Kris Kristofferson,
(1970; Monument/Legacy, 2001)

How old is "new country" or "alt country" or "Americana," whatever title you give it? This 2001 reissue of an album first recorded in 1970 certainly places it back three decades, and the content here is as fresh and real as anything being written or sung today.

Finding this CD was like striking the mother lode. It is the reissue on CD, with four bonus tracks, of an album I purchased on vinyl back in 1972 with the title Me & Bobby Magee.

Many readers may only recognize Kris Kristofferson as the actor in movies like Blade, but he is also one of the best story-songwriters of modern times. He is the personification of that crossover between good folk and great country.

In Ireland we are blighted with some of the corniest country songs ever written, and when I hear the "momma's dyin'" and "old cabin" rubbish I want to scream at the singers to go and buy a Kristofferson album and sing a real song.

As you may have guessed, I love this CD.

If one song was to be used to describe the type of music I like, it has to be "Beat the Devil." With lines like "If you waste your time a talkin' to the people who don't listen, who do you think's gonna care," it sums up the great tradition of story-songs and how few of them are given a fair hearing.

"Me & Bobby Magee," "Help Me Make It Through the Night" and the classic that always gives me a thirst, "Sunday Morning Coming Down," are all included. "Blame it on the Stones," a song about how we always love to blame others for everything, is dated only in the reference to the Stones. "Casey's Last Ride" is both enigmatic and crystal clear in its sentiments and will haunt anyone who gives it a good listen. "Darby's Castle" is a warning to anyone who is in danger of putting success and fortune ahead of love.

Kristofferson has never written a better bunch of songs than these 16 self-penned tracks. The production is light and clear, and the gritty voice has a sincerity that can be heart-breaking.

I don't know very much about his background but I an struck by a feeling of a very real sense of faith behind all the tracks. This is a religious feeling without the piety and hypocrisy.

Even if you have the vinyl, buy this CD version for the four extra tracks, including "The Junkie and the Juice Head Minus Me."

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 18 August 2002

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