When it comes to American songwriters, who ranks up there with Stephen Foster and Irving Berlin? If you answered Kris Kristofferson, you must be thinking along the same lines as American Roots Publishing (ARP).
ARP's first CD, Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster, won a Grammy when it was released in 2005. Their next CD will be a tribute to Irving Berlin.
In between is ARP's recently released The Pilgrim: A Celebration of Kris Kristofferson. This tribute album features singers like Emmylou Harris, Russell Crowe, Shooter Jennings and Willie Nelson on 17 of Kristofferson's classic songs. For those of us that remember "Jesus was a Capricorn," "The Silver Tongued Devil & I," and "Help me Make it Through the Night," here's a chance to hear them all again, but in a slightly different way.
My favorite is "Maybe You Heard," written in response to his divorce from Rita Coolidge. As done here by Todd Snider, this has all the righteous indignation that Kristofferson must have felt while writing it. Gretchen Wilson does a credible version of "Sunday Morning Comin' Down" and Marta Gomez's rendition of "The Circle" is achingly sweet and touching.
Of course, every tribute album has one song that doesn't live up to the original. In this case it's "Me and Bobby McGee," but ARP more than makes up for that with a bonus track, a '70s demo of Kristofferson himself doing "Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends."
A listen to this tribute CD will remind you of the great songwriting talent Kristofferson exhibited before his movie career took off and took his time and attention. You may even come away thinking of him along with other great American songwriters such as Foster and Berlin. If so, you won't be alone.