Jason Isbell covers John Prine with Amanda Shires, pens NY Times essay
The music world has been mourning John Prine since he passed away from coronavirus complications earlier this week. Jason Isbell, who was a huge champion of John's, having appeared on his 2018 album The Tree of Forgiveness, penned an essay for The New York Times about the late icon, titled "John Prine Taught Me to Stay Vulnerable." Here's an excerpt:
Of all the things I love about John’s songwriting, my favorite is the way he could step so completely into someone else’s life. John had the gift and the curse of great empathy. In songs like “Hello in There” and “Angel From Montgomery,” he wrote from a perspective clearly very different from his own — an old man and a middle-aged woman — but he kept the first-person point of view. He wrote those songs and the rest of his incredible debut album while a young man working as a letter carrier in Chicago. “Angel From Montgomery” opens with the line “I am an old woman/named after my mother.”
I remember hearing his 1971 recording of this song for the first time and thinking, “No, you’re not.” Then a light bulb went on, and I realized that songwriting allows you to be anybody you want to be, so long as you get the details right. John always got the details right. If the artist’s job is to hold a mirror up to society, John had the cleanest mirror of anyone I have ever known. Sometimes it seemed like he had a window, and he would climb right through.
It's a beautiful tribute and a great read, and you can find the rest of it here.
Jason joined Amanda Shires (they are married) on her daily livestream show "I So Lounging" to pay tribute to John, telling stories and covering his songs. They covered "Angel from Montgomery," "Illegal Smile," and "Clocks and Spoons," and you can watch video of all three below.
Jason's new album with the 400 Unit, Reunions, is due out May 15.