At last, the tribute he deserves
The songs of dirt-road troubador John Prine are malleable—simple, elegiac tales of people living out simple lives. They’re easy tunes to cover, which means this smartly-assembled tribute album is long overdue. It draws from the legion of neo-folk acolytes Prine has helped shuffle into the spotlight, with the Avett Brothers, My Morning Jacket and the Drive-By Truckers, among others, scribbling the margins of his well-thumbed volumes in their own shorthand. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver welcomes “Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)” into his misty, distant world, and Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band follow up with a ramshackle “Wedding Day in Funeralville.” Elsewhere, Old Crow Medicine Show nails the gorgeous, bruising “Angel From Montgomery,” Josh Ritter ambles through “Mexican Home” and Jim James hangs his head low on the heartbroken “All The Best,” all providing graceful spins on the American experience and Prine’s sharpened take on the impossible mess that humans make of it.