There's a certain something in "Closer to the Bone" that just might make your eyes well up or put a knot in your stomach. It is in the subtlety beautiful guitar work of the late Stephen Bruton, the longtime Kristofferson band member to whom the album is dedicated. And it's also, of course, in the sad, reflective words the celebrated songwriter has penned, but it's the 73-year-old's unmistakable voice, which has aged well and become old-country-singer-enhanced through natural wear, loss and survival, that hits hardest.
Kristofferson introduces From Here to Forever as a song he wrote for his kids, and the softly sung lyrics offer a deeply affecting portrait of a caring, loving father: "And the smile on your face while you're sleeping/Is the answer to anyone's prayer." His tribute to Johnny Cash, Good Morning John, is equally affectionate, and while it written for The Highwaymen during Cash's life, Kristofferson's vocals provide a touching glimpse at how hurtful his friend's death must have been for him. His vast empathy also is evident in Hall of Angels, inspired by the death of the late Eddie Rabbit's infant son, and Sister Sinead, a thoughtful defense of the often controversial Irish musician. Produced by Don Was, as was Kristofferson's 2006 New West debut "This Old Road," "Closer to the Bone" offers a highly personal portrayal of a veteran artist with a still relevant, still impressive, still one-of-a-kind voice.