November 25, 2010

broken hearts and dirty windows

broken hearts and dirty windows

I started my morning with a hearty sing-in-the-shower rendition of “Angel From Montgomery” (those acoustics!) in the sticky warmth of Florida, and am ending it tonight back in the ten degree weather in clear cold Colorado. My sister asked over coffee what song I had been singing, and a discussion on John Prine followed. John Prine has stuck in my mind today, all his perfect lyrical constructions and simple folk truth, and was the soundtrack to my flight home this evening (while I finished Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and openly cried fat hot tears on the plane, but hey that’s another story).

If you own an old pickup truck (or can borrow one) to traverse some dusty roads in the countryside, this year’s Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows compilation of John Prine covers sounds especially good. The title of the album comes from the 1972 song “Souvenirs” (“Broken hearts and dirty windows / make life difficult to see”), and I’ve been meaning to mention this comp for months. The whole record is obviously rich because of the fodder to work with and the superb gathering of artists contributing, but I think Conor Oberst and his Mystic Valley Band contribute my favorite cover of the bunch:

My car is stuck in Washington and I cannot find out why
Come sit beside me on the swing and watch the angels cry
It’s anybody’s ballgame, it’s everybody’s fight
And the streetlamp said as he nodded his head
It’s lonesome out tonight

Stylistically this absolutely fits in with the rollicking twang of their own compositions on 2008′s Outer South, and Conor’s caged, restless energy shines through brilliantly.

But there are so many great tracks on this collection, from the Avett Brothers singin’ about blowing up your TV and moving to the country, to Josh Ritter’s “Mexican Home” (which I got to see him perform live in Telluride), to My Morning Jacket’s “All The Best” (reminiscent of the golden buoyancy of the track they contributed to the I’m Not There soundtrack). Add to that a glowing Justin Vernon, the pensive Justin Townes Earle, the heartbreak of Deer Tick, then pin it all together with Prine’s first-rate songwriting and I am sold.

Stream the whole thing and buy it over on Bandcamp for just ten bucks. They’ve got it tagged with classifications of “indie, Nashville.” Sounds about right to me.

My only frown came from the fact that no one covered “Speed of The Sound of Loneliness,” my favorite Prine tune. Luckily Amos Lee did a perfect one in 2003:

Speed Of The Sound of Loneliness (John Prine) – Amos Lee


  • The Avett Brothers covering “Spanish Pipedream” = SUBLIME

    Miss. Zabone — November 27, 2010 @ 4:38 pm

  • Love John Prine thanks to my hubby and his great taste in music! Was glad to see some of the younger generation pay tribute. He has to be one of the best songwriters around and I always try and catch his show when he plays in CO.

    Jen W — November 29, 2010 @ 11:33 am

  • Another extraordinary cover of Angel from Montgomery is Matt Andersen’s from “Live at the Liberty House.” And his rendition of “Wagon Wheel” will have even the mildest signing along at full volume by the end — an unheralded classic.

    Grover K. — November 29, 2010 @ 7:53 pm

  • This is in my top 3 albums of the year, along with the new Josh Ritter and Justin Townes Earle records.

    How about a Freedom review for a post? There’s enough music references in it that you can justify writing about it in a music blog. Or you can just review the latest Walnut Surprise record. :-)

    Jeremy — November 30, 2010 @ 1:57 pm

  • jeremy, hmmm. interesting idea. i feel really daunted by trying to review freedom, if that makes sense, because it was so dense and clotted with goodness and sadness. i just typed a paragraph here explaining why i didn’t feel up to the task and then realized i might have something coherent to say about it after all. or i’ll just write about walnut surprise.

    browneheather — November 30, 2010 @ 2:11 pm

  • Must have missed this post when it first came out, but at any rate check out Jeffrey Foucault’s cover album Shoot the Moon Right Between the Eyes.

    I’m not a country boy, but by God, this album turned me into one.

    zack — March 31, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

  • I love Foucault. His cover of Buckets of Rain slays me, and his tune Northbound 35 has been on about a jillion mixes I’ve made for friends. So so so so good.

    browneheather — March 31, 2011 @ 12:48 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
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—Hunter S. Thompson

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