Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The weary 'Pilgrim'

The voice jumps out at you.

That's what it does. It flies out of the radio, lands in your lap, begging you to listen. You stop and do so, not because it's beautiful, or even melodic. But there's something deep there, something lyrical and poetic, even mystical.

What else can you say about Kris Kristofferson?

The Rhode's Scholar and Vietnam veteran turned down an English teacher's position at West Point back in the '60s to follow his dream. So he moved to Nashville and took a job at Columbia Records --- sweeping up the place.

Within a few years he became, next to Bob Dylan, the poet laureate of his generation. "Me and Bobby McGee." "Sunday Morning Coming Down." "For the Good Times." "Help Me Make it Through the Night."

You first heard his songs performed by others, which is appropriate given this new album, "The Pilgrim." Billed as "A Celebration to Kris Kristofferson," the disc brings together artists from across the musical spectrum to sing his songs -- Rosanne Cash, Todd Snider, Shooter Jennings, Willie Nelson, Brian McKnight. (Yeah, you read that right.)

Snider delivers on "Maybe You Heard" and Cash more than holds her own on "Loving Her (Him) Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)," Kris' ode to his lover and backup singer, Rita Coolidge.

Willie can sing Kris' music in his sleep and his doesn't disappoint on the Spanish-tinged "The Legend." The one real miss is McKnight, whose "Bobby McGee" is just plain weird, as out of place as Pavarotti at a bluegrass breakdown.

But, I tell you friends, the finest six minutes are delivered from an unlikely source -- country outlaw Gretchen Wilson. Her cover of "Sunday Morning Coming Down" is so insanely wonderful that you just sit there after the final note fades away, shaking your head.

Wilson captures perfectly the solitary introspection of the song. You are with her on that Sunday morning sidewalk, wishin' Lord that you were stoned. It's enough to make you go to the closet to find your cleanest dirty shirt. Ain't that a great line?

Kris shows up at the end. Included is his demo of "Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends." His deep, scratchy voice does indeed sound like a wandering, weary pilgrim, lost somewhere between Nashville and nowhere.

What a journey it has been.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gretchen Wilson? Please!
I dunno why anybody'd listen to this album when they could get Kristofferson's latest release. If you can only afford one of the two, do yourself a favor and get the real deal. It's got to be one of the very best CDs of the year -- not just in country music, but in any genre.

1:07 AM  
Blogger Jake Mabe said...

Wow --- I need to get Kris' latest studio release. I hear it's fantastic. But you're wrong about Gretchen. Surprisingly enough, hers is the best track on the album.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Brian Hornback said...

Gretchen Wilson has the smoothest voice in Country Music. She is the modern day Patsy Cline. I am a longtime fan of Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Wynonna and others.

However, Gretchen with When I think about Cheating and other songs demonstrate a talent that we haven't seen in the music industry in quite some time.

Go, Gretchen. I will be there to see her.

1:12 PM  

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