There are people who will tell you that Kris Kristofferson is the Greatest Songwriter of All Time. (Don’t believe me? Watch Country Music.) This is a preposterous claim on its face for at least two reasons. The first is that there may not be a GOAT songwriter in English or in any language. And second, Bob Dylan exists. Hearing this hyperbole before I’ve ever listened to an album of his makes it harder to listen to him for the first time. But I’m trying to ignore it.
Krisofferson is indeed an excellent songwriter. I haven’t heard anywhere enough of his songs to put him in my personal canon but I understand the appeal. He is more of a traditional songwriter than I realized – though “Bobby McGee” should have told me that – but he clearly has a way with words. And this album finds himself firmly writing in the country tradition. And within that tradition, he’s certainly more to my tastes than a lot of country songwriters.
But just like with Townes’ records of the time, it appears Nashville found its way into his sound. Some songs are recorded as they should be – with relatively limited accompaniment – but then there are strings or choirs on some of them. (And a flute! This is “country” music! A flute?!?!) It’s fascinating to me that some of the people lumped in the Outlaw movement still couldn’t escape the tentacles of Nashville. More of the album is the way it should be than shouldn’t but it’s still annoying when those strings come in. I do wish the producer would trust the songs and honestly I can imagine this just being Kristofferson and maybe one or two other musicians and I don’t think it would be the worse for it. But it was Nashville in the ’70s.
All in all, it’s a good set of songs that sometimes suffers from arrangement/production decisions. Hopefully some of his other albums have less of the frills.