By Huntress Thompson
Kicking off our 12-day, A Very Vandal Christmas series is John Prine’s Christmas in Prison.
Country/folk singer John Prine is a battered icon of Americana in the tradition of Daniel Johnston, Hank Williams, Neil Young and Tim Buckley.
Fiercely beloved by his gravely troubadour fraternity since the early 1970s, Prine’s first album gave us country staple Angel From Montgomery, leading Kris Kristofferson to remark, “John Prine writes songs so good, we’ll have to break his thumbs.” Rock ‘n’ roll legend has it that, during one of Prine’s first club performances in New York City, Bob Dylan performed unannounced on backing harmonica for the entire set.
Since his diagnosis with cancer in 1998, John Prine’s voice has been markedly affected. His music has since been reimagined by a new generation of sad folk singers, with artists such as Bon Iver, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James and Amos Lee including John Prine covers in their live setlists and as B-Sides on major releases. (These are well worth Youtubing, by the way.) The 2010 tribute album Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows: The Songs of John Prine includes the likes of The Avett Brothers, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Lambchop, Josh Ritter, Drive-By Truckers, Deer Tick, Justin Townes Earle and Justin Vernon.
Christmas in Prison is vintage Prine, a classic lament of isolation and jail-cell longing in the vein of Folsom Prison Blues, from his 1973 album Sweet Revenge.
And I dream of her always even when I don’t dream,
Her name’s on my tongue, and her blood’s in my stream
Wait awhile Eternity, ol’ Mother Nature’s got nothing on me
In the vacuum between dark and light, Siouxsie Sioux and Emmylou Harris, Amelie and Travis Bickle, Huntress Thompson is an idiot lost, and reporting from the field. If you’re after irrational rants about cupcakes and Johnny Cash (and you probably aren’t), she’s grumpy, but she’s your girl.