First listens: Stephen Fearing and Kris Kristofferson
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to write about music more. For me, music is the elixir of life. Discovering a new artist, flipping through the vinyl crates at one of the few remaining record stores in my hometown, and especially hearing musicians play live — there are few things that give me as much joy as the rush that music provides.
While 2013 is only a little over a week old, I’ve already received advances of several fine discs dropping at the end of the month. Here’s some musings upon a first spin of a couple of these new roots offerings. I’ll post more first impressions in the coming days (including Henry Wagons’ “Expecting Company,” set for a January 22 release on Six Shooter Records, Daniel Romano’s “Come Cry With Me” and Stephen Fearing’s Blackie & the Rodeo Kings compadre Tom Wilson’s sophomore release with his alter ego Lee Harvey Osmond).
Watch for more complete reviews of many of these discs closer to their release.
Stephen Fearing Between Hurricanes(Pigeon Row) release date: January 29
After keeping busy performing and writing with others (Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, Fearing & White), this talented Canadian songwriter returns with a wallop. Between Hurricanes is the songslingers first batch of new tunes since his Juno-Award winning Yellowjacket (2006). The 11 cuts showcase Fearing’s arresting voice, accomplished acoustic picking, and his ability to turn a phrase with ease. The storied songs invite you to grab a coffee, and sit and listen long. Between Hurricanes closes with “Early Morning Rain.”; Fearing slows down this oft-covered Gordon Lightfoot classic, making it sound like a lullaby. He sings just above a whisper and some fine finger pickin’ provide the unhurried rhythm. The tune bookends this disc nicely. See this video to hear Fearing talk about the making of the record.
Kris Kristofferson Feeling Mortal (KK Records) release date: January 29
“Sunday Morning Coming Down” is still one of my all-time favorite songs; it’s just one of the countless compositions that this fine songwriter has penned in his long career. The bard’s greying beard and lines on his face tell the tales of the full life he’s lived. Produced by Don Was, this is Kristofferson’s first collection of new material in four years. Worth the wait, Feeling Mortal finds the 76-year-old Kristofferson ruminating on the life hereafter, paying homage to friends and mentors, and trying to understand his musical legacy. This contemplative theme is seen right from the title cut; the Country Music Hall of Famer croons: “Wide awake and feeling mortal/At this time in the dream/That old man there in the mirror/And my shaky self-esteem.” While the legendary songsmith may be grappling with his confidence, this is not apparent in these finely crafted collection of songs. The disc closes with a tribute to music man and Kristofferson mentor Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. To borrow the phrase from the title of a tune written by a fellow songwriting legend, “long may he run.”