Tommy Prine
Photo: IVPR

Tommy Prine Considers God, Love, and Death ‘This Far South’

Tommy Prine’s This Far South shines with intelligent songwriting, and successfully incorporates a wide range of Americana-type styles rooted in folk to punk.

This Far South
Tommy Prine
Thirty Tigers
23 June 2023

Tommy Prine’s debut album, This Far South, shines with intelligent songwriting, and the music successfully incorporates a wide range of Americana-type styles rooted in folk to punk. Prine can sneer convincingly on one track and plead despondently on another while remaining in character. The first-person protagonist convincingly addresses his listeners about God, death, and love, even if he may contradict himself. He understands that one can have multiple perspectives and that putting thought and feeling into music somehow resolves seeming conflicts.

Consider the angry opening track, “Elohim”. “I don’t believe in G-d or Elohim / Cause they’re the ones that I’ve never seen,” Prine bellows. (Note to the uninitiated, “elohim” is a Hebrew word that can mean either the one true God or the whole range of supernatural beings other religions may worship.)  Prine expresses himself directly and without ambiguity. Since he’s seen no proof of God’s’ existence, Prine chooses to believe in himself explicitly. Using the term “elohim” is strange in this context, especially as the songwriter mockingly describes god / elohim as having “long hair and big blue eyes”, the Jesus character of Western Christianity. The intensity with which Prine delivers the music and lyrics suggests how mad the protagonist is at the Lord for not existing. He’s more interested in expressing his rage than taking Pascal’s bet. Prine’s a non-believing believer.

A few songs later, Prine takes the opposite musical approach on the title song, “This Far South”. This time he gently croons. He sings of his love for another being over the sound of a quietly strummed acoustic guitar. Prine poetically chants, “You remind me of every single dogwood tree / When I tried to reach out, I never see you this far south no more.” The comparison between an ornamental plant known for its pretty flowers that no longer thrives in the Southern states because of climate change with a former lover who doesn’t return to her home region, possibly because of the heat of the relationship, is surprisingly and smartly clever. This also connects to the saying about the expression “gone south”, meaning that something has vanished or escaped (like the love that once existed).

Prine offers two songs directly about death, one about his father (“By the Way”) and another for his deceased best friend (“Letter for My Brother”). He also sings about his actual brother (“Boyhood”) and his wife Savannah (“I Love You, Always”). As mentioned, this is the singer-songwriter’s first record. He purposely addresses all of the important people and topics. He even gets absurd while searching for the meaning of life on the spirited “Mirror and the Kitchen Sink”.

Prine reminds one, “Romeo and Juliet didn’t kiss first, then become friends.” Despite the planning, sometimes even the best ideas go down the drain. Prine didn’t make This Far South until after his father, John Prine died. He was intimidated by the massive shadow John had as a beloved singer-songwriter and many other factors that seemed to be holding him back. The quality of the new album suggests it was worth waiting for. The 27-year-old talent has said he’s not worried about the 27 Curse. (Musicians who died at age 27 include Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin.) Prine is just beginning. He has already written a bunch of new songs since making this one and can’t wait to record them.

RATING 8 / 10