Home International Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine, Vol 2

Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine, Vol 2

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Various – Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine, Vol 2

Oh Boy – Out Now

Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows, the second volume homage to the late great John Prine, brings together again an incredible array of Americana talent offering their interpretations of some of his best-known material. However, as with the first volume, surprisingly, no one has taken on board one of his most familiar and greatest, Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness, seminally covered by the much-missed Nanci Griffith.

The tribute gets underway with Brandi Carlile‘s solo acoustic guitar reading of the bittersweet reflective I Remember Everything, a co-write with Pat McLaughlin and the last thing he ever recorded. Then, moving to his eponymous 1971 debut, Pretty Good (though curiously credited in the notes as from the live September 78), performed in a respectfully faithful manner (albeit with more of a Dylan tinge) by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats.

Turning to 1975’s Common Sense, Amanda Shires retains the 70s funk chug of Saddle In The Rain, Audley Freed on wah wah guitars with Shires introducing fiddle to the arrangement, giving way to Tyler Childers for a solid honky tonk carouse through Yes I Guess They Oughta Name A Drink After You from 1972’s Diamond In The Rough, Chase Lewis behind the saloon piano and James Barker on pedal steel. Released in 1973, his third album, to which he brought a fuller band sound, was Sweet Revenge, represented here by the title track, a more muscular take by Margo Price and her band that almost doubles the original running time and adds a gospel vocal backing.

Released in 2018, his first all original material in 13 years, Tree Of Forgiveness was to prove Prine’s final album and his highest-charting  (peaking at five on the Billboard 200), Valerie June’s drawn-out twang accompanied by guitar and pedal steel on the wistful passing of time-themed Summer’s End, another McLaughlin co-write, addressing the opioid crisis.

Originally only intended for a German release, 2000’s Souvenirs saw Prine reworking some of his most popular early songs, the title track (from whence this album’s title comes) another about the passing of time and performed here in a very Prine-like style by Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, was originally intended for his debut but not recorded when he was told they had enough tracks, eventually appearing on Diamonds In The Rough.

Souvenirs – and by extension the original album on which they featured – yields a further three selections, all up there with his best-known songs, the first being his most covered number, Angel From Montgomery (the only repeat from Vol 1), here as a bluesy solo fingerpicked version by Bonnie Raitt who herself previously featured it as the finale on her 1995 Road Tested live album and also performed it with Prine at a Steve Goodman tribute concert a decade earlier. As you’d expect, it fits like a glove. It’s followed by Sam Stone, the song about Vietnam veterans and addiction, from his debut, by John Paul White although, backed by pump organ with Fats Kaplin on strings and steel, it’s perhaps a little too sweet an arrangement for the lyrics. The third, again from his debut, brings in Emmylou Harris for the equally much-covered Hello In There and its tale of old age loneliness and isolation, accompanied on guitars by Bryan Sutton and Jay Joyce.

Framing that is, first, the unique warbling voice of Iris DeMent, unequivocally Prine’s finest vocal partner, her piano backed by bowed bass and pedal steel for One Red Rose from 1980’s country-styled Storm Windows, his last major label release before forming Oh Boy Records, the song recalling an overnight stay as a kid with his cousin Charlie Bill, telling ghost stories in the back of a general store as a thunderstorm raged. The store was in Paradise, Muhlenberg County, which neatly sets up the last track of the same name, featured on 1986’s German Afternoons, the tale of how the Western Kentucky county was devastated by strip mining for coal and seeing things out in fine sway-along style by Sturgill Simpson with banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitars and massed background vocals.

Doing ample justice to Prine’s talent and legacy, this is a terrific collection, and, if they do get round to a Vol 3, can I put in my request for Jesus, The Missing Years, Unwed Fathers and, yes, Speed Of The Sound of Loneliness (Luke Jackson and Julie Aube do a great duet) now.

Out Now: Order via Rough Trade | Amazon

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