Kris Kristofferson – Feeling Mortal (2013)

Kris Kristofferson is 77 years old — and could still collectively kick all of our asses. If there’s anything listening to his latest effort Feeling Mortal has taught me it’s a weathered, broken down man is not defeated but a fighter in every sense of the word. I can possibly punch harder than Kristofferson being half his age, but could he beat me? Indeed. Partly because he is a Golden Gloves boxer.

Speaking of punching — this record is a gut puncher, for sure. In a leadoff track of the same name, Kristofferson makes it very clear he’s here but he’s also seen the other side and knows what’s coming. Is he scared or has he accepted it? Yes.

With “Feeling Mortal,” you immediately know where we’re headed with lyrics like: “wide awake and feeling mortal, at this moment in the dream that old man there in the mirror, and my shaky self-esteem.” He reminds us that “here today and gone tomorrow” is the way it has to be. I could quote this entire song but it wouldn’t do it justice, or convey to you how every time I hear it I’m covered in goose bumps, sadness and even a sense of feeling proud of him.

This man I have never, and will never, meet evokes a sense of pride in me and he’s the one who’s a Rhodes Scholar, an Army Ranger, Country Music Hall of Famer and one of the Highwaymen, for God’s sake.

The first two tracks “Mortal” and “Mama Stewart” are reflective, melancholy but happily resigned to the way things just are in the circle of life, while “Bread For The Body” is a faster paced, encouraging song with driving guitar work about man getting by “without silver and gold, with bread for the body and song for the soul.” “Stairway To The Bottom” has a nice, whiny steel guitar that starts us off down the road of reflection and regret about decisions and events that left you alone.

There are a lot of life lessons to be had and reflections going on here. Another song worth mentioning is “My Heart Was The Last One To Know,” which is about clearly loving someone but not realizing it until you’re fully in it: “My eyes grew accustomed to looking at you, and my arms found a body they hungered to hold, and the rest of my senses surrendered to you, but my heart was the last one to know.” What a beautiful and clear way to sum up what I think everyone’s experienced once, if not 100 times. We’re so afraid of falling in love, we avoid it and fight it at all costs — only to stop for one second and realize it caught you. Where this song really gets me is when the couple in the song parts ways and once again, his heart was the last one to know.

My favorite song on the album is “The One You Chose,” which finds a smiling, laughing, very alert and spry Kristofferson telling me “I believe I just sang my way back in your heart” exactly at the moment I realized he had. “Rambling Jack” closes us out and is a honky tonk charmer I can picture ole Kris singing perched on a stool, strumming his guitar and telling this story about a fella who’s made mistakes but, that’s life and “ain’t that what matters in the end?” The fact that it’s so apparently an autobiographical song makes it almost like a goodbye letter to his fans, reminding us of his whiskey nights and wasted days — and that he’ll always be out there, which I don’t doubt for even a second.

While every song isn’t a home run, I can safely say every song is at least a ground-rule double. Your time won’t be wasted for hearing each of these songs, and repeating them for years to come. Although his tempo is slowed and voice is craggy, Kristofferson still has “it” in every sense of the word. The lyrics are strong, the message clear and the passion ever-present. I can’t think of a better album to throw on on an overcast Sunday, lazy any day or even a long drive into the sunset.

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Heather Van Keuren

Van Keuren is from Oregon, grew up down South, and is now living out west again. Good food, strong coffee and every facet of music is her passion; she is also a rabid Oregon Ducks, 49ers, and SF Giants fan. Talking and writing about music are the two things that get her out of bed everyday. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

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  • Doug Gill

    Thank you, Heather,
    A wonderful review on my favorite songwriter. I have been lucky enough to meet him and he is and always will be a force of nature. My hero.
    I think a friend of mine has sent you one of my songs. I hope you enjoy it. I grew up in Monterey, and I’m also a huge Gigantes fan. Kindred spirits I’m sure.
    Best regards,
    Doug Gill

  • John Jensen

    I definitely will be buying his new CD. LOVED the two songs I just heard hear. He’s still got it, there’s no doubt about that. As I say often now, thank God for these older artists, otherwise we would have nothing of substance or feeling to listen to anymore!

    • Heather Van Keuren

      It’s definitely a “must own” CD and I’m so glad you’e getting it. Please come back and let me know what you thought of it in it’s entirety.

      And I agree…thank goodness for these old birds who are still getting it done. I just listened to Loretta Lynn’s “Miss Being Mrs” (Van Lear Rose) this morning and she gets more feeling and emotion out of me in one line than any of these artists today are doing for me.

  • Lisa Robbins

    great review! I adore Kris and have been a fan for over 40 years now! I too got to meet him, hug him, and thank him for his music….I feel like he crawled into my soul, and wrote about my life…. The One You Chose is probably my fav on the CD, though I feel like I just witnessed a very intimate moment that wasn’t for my ears! Ramblin Jack is about Rmblin Jack Elliott, but it’s exactly how I feel about Kris… I could go on and on, but I’ll quit here! Thanks for posting!

  • TIM BEAM

    I just saw Kris in Concert. Kris, his guitar and a harmonica. 77 years old and all alone on the stage. The voice he never had, is far more raspy but the emotion comming thru made it so memorable. I loved your review, to be honest , I did not think a young beauty as yourself would understand his music, but you nailed it.
    I was out looking for the lyrics to “Mortal” on the web and ran across your site. I’m glad I did.