With the advent of the New Year will come new music, including from the likes of Country Music Hall of Famer Kris Kristofferson, who will release “Feeling Mortal,” his first collection of new material in four years.
Set for store release Jan. 29 and for iTunes release on Jan. 22, Kristofferson’s forthcoming album finds the 76-year-old artist “wide awake and feeling mortal,” per the lyrics on the disc’s title track, and seeing “that old man in the mirror” with “shaky self-esteem.”
“Going back to the beginning, the songs have been reflections of where I was at that point in my life,” Kristofferson said via a Dec. 30 correspondence shared with rootshed.com. “I always try to be as honest as I can in the songwriting; otherwise, there’s no point in doing it: I might as well be doing an advertising job or something.
“And what I’m finding, to my pleasant surprise at this age, is that I’m more inclined to laughter than tears,” he continued. “I hope I’ll feel this creative and this grateful until they throw dirt over me.”
Among the offerings contained on the upcoming project is “My Heart Was The Last One To Know,” a harrowing song that was written by Kristofferson and the late Shel Silverstein, a much-adored genius poet/author/cartoonist/songwriter. The track was previously cut by another Country Music Hall of Famer, Connie Smith.
“Shel was the only person I consistently wrote songs with,” Kristofferson has said. “He was a fantastic writer. We did about a dozen songs, and usually he’d write down some titles and a description of what he was thinking about, and I’d go off and come back with a song.”
Additionally, per the singer-songwriter’s PR camp, “Feeling Mortal” also is riddled with other tunes that reflect on a well-worn life, including the “Just Suppose,” a negotiation with shame, and “Castaway,” which is described as “a cry of the heart, and a memory of a long-ago scene Kristofferson witnessed from the air, when he was flying helicopters over the Gulf of Mexico.”
“Ramblin’ Jack” closes the album, and it’s a song that was penned about about Kristofferson’s folk-singing friend, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Reportedly, Kristofferson undertook the tune as “something of a self-penned co-write, inspired and begun by his younger self and finished in the present and mortal day,” with a fresh second verse: “And if he knew how good he’d done/ Every song he ever sung/I believe he’d truly be surprised.”
“Ramblin’ Jack’s one of those people whose whole life was music,” Kristofferson observed. “He’s like William Blake and Bob Dylan and other people who just believed and lived for whatever poetry they could come up with. That’s probably the thing I was trying to be.”
“Feeling Moral” marks the third Don Was-produced album in a twilight years trilogy, shadowing 2009’s “Closer To The Bone” and 2006’s “This Old Road” in examining hard-won grace.
Reportedly, the pair — who have worked together for nearly two decades —spent three days recording “Feeling Mortal,” cutting 20 songs and picking 10, then bolstering the basic tracks with stellar instrumental work from guitarist Mark Goldenberg, pedal steel master Greg Leisz, keyboardist Matt Rollins, violinist and vocalist Sara Watkins, bassist Sean Hurley and drummer Aaron Sterling.
“A major reason for Kris’ enduring popularity is that he’s always been very honest and open about revealing his inner life,” producer Was shared in a Dec. 29 email missive to rootshed.com. “‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ is a brutally frank, first-person narrative that just happens to hit a common nerve among millions of people, and that’s why Kris is such a great artist. I suspect a whole lot of folks will be able to relate to ‘Feeling Mortal,’ now and for years to come. It’s totally in keeping with the body of Kris’ oeuvre.”
More about Kris Kristofferson
Songwriter/singer/actor/activist Kristofferson ranks among the most versatile of American talents. He’s been a Golden Gloves boxer, a Rhodes scholar, a college football player, an acclaimed actor, a military officer, a helicopter pilot, a Grammy winner, a screw-up and an icon.
In the Nashville beginning, Kristofferson threw away a promising military career in favor of life as what he sometimes calls “a songwriting bum.” He had excelled at most everything he’d ever tried, save for singing and songwriting, but it was the singing and the writing that called to him.
He wound up penning classics including “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and “For The Good Times,” as well as a slew of other gems. Kristofferson — along with contemporaries Tom T. Hall, Mickey Newbury, Willie Nelson and John Prine — has enhanced the scope of country-music songwriting by his ability to focus on layering, nuance, empathy and emotional truth.
- Video bonus: To hear the title track from “Feeling Mortal,” simply access the clip embedded on the left side of this post.