What's instantly noticeable and commendable about this tribute to the songwriting of John Prine is that none of the artists chosen to do the honors are contemporaries of the author. Prine, in his early sixties at the time of the album's release, had been a fixture on the singer/songwriter scene since the early '70s, long before most (any?) of the participants were even born. That's a smart move by the compilers: by removing the context in which these songs were first written and recorded, the younger artists were free to reinterpret them on their own merits. Issued simultaneously with Prine's own In Person & on Stage live album, Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows completes a retrospective picture of Prine's accomplishments to the date of this release. Some of the performers choose from among Prine's better-known material, while others dig deeper into the catalog. Old Crow Medicine Show's take on "Angel from Montgomery" is reminiscent of the early music of the Band, old-timey yet contemporary too. The album opens with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, who brings a faraway gospel feel to "Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)," the title track of a 1978 Prine album, and it closes with Those Darlins' surfy take on one of Prine's more humorous efforts, "Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian." Some of the most impressive interpretations veer from Prine's arrangements: Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band turn up the indie rock volume on "Wedding Day in Funeralville" and Drive-By Truckers give a bar band rawness to "Daddy's Little Pumpkin." Justin Townes Earle's "Far from Me" is low-key and imbued with an easygoing rural quality, My Morning Jacket turn "All the Best" into an alt-country singalong, and Deer Tick (featuring Liz Isenberg) are reminiscent of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris' duets with their front-porch "Unwed Fathers."
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AllMusic Review by Jeff Tamarkin