Kris Kristofferson returns to the essentials of his finely honed craft on his New West album, Closer to the Bone. Like the master singer-songwriters 2006 New West bow, This Old Road, the new album is produced by Grammy Award winner Don Was. The previous collection Kris first recording in almost a dozen years was hailed by critics as "one of the finest albums of his storied career" (Rolling Stone), "a stripped-down stunner" (Esquire), and "a return to his best work" (Q).
Kris says, "I like the intimacy of the new album. It has a general mood of reflecting on where we all are at this end of life."
Much like its predecessor, Closer to the Bone is a deftly observed, honestly executed work about love, separation, loss, and mortality. The subject matter ranges from the musicians family ("From Here to Forever," "The Wonder") to Kristoffersons late friend Johnny Cash ("Good Morning John"). Was views the new album as a sort of sequel to its much-acclaimed predecessor: "The recording conditions were a little more controlled, but its based around Kris singing and playing guitar, and nothing was to get in the way of that. If anything got in the way of it, we pulled it out. I think the two albums are completely of a piece. I love This Old Road. Theres something really immediate about it, and really profound. I personally think this is a better record, overall. Its the songs."
Some of the albums songs were penned relatively recently, while others Kris had never managed to successfully record. He laughs when he recalls a previous attempt to cut "Good Morning John" with Willie Nelson like Johnny and Kris, a member of the country supergroup the Highwaymen -- on harmony vocals: "I got to that line where I say, I love you, John, and Willie sang, He loves you, John. I said, Cmon, Willie, you can say, I love you, John. I guess it embarrassed him. Anyway, we ended up not putting it out then." While the recording of Closer to the Bone doesnt entirely replicate the off-the-cuff methodology of This Old Road which was tracked with surround-sound equipment in a single session in the lounge of a Hollywood studio the new album, made at the Village Recorder in West Los Angeles, aimed for the same earthy simplicity.
Most of the tracks were recorded live in the studio. Was says, "We tried to keep it as spontaneous as possible. There is some overdubbing on it, but for most of it we thought wed try it with everybody playing."
Was, who played bass on the sessions (as he had on the preceding album), once again drafted the other musicians who supported Kris on This Old Road and a round of tour dates that followed its release: guitarist and backup vocalist Stephen Bruton (who also co-wrote the Closer to the Bone tracks "From Here to Forever" and "Let the Walls Come Down") and drummer Jim Keltner. Rami Jaffee of the Wallflowers contributed piano and accordion overdubs.