Kentucky ties run deep in the latest edition of “In My Room,” in which My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James pays tribute to John Prine’s inimitable songwriting. Prine, whose family had links to the Bluegrass State, died on April 7th at the age of 73 from complications of COVID-19.
Wearing a battered straw hat, James gives an acoustic performance of four of Prine’s songs from his home in Los Angeles, weaving his memories of hearing the music and meeting Prine between each rendition.
“One of my favorite things about John’s songs is how funny they are,” James explains. “It’s such an amazing thing that I don’t feel like many people have mastered other than John — the ability to make a sad song so funny and a funny song so sad.”
James’ selections include “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness,” from the 1986 album German Afternoons, followed by the surrealistic whimsy of “Spanish Pipedream” and the Kentucky-centric social commentary of “Paradise” from Prine’s self-titled 1971 debut album. James recalls seeing the cover of that album with Prine seated on the hay bale and feeling drawn to it.
“Before I even heard a word, I knew that I would love the music on that record,” James says. “And I did, and it formed such a huge part of my consciousness and my growth as a musician.”
James finishes things up with the empathetic tearjerker “All the Best,” from Prine’s 1991 album The Missing Years, prefacing it with a sincere wish of peace and safety for anyone watching.
“I just hope everybody’s doing ok out there and I just want to wish so much love and so much peace and so much safety, for yourself and your family,” he says. “And I wish so much love for John’s family and for everybody that misses him so much right now.”