Recently Ive been thinking if I have a certain type of style of music I enjoy the most. If there is a connecting thread between all my favorite bands. They are all vastly different (Sunset Rubdown, Tom Waits, The Mountain Goats, anything Jack White does; to name a few), so it was hard to find that puzzle piece that connects them all. I finally realized that I like songs that tell stories. Songs that unite ideas over an entire album or just simply in the course of a song. There are songs I love that are catchy and make my foot tap, but I wouldnt place the bands in my top 10 necessarily. Its the story. I think this is why I love old country songs so much that and they are amongst the most heartbreaking youll ever find. The singer/songwriter thing that all these bands have in their own way is that jigsaw piece.
Singer/songwriters had their heyday in the ’60s and ’70s, and are beginning to make a bit of a comeback these days with people like Frank Turner, William Fitzsimmons, Iron & Wine, Bon Iver, Ingrid Michaelson, and Patrick Wilson. Most people dismiss them as sad, sappy, whiner musicor beard rock as my friends and I have taken to calling itbut in my mind there aint anything wrong with a great heart torturing song. One man who is a musical grandfather to all these bands, and was very much in the thick of that ’60s/’70s run, was Kris Kristofferson. These days people remember him from the Blade movies, but did you know he wrote songs like Me and Bobby McGee and Sunday Morning Comin Down? Or that he is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame? Kristofferson had one of the more successful careers in music during the ’60s and ’70s. His songs are classics, award winners, and top sellers. The new collection Please Dont Tell Me How the Story Ends collects demos of Kristoffersons songs from 1968 to 1972, and hot damn its a great compilation.
Now as I said, I am a big fan of older country music, so this album is right up my alley. The songs here are mostly just Kristofferson and a guitar, which makes it an intimate and, usually, quiet album, full of songs about heartbreak and cautionary tales. The aspect I like most about this effort is that these are, for the most part, completely unpolished demos. The producers of the album have left in all the studio chatter between the engineer and Kristofferson and between Kristofferson and his band, as well as false starts and stutters that happened during the recording. If these were any other type of songs, then this would be pretty off-putting for the listener; however, since these songs are so intimate, it fits perfectly with the vibe on the album. You definitely feel like you are just sitting in the studio with Kristofferson, or sitting on his front porch. You hear every laugh, every missed word, every fuck. Ill do that again, and its incredibly fun to hear.
I have a few favorites from the album, but its all such a solid album that its hard to just pick those few out. There is the demo of Me and Bobby McGee a far different version than the popular Janis Joplin bluesy-version. Theres the material that channels Simon and Garfunkel like Duvaliers Dream and When I Loved Her. And no one can write a heartbreaking love song like Kristofferson does with The Ladys Not for Sale, Come Sundown, and the amazing Little Girls Lost that switches from the Ghost Rider in the Sky-sounding verse to a quiet loving chorus. Little Girls Lost also has one of my favorite verses I have heard:
If you want more than sympathy then look for something else
Cause she’s not true to anyone, not even to herself
She’ll have 16 smiling strangers who are handing her a line
While she’s drawing dirty pictures on the black side of your mind
And that body she’ll let anybody hold, but the devil’s got her soul
That line of that body shell let anybody hold hits me hard for some reason. I love it.
He also has some great upbeat and bluegrassy sounding tracks like Border Lord, the David Allen Coe sounding If You Dont like Hank Williams, and the fantastic closer Getting by, High, and Strange. They compliment the quiet and slow songs incredibly well, and the producers of the album have placed them perfectly in the track listing to give you a taste of all types just when you want to hear them.
I could continue to go on and on about the great parts of it, but I suggest just checking it out for yourself. I cant recommend it more to people who are fans of old country, singer/songwriters, or just fans of good songwriting in general. The producers of the album have done a fantastic job of showcasing Kristoffersons amazing talent. The raw, unpolished nature of the album makes it very fun to listen to some already well-put together and cohesive songs. You really can see the evolution of Kristofferson as a songwriter who became fantastically successful. It makes a perfect album for dark nights, or slow rainy days, and does good on my southern heart.