These days, it's increasingly difficult for longtime established artists to remain relevant. Many lose the edge. Some lose the musical edge, increasingly unable to merge with the current style climate, while others cannot relate to the times, thus losing the lyrical edge. Kris Kristofferson is not one of these. In fact, he has gotten better at his craft, much better.
Kris Kristofferson has enjoyed quite a career. He has written and recorded some memorable hit songs. A few of those songs have become hits again from other artists recording them, like Janis Joplin's remarkable version of “Me and Bobby McGee.” He has also enjoyed a sustainable film career throughout his life (A Star Is Born, the Blade series, Heaven's Gate, Rollover, to name a few).
Kristofferson's successful country music career begun back in the '60s. Although the country market adored his songs, Kristofferson also crossed over into the pop market well enough. After his prolific recording career in the '70s slowed down, with barely a handful of albums from the '80s until now, fans have had to count years in anticipation between releases.
Well after the turn of the century, Kristofferson released a well-received album, 2006's This Old Road (which still periodically plays in my player). On This Old Road, Kristofferson found himself looking at things in a different, often reflective, light. Aging, the horrific murder of Laci Peterson, and the respect of great country stars made up some of the subject matter of those songs. In short, This Old Road is fine Kristofferson music, perhaps the best he has ever done. More satisfying is that the album ages incredibly well, like legendary albums should.
He followed up This Old Road with Closer to the Bone in 2009. Again, it was a deeply reflective album, with Kristofferson paying close attention to the ending of life (something that a few artists in their 70s are now writing songs about). The album, like its predecessor, charted respectably.
If you're a Kristofferson fan, it bears noting that he is still creating wonderful material. Neither of these two new millennium albums are to missed. If you have checked out since his '70s works (which includes 1978's underrated Easter Island), then you should rejoin the fold. You wouldn't be disappointed.
On January 29, Kristofferson enters into the second decade of the new century with the anticipated release of his latest album, Feeling Mortal. From the title it is apparent that it continues in the vein of the previous two, perhaps even more so. The metaphors found in the the song “This Old Road” expressed shock and surprise at realizing that age has crept up. Feeling Mortal invites more of the same, which might sound depressing to some. But in the same album, he also sings about “losing myself in the soul of a song”, which is, after all, the intent of a great album full of such songs.
I expect that Feeling Mortal will build nicely on This Old Road and Closer to the Bone.