Oh Boy Records honored John Prine on Friday with the release of Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: The Songs of John Prine, Vol. 2. The 12-track compilation album features contributions from the late singer-songwriter’s many disciples including Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, Tyler Childers, and more.
The second installment of Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows comes a full 11 years after the first. Whereas volume one saw covers from a wide range of artists including My Morning Jacket, Conor Oberst, Drive-By Truckers, Old Crow Medicine Show, Justin Townes Earle, and more, volume two took a much more stringent folk/country approach. In the wake of his passing last April from complications due to COVID-19, this second go-around was put together by some of Prine’s most prolific devotees.
Since revealing the project’s existence in March following Brandi Carlile‘s touching performance of “I Remember Everything” at the Grammys, Oh Boy has been hush-hush about Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows. In fact, the label—started by Prine and Al Bunetta in 1981—never even released a tracklist, making Friday’s drop date all the more exciting.
The album leads off with Carlile’s rendition of the final song Prine wrote, which posthumously earned him “Song Of The Year” last month at the Americana Honors & Awards. The first surprise then comes with Nathaniel Rateliff‘s take on the rollicking, honky-tonk John Prine track “Pretty Good”.
Amanda Shires takes a deep cut of “Saddle In The Rain” from 1975’s Common Sense ahead of the previously-released Tyler Childers cover of “Yes I Guess They Oughtta Name A Drink After You“. Margo Price, who collaborated with Prine live and in-studio, takes the classic “Sweet Revenge” before rising multi-instrumentalist Valerie June delivers the Tree of Forgiveness reflection on the Midwestern opioid crisis, “Summer’s End“.
Jason Isbell, Bonnie Raitt, John Paul White, and Iris DeMent all help round out the record before Prine’s contemporary Emmylou Harris brings down the mood for the heart-wrenching realism of “Hello In There”. Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows ends on a joyous note, however, with Sturgill Simpson performing Prine’s ode to the beauty of Kentucky, “Paradise“.
Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows is a curious contradiction in much the same way Prine’s songwriting was. The lyrics encapsulated in the 12-track offering highlight both the frailties of the human condition and also the fortitude of our natural spirit. The album contains some of the saddest songs ever put to paper including “Sam Stone”, “Hello In There”, and the latter-era contender “Summer’s End”. Yet the album also celebrates the joy that John Prine communicated through his music with tracks like “Paradise” or the bitterly sarcastic “Pretty Good” and “Yes I Guess They Oughtta Name A Drink After You”.
Due to the pandemic, we were all forced to mourn Prine’s passing privately from our own homes. With Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: The Songs of John Prine, Vol. 2, one of the greatest songwriters of our time is finally given a proper memorial.
Stream the album below and purchase it on CD or vinyl from Oh Boy Records.
Various Artists — Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: The Songs of John Prine, Vol. 2