.

We lost John Prine nearly a year ago, but the late songwriter’s poetic wit, welcoming nature, and independent spirit continue to influence the next generation of songwriters. This week, Prine’s Oh Boy Records shared a way for fans to hear firsthand the love he garnered from fellow musicians with John Prine and Friends, a vinyl release and accompanying digital download of his 2017 headlining performance at the Newport Folk Festival. 

The Newport, Rhode Island–based event has been a music mainstay for more than sixty years, but it’s best known lately for its blockbuster collaborations and surprise appearances. (You might remember Dolly Parton popping up with Brandi Carlile and the Highwomen in 2019). The fest has also become a charitable force with its Newport Festivals Foundation, which funds music education programs around the country and recently expanded to offer grants to out-of-work musicians during the pandemic.

Continuing the tradition of generosity and top-notch tunes, all proceeds from the live double album will benefit the foundation. The track list includes such Prine classics as “Angel from Montgomery,” “Fish and Whistle,” and “That’s the Way That the World Goes ‘Round,” which you can watch in full below. It also features an all-star cast of friends and fellow Newport performers. Margo Price joins Prine for “In Spite of Ourselves,” the beloved title track from his 1999 album of duets. Kentuckian Jim James of My Morning Jacket takes the stage for “All the Best,” Nathaniel Rateliff makes an appearance for the stirring “Sam Stone,” and harmonies from Roger Waters and Lucius lend a special depth to “Hello in There.” And true to Newport Folk tradition, the set closes out with nearly all of the year’s festival artists on stage for a group performance—in this case, a rousing rendition of Prine’s “Paradise.” 

“When we talk about ‘Folk Family,’ what we are really talking about is community, something that was very much at the core of John—his acts of kindness, his sense of family, and of course his love of music,” says Jay Sweet, the executive producer of the Newport Folk and Newport Jazz festivals. “It’s in this spirit that the proceeds from this release will support relief grants to musicians and music education programs across the country.”

The double-album vinyl release is available for pre-order now and comes with an instant digital download of the entire set. The physical albums will ship sometime around October. For more information on the programs it benefits, visit the Newport Festivals Foundation website