Kris Kristofferson Releasing Feeling Mortal In January

12/31/2012
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(Sub) Kris Kristofferson will release Feeling Mortal, his first collection of new material in four years on January 29, 2013.

Kristofferson is a Country Music Hall of Famer who 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, and now he finds himself releasing the third Don Was-produced album in a twilight years trilogy. Feeling Mortal follows 2009's Closer To The Bone and 2006's This Old Road in examining hard-won grace.

"Wide awake and feeling mortal," he writes on the title track. "At this moment in the dream/ That old man there in the mirror/ And my shaky self-esteem."

"Going back to the beginning, the songs have been reflections of where I was at that point in my life," he says. "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. I hope I'll feel this creative and this grateful until they throw dirt over me."

The now 76-year-old Kristofferson did not always imagine this would be so. "If I look like a mean old man, that's what I am," he sang, back when he was still immortal and when he was sometimes a mean-feeling younger man. But now he's mostly truthful and thankful, as he sings, "For the laughter and the loving/ That I'm living with today."

That doesn't mean Feeling Mortal works as anyone's greeting card of soft-peddled feelings. "Just Suppose" is another look in the mirror, a negotiation with shame's reflection. "Castaway" is 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. And "My Heart Was The Last One To Know" is a harrowing old song, written by Kristofferson and genius poet/author/cartoonist/songwriter Shel Silverstein and previously recorded by Connie Smith.

"Shel was the only person I consistently wrote songs with," Kristofferson says. "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."

The album ends with "Ramblin' Jack," a song ostensibly about Kristofferson's folk-singing friend Ramblin' Jack Elliott. Kristofferson approached the song as something of a self-penned co-write, inspired and begun by his younger self and finished in the present and mortal day. The second verse is the new one: "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 says. "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."

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