19 December 2005

john prine - "christmas in prison" (from the sweet revenge lp, available for purchase here.)

i had told a co-worker that i like sad christmas songs the best; she wondered what i meant exactly. i suggested "i'll be home for christmas" and "have yourself a merry little christmas," and had her listening habits included john prine, who i initially came across b/c he comes directly after "prince," i would have mentioned "christmas in prison."

"christmas in prison" isn't necessarily a christmas song, but it relies upon the holiday in the same way as "have yourself," that is, the kind of sadness it speaks of is year-long, but it's only exacerbated by the holiday. otherwise, it's david ackles's "down river," except still under lock and key--and, for that reason, it's less sad, b/c ackles had his dreams crushed in a heartbeat, whereas prine is free to believe that his girl will wait.

but, make no mistake, it's sad, and if you didn't notice the high-and-lonesome harmonica will clue you in. prine's dylan-esque whine seems to naturally ward off sentiment and defy nostalgia, but the lyric betrays his facade. it ends, "it's christmas in prison / there'll be music tonight / i'll probably get homesick / i love you. good night."

and if that ain't sad, there's always "the christmas shoes."

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