The Prine and DeMent set

As with their show at Old Town a couple of years back, Iris DeMent made up for a lackluster opening set by doing a fine job on her duets with John Prine. While DeMent is blessed with a singularly interesting hillbilly-meets-hobo voice, she’s not much of a songwriter.

Aside from “Let the Mystery Be.” “Mama’s Opry” and a couple of other tunes, most of her songs, plodded along with little of interest melodically or lyrically.

John Prine’s songs, of course, sparkle with whimsy and heart. From old chestnuts like “Fish and Whistle” to haunting ’90s tunes like “Lake Marie,” Prine covered the gamut during his nearly two-hour show at the Symphony Center. Prine’s voice, always a gravelly thing, is even shakier now that he is two years on from surgery to remove a cancer from his throat.

But though he struggled to hit some of the notes on his own songs, the pauses he took to catch his breath made already haunting songs like “Angel From Montgomery” and “Hello in There” into devastating timepieces.

I felt lucky to be there. It’s hard to tell how much longer Prine can tour like this, with two young kids (who for a portion of the show were visible to the side of the stage) at home.But I was there last night, and I was very glad I was.