John Prine: Illegal Smile
John Prine: Illegal Smile (live '97)
Serena Ryder: Illegal Smile
We've posted plenty of Prine here on Star Maker Machine since our inception, but mere popularity is no reason to ignore the potent works of this prolific singer-songwriter.
Illegal Smile grounds itself in the premise of drugs as escape, much like the previously-posted Prine tune Sam Stone; both originally appeared on his debut self-titled album in 1971. But where Sam Stone's Vietnam vet drowns his future and family in morphine, Illegal Smile is a wry, lighthearted poke at the blues, flavored with more half-baked chagrin than true demons.
It's easy to imagine a man turning to happydrugs for a mere cheerful pick-me-up after losing a staring contest with his oatmeal, and chasing a rainbow into a dead end. Easy to defend, too. Listen to the sing-along he recorded 26 years after releasing the original; you can still hear Prine grinning throughout. And Canadian songstress Serena Ryder's laughing in-studio cover never goes dark, either.
Never heard Prine's "other" drug song? For comparison's sake, check out Ted's take on Sam Stone, including an oddball soul take from Swamp Dogg, Prine's original, and a sweet cover from Laura Cantrell.