Kris Kristofferson considers his new album, “Closer to the Bone,” a “sequel” of sorts to 2006’s acclaimed “This Old Road.”
“Emotionally, ‘Closer to the Bone’ is very much like ‘This Old Road,’ ” Kristofferson tells Billboard.com about the 11-song set, which is due out Sept. 29 on New West Records and was produced by Don Was, who also helmed “This Old Road.” “Every album I’ve made has been about making sense of my life at the time. ‘Closer To The Bone’ is a reflective album. It’s about making sense of life at this end of the game. I used to do records about a year apart with music covering issues of human rights, military aggression or whatever was going on in the world. These last two records have been more reflective about my own life.”
Was says the personal nature of the album also guided his sonic approach. “On ‘This Old Road’ we attempted to capture the experience of having Kris Kristofferson sit three feet away from you, look you in the eyes and sing 10 songs,” the producer explains. “People really seemed to respond positively to that, so we went for the same effect on this new album…to eliminate everything that creates distance between the listener and Kris.”
Many of “Closer to the Bone’s” songs focus solely on Kristofferson and his acoustic guitar, but other players — including Was on bass, Wallflowers/Foo Fighters keyboardist Rami Jaffee and drummer Jim Keltner — also contribute. The album marks some of the final recordings by the late Stephen Bruton, a close friend of Kristofferson’s who passed away in May. Bruton played guitar and co-wrote the track “From Here to Forever.”
“I can’t think of Stephen without heartbreak,” says Kristofferson, who dedicated the album to Bruton. “We were soul brothers. I’m just grateful that he was able to play on this.”
The track “Good Morning John” comes from a letter Kristofferson wrote to Johnny Cash for a sobriety party. “Everyone was supposed to say something inspirational, so I wrote a song,” Kristofferson says. “I tried to record this once before with Willie Nelson and my band. When I sang the chorus, they echoed me when I would sing ‘Good morning John.’ When I got to the line that said ‘I love you John,’ Willie said ‘He loves you John’ and we all cracked up laughing. We never finished it, so I finished it myself. Kristofferson wrote “Hall of Angels” for the late Eddie Rabbit after Rabbit’s son Timmy died following an unsuccessful liver transplant.
Kristofferson has no tour booked yet to promote “Closer to the Bone.” He will perform on Nov. 1 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and on Nov. 10 he’ll receive the BMI Icon Award during the BMI Country Awards in Nashville.