The Pilgrim: A Celebration of Kris Kristofferson

Record review

Texas Platters

The Pilgrim: A Celebration of Kris Kristofferson

(American Roots Publishing)

Two previous tributes to Kris Kristofferson brimmed with under-the-radar roots rockers like the Handsome Family, Chuck Prophet, and Beaver Nelson, and without widespread distribution, they were generally overlooked. The Pilgrim, the second disc and second tribute released by American Roots Publishing, who won a Grammy for a CD dedicated to Stephen Foster, is more "star"-laden and likely to garner more attention. Celebrating Kristofferson's 70th birthday, The Pilgrim shows the breadth of his muse. In a variety of settings that work most of the time, Texas-centric artists such as Willie Nelson, Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis, Patty Griffin, and Rodney Crowell meet some of their Nashville counterparts (Rosanne Cash, Marshall Chapman, Todd Snider, Jessie Colter, Gretchen Wilson) and others, such as Russell Crowe and Brian McKnight. Kristofferson's true genius is his ability to write about romance, spirituality, and social consciousness with equal amounts of intensity and elegance, and the 18 songs here expose those qualities with obvious reverence. Emmylou Harris leads with a striking rendition of the title track, while Griffin sings "Sandinista" as a South American lullaby with apt accompaniment by Charanga Cakewalk. Kristofferson himself appears at disc's end with a demo from 1970 of "Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends," sounding as weary as ever and offering an effective stopping point to one of the most amazing songbooks of the 20th century.

***

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