Sometimes, a Halloween costume hits the mark, so much so that it connects with the person wearing it. A friend once dressed as Lt. Jim Dangle from television’s Reno 911!, and he became the costume; the mustache, the short-shorts, and the comic flair were all in place, nearly perfect. In music, cover songs are honed costumes that can fare similarly; if worn by the right musicians, the songs can seem meant to be.
Twelve groups come together on Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine to toast the famed songwriter through readings of his quintessential compositions, and the experience is varied. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver kicks things into gear with “Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)”, and Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band work up a lather with “Wedding Day In Funeralville”; however, it is My Morning Jacket’s take on “All the Best” that begins a string of classic renderings of classic songs by Josh Ritter (“Mexican Home”), Justin Townes Earle (“Far From Me”), Drive-By Truckers (“Daddy’s Little Pumpkin”), and Deer Tick featuring Liz Isenberg (“Unwed Fathers”).
Cover songs can ring with reverence or disrespect, depending on who is assuming the musical costume. Each of the artists clearly admires Prine and his body of work, and it shows on Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine. There are no tricks here, just plenty of treats.
Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine is out now on Oh Boy Records.