An album that only adds to Kristofferson’s phenomenal legacy.
Rob Crossan 2009
Rather like James Coburn’s grizzled law enforcer in the great Western Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, in which Kristofferson starred as a much younger man, Closer to the Bone has an air of weariness in its limbs.
Advancing in years, with regrets to share and old scores to settle, Kristofferson is in rich form here, sitting on the veranda, storm clouds advancing. In between bouts of mouth organ he tells us of characters like Sister Sinead, of whom Kristofferson ponders: “Maybe she’s crazy, but maybe she ain’t / But so was Picasso, and so were the saints.” A tribute to Sinead O’Connor, the lyrics belie the gentle acoustic arrangement to show there’s still some polemic lurking inside this greying septuagenarian.
Good Morning John is a tribute to his old friend Johnny Cash: “You made it son, but I confess there was a time or two where I thought you might have let it slip away.” Kristofferson, no stranger himself to spending career time in the wilderness, is clearly in reflective mode; but there’s a simple veracity to his lyrics that stops the record descending into syrupy nostalgia, despite the odd spoken dedication to the Kristofferson offspring.
Don Was, veteran producer of the Stones and Dylan, takes the reins here for some simple, tap room arrangements, giving Kristofferson’s bruised and stained baritone space to breathe life into what, in lesser hands, could be an overly mournful sound.
A legendary songwriter who still has the ability to captivate long after most of his peers have gone, this is an album that only adds to Kristofferson’s phenomenal legacy.