Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Album Review: Kris Kristofferson — Please Don't Tell Me How The Story Ends: The Publishing Demos 1968-72

By this point, we all know (or hopefully know) the name Kris Kristofferson. But what yours truly didn’t know was just how much I’d fall in love with Kristofferson, the voice, and this here record. Light In The Attic has scored another hit with this release of a collection of Kristofferson demos (their 50th release!), recorded over a 4 year period and pieced together with the man himself's approval. I was well and truly blown away by the simple, honest quality of the recordings, and have found them to be a frequent player in my current listening rotation.

There’s an overwhelmingly downcast feel to many of the songs on Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends. On opener “Me & Bobby McGee”, the well-loved line “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” is delivered with a hopeless acceptance in Kristofferson’s wonderfully graveled voice. A remarkable candidness pervades the rather countrified title track, complete with input from the producer and hearty chuckles from Kristofferson, amid a twangy tangle of melancholia. “Nothing looks as empty as a motel bed,” muses Kristofferson in the lovely, lonely “Smile At Me Again”, featuring somewhat lively instrumentation and backing vocals.

The songs in which it’s just Kristofferson and a guitar are even more formidable than the rest, in my humble opinion. “Just The Other Side Of Nowhere” is one such song, sad and wistful and stripped of just about everything. It’s pretty powerful stuff. “Come Sundown” is another of these, lovelorn and lovesick and loveless. But of course, it’s also pretty great when things get a little more lively. “Slow Down” is a fine country ditty, somewhere between romper stomper and slow dance speed. Love the whoopin’ and hollerin’ the band throws in there, too. And I’m sure a lot of y’all will get a huge kick, as I did, out of any song called “If You Don’t Like Hank Williams” (and the subsequent lyric, “If you don’t like Hank Williams, buddy/you can kiss my ass”).

Need to hear a little ticklin’ of the ivories with your Kristoffersonian brooding? “Epitaph (Black & Blue)” will satisfy your craving something sweet. “It’s just a shame to know/I’m not enough for you,” laments Kristofferson in “Enough For You”, one of the most vocally emotive, painfully pained songs on the entire record. The album comes to a close with the cleverly titled “Getting By, High, and Strange”, a song that elicits several “fucks” out of the acoustic-strumming Kristofferson as he muses about having plenty of tape. “I’ll keep livin’ til the day I die,” he sings, and I dare anyone to argue with a sentiment like that.

Beautifully stripped and laid bare, the rough quality of the demos belies just how very good the songs are, and yet the roughness adds to the overall appeal of the record. The songs are so lonesome they might just make you cry, that being what a good ole country song has the power to do. I guarandamntee you’re gonna enjoy this.

mp3: If You Don’t Like Hank Williams (Kris Kristofferson from Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends)

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