With so many artists having recorded John Prine’s songs, creating a compilation of covers would have been all too easy, and boring.
Great as Bonnie Raitt’s cover of “Angel From Montgomery” and David Allan Coe’s version of “You Never Even Call Me By My Name” are, we’ve heard them hundreds of times.
But the twelve artists on Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine are funky and a little off-beat, just like the songs. And after four decades, there are certainly plenty of tunes to rediscover.
Some of the recordings are faithful, like The Avett Brothers’ peppy, fiddle-infused “Spanish Pipedream” and “Far From Me” sparsely performed by Justin Townes Earle. Others rock and swing, like Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst with the Mystic Valley Band on the quirky “Wedding Day In Funeralville” from Common Sense and “Daddy’s Little Pumpkin” with an upbeat, rockabilly-vibe from The Drive-By Truckers.
The harmony of Deer Tick and Liz Isenberg on “Unwed Fathers” mirrors the duets of John Prine and Iris Dement and Justin Vernon’s (Bon Iver) take on “Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrows)” sounds like John singing with some extra echo effects.
Matching songs with artists, Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Angel From Montgomery” fits the group’s newgrass stylings perfectly and the injection of shameless pop into Prine’s music as on Those Darlins’ version of the tongue-in-cheek “Let’s Talk Dirty In Hawaiian” highlights the raucous trios’ vocals.
Even as a “songs of” record, there are some lesser-known gems such as “The Late John Garfield Blues” recorded by Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek) and the nearly spoken version of “Six O’Clock News” from Lambchop that will find fresh ears among Prine fans and as a whole, the record should help bring some new listeners to the body of work of an amazing songwriter.