“Wide awake and feeling mortal
At this moment in the dream
That old man there in the mirror
And my shaky self-esteem…”
(from “Feeling Mortal,” written by Kris Kristofferson)
Produced by Don Was, Feeling Mortal is Kris Kristofferson’s 28th album, and his first new material in almost four years. It’s a bit of Hank, a bit of Dylan and a whole lot of understated profundity.
These are personal songs — songs that avoid self-pity while admitting some truths, and songs that flirt between life and death. But when songs like “Feeling Mortal” are sung by a 76-year-old, the flirting takes on a deeper meaning. Kristofferson’s relationship with death is an intriguing blend of awe, respect and appreciation. But it’s not maudlin at all; it’s as full of playful optimism as it is gravitas. If anything, it’s clear that this is one storyteller unafraid of the ending.
One of Kristofferson’s many gifts has been the ability to blend the essential imagery of country music with trustworthy narrative. He is poetic, but he’s always still a storyteller. With Feeling Mortal, Kristofferson offers emotionally direct songs so personal that each stand alone as musical diary entries (and the tunes themselves are pretty catchy).
Sure, there are imperfections in the vocals. At times the tone recalls the bleached bones of a cowskull that might be found along a western trail in an old John Ford movie. The guitar melts under the hot sun and is momentarily out of perfect tune, but it returns, and Kristofferson’s weathered voice (with a vibrato that sometimes bends with a passing wind) reminds us of the folds in a roadmap. These are songs from a survivor more than ready to take yet another road less-traveled. In the end, Kristofferson’s music cannot help being life-affirming… and permanent.
To preview or purchase this album on iTunes, click here.