Kris Kristofferson made one self-motivated, headstrong life for himself as he zigzagged his own magnificent way to this first album in 1970: college rugby champion, Rhodes scholar, US Army Captain, helicopter pilot, hell raiser. Somewhere in there came along his burning desire to sing his songs. So he headed for Nashville.
Those were his days of feeling immortal. And these days, he tells us in a masterful new CD, are his days for feeling mortal.
When he turned 70 Kristofferson made This Old Road (2006) and at 73 Close to the Bone (2009). Two sparse, intimate albums about love and loss, they introduced into his songs his new arching theme, aging. I grew fond of these two albums over the years. With Kris, every song has the right cadence, the churning groove. I never grow tired of having another listen.
With his new CD Feeling Mortal (2013) Kristofferson has upped the ante. His is a Hank WIlliam kind of poetry and this CD ranks up there with the acclaimed CDs of two other renowned peers also making music in their seventies.
I’m speaking of Leonard Cohen, who made Dear Heather (2004) at 70 and his quite remarkable Old Ideas (2012) at 77. And Bob Dylan, who roared out of the gate as the newest septuagenarian in this trio of songwriters with the release of Tempest (2012) at age 71.
Kris made the CD Feeling Mortal at age 76. The opening tune “Feeling Mortal” is sentimental in all the right ways. The performance teeters satisfyingly and every word fits snugly. It’s my favorite country song so far this year. As the CD opener it also plays as the entryway to a semi-concept album where the singer takes death on with a mixture of desperation and humor. A slow deathbed storytelling tune is next, called “Mama Stewart.” Our storyteller Kris makes us behold death and circle around death with him before he reaches for songs with a lighter touch.
These days Kris says in interviews he’s not writing much anymore. So, there’s a good chance this will be his last album. Then again, perhaps a new song came to him this morning. You can’t predict nothing about these septuagenarians.