Kris Kristofferson– Authenticity is the Word for Feeling Mortal

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Kris Kristofferson is feeling mortal and he’s talking about it, actually he’s singing about it. It has been a long time since I thought of Kristofferson as a singer and musician.  He was so busy in the seventies and then he seemed to disappear into film, putting out the odd album over the course of the ensuing decades. It turns out he published more albums in the 1970s than he has in all the time since, a ratio of 9-8 if we include Feeling Mortal. That’s not enough to call him busy, but 

he’s not a  recluse either.

Some Unfortunate Timing, In the Past

But what about musical successes since the seventies? He had two gold albums in the seventies and no solo gold albums since.  He had a number one album, on the country charts, in the seventies and none since.  He’s had some hard luck too, writing a passionate song pleading for Mandela’s release and then releasing the album after Mandela was released. A similar experience awaited him with the song regarding the Sandinistas…yeah, they had already been defeated in elections. Bad timing, indeed, and that album didn’t do so well.

Now In his Seventies

So while the seventies is the golden era for Kristofferson, his work in his seventies—he’ll be seventy-seven years old in June, 2013—stands up pretty well.

“Wide awake and feeling mortal,” begins the shaky voice on the title song.  If you know his voice you will recognize him at once, though it has certainly changed; no question about it. It still has that notable Kristofferson sound and its authenticity is intact, more Kristofferson sounding than ever perhaps. It’s older, but completely honest.  There is no evidence of any attempt to smooth out his words or digitally correct the wavering—it has that live sound to it all as if you are lucky enough to be on the veranda with these musicians on a summer’s day, fields of wheat all around.  Authenticity is the word.

Journey imagery permeates the work, with its obvious references to life itself.  One of the songs that works so well on this theme is “Castaway.” It has grown on me to the point where I will now replay it when it ends and I’ve recommended it to friends—though I have heard nothing back from them. Anyway, this little song tells the tale of a sailor who happens upon an abandoned fishing vessel; he sees the similarity between himself and this old abandoned boat, a “sister” of his soul, and boards it to explore. I won’t tell you the ending but you can experience a working metaphor for where Kristofferson finds himself, almost fifty years older than Robert Johnson had been at his death. It has that Hemingway feel that the best Kristofferson songs have.

There are some obvious candidates for singles here, including the title track and “The One You Chose”—among others.  Hopefully some of these will find their way onto country and hippy charts and spread the word that Kristofferson has a darn good album on the go.

What Has Been?

“Ramblin’ Jack” ends the album, a biographical piece about his friend Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. It could serve as an autobiographical song as well for Kristofferson himself, in some ways.  It would be difficult to write a song to sum up this guy though—he’s been a Rhodes Scholar, a Hemingway fan, an actor, a singer-songwriter, a helicopter pilot, a military officer, a Golden Gloves boxer, and yet is not a has-been.


Please check out our review of Jesus was a Capricorn and Kristofferson’s website,