Four decades after the release of his critically-acclaimed self-titled debut, John Prine, the veteran singer/songwriter who once carried mail for a living in his home state of Illinois, is still creating some of the most vibrant material in his extensive discography. On May 25, he released In Person & On Stage, a new concert disc blending updated takes on classic tracks with live renditions of great latter day songs as recent as “Glory of True Love,” a standout from 2005’s Grammy-winning Fair & Square. He is in the revered company of a select few in his field considered to be “songwriters’ songwriters,” deservedly held in the same esteem as iconic figures like Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, and Kris Kristofferson. Over the years, his songs have been interpreted by established artists like Bonnie Raitt, Joan Baez, Ben Harper, The Everly Brothers, and John Denver, as well as the aforementioned Cash and Kristofferson, to name just a few. Fittingly, Prine’s independent label, Oh-Boy Records, just put out Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine, a tribute album featuring twelve newly-recorded versions of classic John Prince originals performed by a veritable “who’s who” of young artists in the current folk and roots movement of the new millennium.
Arguably, the true test of a songwriter is the ability to transcend one’s own linear timeline and win the embrace of future generations of discerning listeners and fellow songwriters. Prine has managed to garner this coveted respect and admiration from many of today’s finest young artists. One such singer/songwriter, Jeffrey Foucault, even recorded an entire album’s worth of John Prine originals on his Shoot the Moon Right Between the Eyes (2008). The newly-released Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine compilation boasts contributions from a star-studded roster of current artists, including Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band performing the 1975 Common Sense track “Wedding Day in Funeralville,” My Morning Jacket running through The Missing Years’ “All the Best,” The Avett Brothers on 1971’s “Spanish Pipedream,” Old Crow Medicine Show on the timeless “Angel from Montgomery,” Josh Ritter on the touching “Mexican Home,” Justin Vernon of Bon Iver on the title track from 1978’s Bruised Orange, alt-country mainstays Lambchop on the haunting “Six O’Clock News,” southern rockers The Drive by Truckers on "Daddy's Little Pumpkin," Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek on Diamonds in the Rough’s "The Late John Garfield Blues," Deer Tick with Liz Isenburg on Aimless Love’s "Unwed Fathers," Those Darlins on the humorous German Afternoons cut “Let’s Talk Dirty in Hawaiian,” and Justin Townes Earle’s stark run through one of Prine’s personal favorites, “Far From Me.”
What holds the arguably disparate elements of style and production together throughout the whole of Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine is the overriding cohesiveness of John Prine’s songwriting, his individualist and unique melodic and lyrical fingerprint. While the album may introduce and reinforce the power and beauty of John Prine’s music to newer fans of the contributing artists, it also introduces longtime fans of John Prine to a whole new generation of worthy artists striving to someday aspire to the heights of craftsmanship reached by the legendary John Prine.