John Prine songs are like Raymond Carver stories, with characters who show their souls in a single phrase and scenes that flash one after another like a family slide show, sepia-tinged with longing and regret. He’s not always big on plot, and nothing much happens in “Angel from Montgomery.” But the old woman who narrates this song has a clear voice and vision, and her words resonate with the way you might feel about your own life — like maybe it took a wrong turn and you got lonely, and maybe you’d like some help just to get you to the end of the day. Bonnie Raitt’s rich, raw cover made the song famous and didn’t hurt her career either; in 2000 she told Performing Songwriter magazine, “I think ‘Angel from Montgomery’ probably meant more to my fans and my body of work than any other song.” That’s because she inhabits it so well, but also because, thanks to Prine’s spare, poignant lyrics, we all can.
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