Trampled by Turtles might be getting ready to press pause while frontman Dave Simonett focuses on his solo project, Dead Man Winter, but first they’re offering a little slice of sardonic holiday cheer courtesy of John Prine. Recorded for Acoustic Christmas, a holiday playlist created for Amazon Music, the Turtles give Prine’s 1973 “Christmas in Prison” a makeover with a little mariachi flourish and Simonett’s raw vocal delivery, slowing the whole thing down like the agonizing passage of time behind those jailhouse bars. Listen to the exclusive premiere below.
“John Prine has always been one of my favorite songwriters,” Simonett tells Rolling Stone Country. “‘Christmas in Prison’ is a great example of his ability to mix humor with heartbreaking beauty.”
Prine, who released ‘Christmas in Prison” on his classic LP Sweet Revenge, has always been partial to imagery from the winter season – so much so that he collected enough songs for his own Christmas collection, A John Prine Christmas, in 1994, and still released “Humidity Built the Snowman” a year later. Most recently, the Illinois-born lyrical legend focused on female duets with his covers LP For Better, or Worse, the companion piece to 1999’s In Spite of Ourselves. The album includes appearances from Kacey Musgraves and Lee Ann Womack, as well as frequent sing-sparring partner Iris Dement.
Minnesota’s Trampled by Turtles last released an album in 2014, the ramshackle bluegrass of Wild Animals, and have since been refocusing to make way for Simonett’s second Dead Man Winter project. Furnace (out January 27th), which was written in the wake of difficult divorce, puts Simonett’s storytelling into focus while chronicling both the pain and the silver lining that emerges when a relationship crumbles.
Acoustic Christmas, available for exclusive streaming on Amazon Music beginning November 22nd, features 29 tracks from a range of artists tackling both original and classic holiday songs. Among them are Billy Bragg and Joe Henry’s cover of Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December” and Escondido’s take on “Little Drummer Boy,” as well as Hayes Carll’s own “Grateful for Christmas” and originals from Sara Watkins and Andrew Combs.