From its title to its artwork designed to look tattered around the edges, there’s something inherently moving about Kris Kristofferson’s new album. He hasn’t said it’s his swan song, but “Feeling Mortal” is among the most elegiac of his recent releases. “Wide awake and feeling mortal / At this moment in the dream / That old man there in the mirror / And my shaky self-esteem” are the first lines you hear on the opening title track, and that’s a heavy sentiment coming from one of country’s first and truest outlaws. Producer Don Was strips the songs of everything but the most complementary and tasteful accompaniment courtesy of seasoned pros such as Greg Leisz on pedal steel, Mark Goldenberg on guitar, and Sara Watkins on violin and backing vocals. Kristofferson’s voice, which is front and center and unvarnished, is something to behold here: craggy but beautiful and forged with wisdom that comes to a lion in winter. He’s 76 now, and “Feeling Mortal” isn’t about resignation so much as hard-won survival. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Feeling Mortal”James Reed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.