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Kris Kristofferson is exploring his mortality, saying, 'You can't help but feel that way when you get up in the 70s.'
FILE/Steffen Schmidt/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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BY RANDY LEWIS
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES--Kris Kris-tofferson has been one of country music's most esteemed songwriters since he hung up his janitor's broom and turned to his guitar full time in the late 1960s.
He created a treasure trove of literate and insightful songs including "Help Me Make It Through the Night," "Sunday Morning Coming Down," "Me and Bobby McGee" and "For the Good Times."
But if there's anything constituting a sure bet in 2013, it's that, Kristofferson's legacy or not, mainstream radio programmers won't come within a country mile of his new album, "Feeling Mortal."
That's largely because of the unflinching look the 76-year-old takes at what it means to stare straight into the eyes of death--and to be fine with what he sees there.
With its strong foundation in the church, country music once dealt with life and death issues. In recent years, though, it's moved away from songs of sin and salvation toward a glossier view of life that typically ignores the place where life inevitably leads.
"To me, that was always a trait of the best country songs, the ones I love," Kristofferson said by phone from his home in Hawaii. "That's the stuff Hank Williams was doing: taking a hard look at yourself and your life."
That's what Kristofferson does consistently on "Feeling Mortal," just released on his own new KK Records label.
It's his third effort over the last seven years with producer Don Was, another instrumentally stripped-down, emotionally raw exploration of some of life's biggest questions, a powerful excursion leavened by Kristofferson's sense of humor, which is never far from the playing field.
'A LOT OF LIVING'
"It kind of amazes me that it took me this long to think about feeling mortal," he said with a chuckle. "You can't help but feel that way when you get up in the 70s."
In fact, the album opens with the title track, the first sound that of Kristofferson's craggy voice alone in all its battered glory singing the words, "Wide awake and feeling mortal."
In "Castaway," he uses a perspective the former Army pilot said grew out of his experience of flying helicopters over the Gulf of Mexico in the early 1960s, looking down on a small boat being tossed about on the sea.