How Roger Ebert Discovered John Prine

In 1970, Ebert was a young critic at the Sun-Times, when he came across a young singer-songwriter-mailman playing future standards at the Fifth Peg, in “out of the way” Lincoln Park.

In one of those wonderful Chicago moments, it turns out that one of the best writers to ever come out of the city discovered, or was at least the first person to review, one of the best musicians to ever come out of the city: Roger Ebert covered John Prine for the Sun-Times in 1970, back when he was still a mailman and playing at the Fifth Peg, “out of the way” at 858 W. Armitage, a couple blocks from where Charlie Trotter later redefined Chicago cuisine. Ebert’s original review is, as you’d expect, great. What surprised me about it was how many of Prine’s masterpieces had already been written (coincidentally, Ebert’s piece ran on October 9, the day before Prine turned 24): “Illegal Smile,” “Angel From Montgomery,” “Sam Stone” (then “The Great Society Conflict Veteran’s Blues”), “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore.”

Prine was also a child of one of my favorite Chicago subjects, the Hillbilly Highway, though I didn’t know how good his pedigree was:

So you talk to him, and you find out that Prine has been carrying mail in Westchester since he got out of the Army three years ago. That he was born in Maywood, and that his parents come from Paradise, Ky. That his grandfather was a miner, a part-time preacher, and used to play guitar with Merle Travis and Ike Everly (the Everly brothers’ father). And that his brother Dave plays banjo, guitar and fiddle, and got John started on the guitar about 10 years. ago.

Paradise, in western Kentucky, no longer exists. Coal companies strip mined the land around it, and residents sold out to the TVA to escape the massive Paradise Fossil Plant.

Here’s Prine playing … “Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone,” eight years out from Ebert’s piece.

And “The Late John Garfield Blues”, from 1972:

Source: Chicago Magazine by Whet Moser | Published 2012

The Accident review – echoes of Grenfell in devastating disaster drama

Sarah Lancashire stars in Jack Thorne’s sweeping, harrowing look at how the aftershock of a disaster ripples out into people’s lives

Apart from the explosion, The Accident (Channel 4) is very quiet. Hairdresser Polly (Sarah Lancashire) doesn’t even shout when she finds her 15-year-old daughter Leona’s latest one-night stand still in her bedroom. She just flings his clothes at him, notes that Leona (Jade Croot) is underage and that he looks 28, and makes him jump out of the window. Then she takes herself off to the local charity run with her friends. They are walking, Polly’s best friend, Angela (Joanna Scanlan), says firmly.

So begins the new four-part drama by Jack Thorne, the unassailable powerhouse behind the likes of This is England, Skins, Kiri (in which Lancashire also starred) and the forthcoming adaptation of Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials. […] Continue reading

“Movie review: “The Invisible Man”

Available to rent early due to its premature departure from cinemas amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Leigh Whannell’s take on this classic story is deeply satisfying, despite the odd flaw

Leigh Whannell’s take on the iconic H.G. Wells monster and 1933 Pre-Code horror finally sees the light of day after 13 years in development, and the results are surprisingly satisfying. In San Francisco’s present-day haven of technology start-ups and 30-something millionaires, Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss) is first seen painstakingly sneaking out of the gated mansion she shares with her husband Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Two weeks after this heart-poundingly narrow escape, Adrian is dead of an apparent suicide – and yet Cecilia cannot shake the feeling that he is just around the corner.

Movie Review: Sorry We Missed You

Ken Loach eviscerates the gig economy in this vérité masterpiece

With all the discussion over the last decade(s) about how the one percent are cast as these nefarious villains in their high castles, scoffing at and exploiting us mere plebeians attempting to survive in this increasing problematic era of capitalism, it is (dis)comforting to know that the tradition of documenting stories of the working class among filmmakers has found many new topics to discuss in their narratives. Mike Leigh, the Dardenne brothers, and of course, Ken Loach are delving into very intricate and humanistic stories that succinctly deconstruct the world of people ever on the verge of losing it, walking that razor’s edge of some sort of viable financial stability. Continue reading

Review: Teddy Thompson Finds Some Solace on “Heartbreaker Please”

Teddy Thompson
Teddy Thompson

“You can actually reinvent yourself in America, step off the plane, say ‘my name is whatever,’” says Teddy Thompson. Speaking more about New York City,

“You can actually reinvent yourself in America, step off the plane, say ‘my name is whatever,’” says Teddy Thompson. Speaking more about New York City, where the singer-songwriter has lived since moving there as a teen with his parents British folks singers Linda and Richard Thompson, the city also helped him fuse together his sixth studio album Heartbreaker Please (Thirty Tigers), out May 8, as he’s dissecting his own heartbreak, unraveling a portion of it on the album’s title track. Continue reading