Review: Kristofferson hits 80 with new album of beloved hits

Kris Kristofferson

Kris Kristofferson “The Cedar Creek Sessions” (KK Records)

The title had some Kris Kristofferson fans fearing his 2013 album “Feeling Mortal” was his last. Now, entering his ninth decade, Kristofferson is feeling sentimental, with a new offering that’s like a living epitaph.

“The Cedar Creek Sessions,” recorded live, features 25 of his best known songs in a collection that celebrates the legendary singer-songwriter’s enduring mark on American music in the last half century.

Released five days before his 80th birthday, it’s a hit parade of honest, unadorned country music and a welcome reminder of his contributions to a genre now sometimes confused with overwrought pop.

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There’s “Me and Bobby McGee,” ”Help Me Make It Through the Night,” ”Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” and “For the Good Times.” And with help from good friend Sheryl Crow, there’s his first recording of “The Loving Gift,” a Kristofferson song made famous by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash.

The baritone is still unmistakably Kristofferson, somehow even deeper and more gravelly than in his prime, but also less defiant. Wistful, too, when he struggles with the lowest notes but still carries on.

The album was recorded over three days at Cedar Creek Studios in Austin, Texas, and the Brownsville native sounds right at home. He gets help on guitar from Shawn Camp, Kevin Smith on bass, Michael Ramos on keys and Mike Meadows on drums.