Album: The Cedar Creek Sessions
Release date: June 17, 2016
In June 2014, legendary songwriter Kris Kristofferson hosted a three-day impromptu jam session at Cedar Creek Recording in Austin, Texas. It had been a while since Kris had recorded and here was a chance to lay down some of his favorite compositions with a live band. With Shawn Camp on lead guitar, Kevin Smith on bass, Michael Ramos on keyboard, and Mike Meadows on drums, the group ran through twenty-five of Kristofferson’s best-loved songs. On the final day, Kris’s dear friend Sheryl Crow came in to sing a duet of “The Loving Gift,” a song made famous by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash that Kris had never recorded.
Two years later, Kristofferson will release The Cedar Creek Sessions just days before his 80th birthday, June 22, 2016.
At eighty years old, few songwriters can look back and see that they have transformed an entire American musical art form. In a single line, Kristofferson turned modern music into viable contemporary literature: “Freedom’s just another word,” he wrote, “for nothing left to lose.” For years, those words from his song “Me and Bobby McGee” served as the hippie generation’s most resonant mantra. Today, songwriters from Belfast to Belleville replay the classic when seeking inspiration. Kristofferson’s first recording of the song as a demo, while working as a janitor at Columbia Records in 1968, signaled only the beginning of his lasting contributions to the creative arts.
“Forty years ago, Kris single-handedly changed the way people write songs,” Don Was, who produced several Kristofferson albums, told the Austin American-Statesman in 2009. “He combined the simplicity and directness of Hank Williams with the emotional intelligence of a Rhodes Scholar. There isn’t a songwriter out there today who hasn’t been influenced by Kris. He’s a giant.”
By nature an outsider, Kristofferson frequently centers lyrical themes on better days for the down-and-out (“Shipwrecked in the Eighties”) and disenfranchised (“Sandinista”). In fact, he consistently has addressed social, political, cultural and personal issues largely taboo in country music at the time that he began writing professionally. That pioneering approach came at a price. For a time, Kristofferson was persona non grata in the music world for exploring political concerns in albums such as Repossessed (1986), which addressed widespread tragedy (“They Killed Him,” “Anthem ’84”) and turmoil specifically in that era’s war in El Salvador (“What About Me”).
As those songs show, Kristofferson speaks his mind. He always has, always will. His concern isn’t popular opinion – or who agrees with his. He seeks truths. He listens. He asks difficult questions. His album Third World Warrior (1990), which includes his song “The Eagle and the Bear,” alone proves that. “And I'll say until the day we free Mandela,” he wrote, “all the world will be in chains.” He later declared support for Nicaraguan rebels. “[Kris Kristofferson] and Jackson Browne were out there talking all of the s**t in the 1980s when the US was behaving really badly all over the Southern Hemisphere,” renegade songwriter Steve Earle recalls. “I admired that.”
Kristofferson realized a personal highlight while anchoring the Highwaymen, an all-star collective with fellow Outlaw Country legends Cash, Waylon Jennings and Nelson, throughout the 1980s. Many would have hung their hat after that run. Instead, Kristofferson barely has paused for breath since. He’s released several recent high watermarks including the increasingly intimate A Moment of Forever (1995), The Austin Sessions (1999) and This Old Road (2006), and he produced some of his finest work with the deeply personal Closer to the Bone (2009) and Feeling Mortal (2013). Now, at eighty years old, Kristofferson tours worldwide as a solo and acoustic troubadour, supplying singer-songwriters worldwide with a role model for legitimacy and longevity.
The Cedar Creek Sessions collection is a snapshot of the legendary songwriter in the twilight of his life.
1. Duvalier’s Dream
2. The Loving Gift (with special guest Sheryl Crow)
3. The Sabre and the Rose
4. The Law is for the Protection of the People
5. It No Longer Matters What I Do
6. Stagger Mountain Tragedy
7. The Wife You Save
8. Lay Me Down and Love the World Away
9. The Bigger the Fool (The Harder the Fall)
10. Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down
11. Spooky Lady’s Revenge
12. Forever In Your Love
1. Darby’s Castle
2. Me and Bobby McGee
3. Broken Freedom Song
4. Casey’s Last Ride
5. Billy Dee
6. Easter Island
7. For the Good Times
8. Help Me Make It Through the Night
9. Jody and the Kid
10. Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)
11. Risky Business
12. To Beat the Devil