This CD cover image released by Canvasback/ATL shows "Wolf's Law," by The Joy Formidable. (AP Photo/Canvasback/ATL) Purchase photo reprints »
This CD cover image released by Stoney Creek Records shows "How Country Feels," by Randy Houser. (AP Photo/Stoney Creek Records) Purchase photo reprints »
This CD cover image released by KK shows "Feeling Mortal," by Kris Kristofferson. (AP Photo/KK) Purchase photo reprints »
As the title “Feeling Mortal” implies, singer-songwriter and actor Kris Kristofferson confronts the consequences of aging in this album of stripped-to-the-bone acoustic songs. At 76, Kristofferson has grown into his ragged rasp of a voice, which fits with lyrics that deal with being “here today and gone tomorrow,” as he sings in the title cut.
Typical of his past work, Kristofferson’s new tunes delineate his feelings in descriptive verse that is unflinchingly honest and ultimately full of wonder. Compassionate toward others and uncompromising about himself, Kristofferson offers heartfelt observations about love, family, morality and “the right to be righteously wrong,” as stated in the stubbornly independent “You Don’t Tell Me What To Do.”
Throughout, he reminds us of how powerful a plainspoken song can be. He may feel mortal, but he knows a good song can last forever.
How Country Feels
Stoney Creek; $9.99
There’s little coincidence that Randy Houser’s new album, “How Country Feels,” arrives just as the title track reaches No. 1 on the country radio charts.
The Mississippi singer earned his first chart-topper with the initial single from his most radio-friendly album. Stuffed with country soul-inflected mid-tempo arrangements that highlight Houser’s rich voice, there’s likely a few more hits among its 15 tracks.
He’s sanded away much of the grit that marked his previous work and deploys a more traditional country sound on songs like “The Singer,” “Power of a Song” and “Like a Cowboy” that shows off his vocal versatility and a willingness to explore.
Just when it starts to feel like there’s a little too much varnish, Houser closes the album with “Route 3 Box 250 D.” It’s easily his most powerful song, and one we hope gets played on the radio, too.
The Joy Formidable
Two years after The Joy Formidable barreled to the fringe of the rock mainstream with the lush and brute “The Big Roar,” the Welsh trio returns with an even bigger and squalling encore. “Wolf’s Law” is the arrival of a headliner.
It’s a deserved reward. This is wonderfully noisy and hooky, shimmering with guitar-pop accessibility. So what if standouts such as “Maw Maw Song” and the whirlwind “Bats” have the nagging feeling of sounding familiar — maybe a head-bopper from the alt-rock heyday of the ‘90s or another Brit rocker making massive songs for arenas like touring mates Muse. In the voice and guitar-hammering hands of frontwoman Ritzy Bryan, surprises (usually loud ones) are around every corner.
In the opener “This Ladder is Ours,” Bryan begins with an inviting “Let’s take this walk/It’s long overdue.” She isn’t kidding. Where was an exciting rocker like this in 2012, and how soon before we can have another?