Tommy Prine

REVIEW: Tommy Prine “This Far South”


Tommy Prine – This Far South

Nashville-based singer-songwriter Tommy Prine ain’t about to run away from his last name. And why would he? His father, John, was revered and beloved by several generations of performers and writers, and Tommy’s emergence three years after his father’s death from COVID complications seems like a natural next step. But, on his debut LP This Far South, Tommy Prine displays an independent streak and shares a collection of stories that are very rightfully his own.

Prine shows his individuality right off the bat with the no-bones-about-it-rocker “Elohim.” The song, named for a Hebrew word for God, portrays an angry young man who’s lost not only his father, but friends, including some to addiction. Seeing the pain in front of him, Prine sings of a firm lack of faith – “I don’t believe in God or Elohim/’Cause they’re the ones that I’ve never seen” – while also expressing a sense of personal failing over his own distress – “And I hate this part of me/But I don’t believe in what I can’t see.” The song also features a scalding guitar solo from Sadler Vaden, who plays lead on much of the album. Prine also includes close friend Ruston Kelly on the record – Kelly co-produced with Gena Johnson, co-wrote two songs and provides guitar and background vocals on several tracks.

Addictions, and stabs at recovery, are what form the heart of This Far South. The record’s title comes from the lowest of lows that Prine personally experienced. The title track itself references Prine’s own struggles – “I’ve chosen, the habit that I’m dropping/Coming down’s exhausting/I think I need some help.” Later on in the song, that confession circles back with a request for a little bit of grace – “I think I deserve some rest.” It’s Prine giving himself permission to ease off judging himself. “Letter to My Brother” is a largely acoustic tribute to a friend lost to addiction, but also a recognition of the family and friends who support addicts during their worst trips south – “I get scared when you’re not you/I’m through, ‘cause I’ve been there too.”

“Letter to My Brother” is also one of several of Prine’s songs to acknowledge his dad’s legacy, with references to “Sam Stone” and “Summer’s End.” “By The Way” is an overt tribute to John Prine the father, with a piano and steel intro and the acknowledgment of the pain that memories bring to Tommy – “By the way, people say I look just like you” – as well as the memories the pair never got to make – “I wish I stayed and unpacked all of my bags/All the times I’ll always miss are the times we never had.” Even the title of the first song Prine wrote after his father’s death -“Mirror and a Kitchen Sink” – could be a lyric from the elder Prine’s catalog. But This Far South is Tommy Prine’s story, and the album wraps with a song to someone who’s still here – Tommy Prine’s wife, Savannah. The gentle acoustic tune recognizes the fleeting nature of life – something we’ve ALL come to know over the past three years – “Time can be tricky, a decade or two/Will feel like a weekend when I’m with you.” Tommy Prine’s ghosts will always be with him, but he’s already decided that his life, his sobriety and his future in music will rest solely upon his own shoulders.

Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Cash Carter Hill” – Prine takes temporary respite from his troubles and his legacy status – “For an older man’s sorrow is a younger man’s thrill” – to craft his own identity in this crescendoing, cascading, crashing rocker.

This Far South was produced by Gena Johnson and Ruston Kelly, engineered by Johnson and Zack Zinck, mixed by Johnson and mastered by Pete Lyman. All songs written by Tommy Prine (co-writing credits to Ruston Kelly). Additional musicians on the album include Kelly (rhythm guitar and background vocals), Johnson (background vocals), Fred Eltringham (drums), Sadler Vaden (lead guitar), Eli Baird (bass) and Jarrad K (keys).

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