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John Prine Tree of For­give­ness Oh Boy Records

On Tree of For­give­ness, the 71-year-old folk singer’s first al­bum of orig­i­nal ma­te­rial in 13 years, Prine rekin­dles the straight-ahead, earth­bound spirit that made him a song­writ­ing icon.

With the gut-level hon­esty that daz­zled Bob Dy­lan and Kris Kristof­fer­son, Prine shows why he be­longs with them on the leg­end shelf. Con­tri­bu­tions from Ja­son Is­bell, Amanda Shires, Brandi Carlile, pro­ducer Dave Cobb and oth­ers fur­ther tes­tify to the re­spect Prine still com­mands.

Sure, some of the things he con­tem­plates here are heavy — de­pres­sion on No Or­di­nary Blue, his mor­tal­ity on When I Get to Heaven.

But Prine’s takes are hope­ful. When I Get to Heaven, the al­bum’s rau­cous closer, imag­ines the af­ter­life as a place where he can or­der a cock­tail and for­give ev­ery­one who’s ever done him wrong. It’s so joy­ous that lis­ten­ers will think less about death than about Prine’s fun-lov­ing take on what lies ahead.

Derek Smalls Smalls Change (Med­i­ta­tions Upon Age­ing) BMG

This al­bum an­swers a ques­tion no one was ask­ing: Is Spinal Tap’s Derek Smalls still alive? The Bri­tish bassist (played by co­me­dian Harry Shearer) is at­tempt­ing a come­back with his solo de­but at age 77, and the re­sult is so bad it’s funny. Ac­tu­ally, it’s hi­lar­i­ous.

The sludgy ar­range­ments are thick with ev­ery cliché known to metal, from the open­ing flute to a recita­tion and brass fan­fare, fol­lowed by boogie beats, op­er­atic fe­male vo­cals, syrupy strings and hys­ter­i­cal so­los. All that’s miss­ing is an um­laut.

Equally pre­dictable is the sub­ject mat­ter, which ranges from Satan’s hair­line (Hell Toupee) to cell­phones as a pain in the rear (Butt Call, bring­ing the back­side to the fore­front as the Tap’s Big Bot­tom once did).

An im­pres­sive sup­port­ing cast in­cludes Don­ald Fa­gen, David Crosby, Rick Wake­man and Dweezil Zappa.

Josh Rouse Love In The Mod­ern Age Yep Roc Records

Recorded in Va­len­cia, Spain, and in Nashville, Tenn., Josh Rouse’s 12th al­bum is a com­pact col­lec­tion of cool, airy but car­ing songs about re­la­tion­ships in dif­fer­ent stages of de­vel­op­ment or de­te­ri­o­ra­tion. The ti­tle track is “for the lovers who stick with it.”

Closer, There Was A Time has a Co­henesque feel — though it could be Richard Haw­ley, too — and the late Cana­dian bard may also be get­ting a wink with I’m Your Man. While Co­hen was will­ing to do any­thing for his lover, Rouse’s guy has been out carous­ing and sounds more provoca­tive than com­mit­ted — come and get me while you can. Even mod­ern loves have heart­beats, and Rouse has a del­i­cate way of keep­ing his fin­ger on the pulse.

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