Kris Kristofferson has always identified himself first and foremost as a writer, and true writers know that what works best is giving a piece of themselves to the listener. With his latest album, This Old Road, Kristofferson lays a chunk of his own soul on every track. This beautifully sparse recording, produced by Don Was (Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones), puts an emphasis on his fine lyrics and distinctive voice by featuring Kristofferson, his guitar, and harmonica. Subtle accompaniment is added by Was (bass, piano, backing vocals), longtime sidekick Stephen Bruton (guitar, mandolin, backing vocals) and Jim Keltner (drums).
The album is so intimate it makes the listener feel as if they are sitting in Kristofferson's living room while he picks and sings just for them. Kristofferson's story is fairly well known: he had a dream,along with the necessary talent and ambition to become a songwriter. After turning down a teaching position at West Point, the Rhodes Scholar hoped to get his foot in the door of the music business by taking a job as a janitor at Columbia Records. It wasn't long after arriving in Nashville that he was receiving armloads of acclaim and being hailed as one of America's clearest and most important voices, having penned such classics as "Me and Bobby McGee," "Sunday Morning Coming Down," "For the Good Times," and many others. Now Kristofferson has reached living legend status, but that hasn't changed or hindered his skills. This Old Road contains eleven gems that explore love, gratitude, aging, war, and his ever-present theme of freedom. "If you took freedom out of the songs, you'd have very few Kristofferson songs," he laughs.
All of the songs are intensely personal, but one of his favorites is the bluesy "Chase the Feeling," which he calls "a meditation on what destructive behavior feels like, what it does to you." Although unfailingly modest, even Kristofferson can't deny that "Holy Creation" is one his most beautiful compositions. He says the song was inspired by his eight children, whom he calls his "greatest legacy." Kristofferson also pays homage to his family on "Thank You for a Life." However, the song is multi-layered. "The best love songs can be taken on a couple different levels, so that song is being sung to my wife but also to God," he says. "In the end, it's all love." And in the end, this album is all about love, freedom, and about Kristofferson giving a piece of himself to the listener.
After all, that's the thing he's always been best at. And on this, the most intensely personal album of his career, he goes the extra mile, creating a thing of rare beauty, grace, and eloquence.
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