Various Artists

Don't Let the Bastards Get You Down: A Tribute to Kris Kristofferson

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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming

Kris Kristofferson is best known as a second-string actor whose resumé features two or three misfires like Fire Down Below and Girls' Night for every moment of genuine greatness, such as Lone Star. And even at the height of his career in music, his work was hampered by a voice that, to put it charitably, takes a bit of getting used to. But none of that changes the fact that at his peak, Kristofferson was one of the very finest songwriters to ever emerge from Nashville, possessing a literate intelligence that never slipped into pretension and a masterful feel for character and detail. While Kristofferson's songbook would seem perfectly suited for a tribute from a roster of alt-country all-stars, Don't Let the Bastards Get You Down: A Tribute to Kris Kristofferson takes a more ambitious approach, mixing electronic and indie rock artists in with a bunch of top-shelf roots rockers. While Polara and Oranger hardly offer a purist's approach to Kristofferson's tunes, their contributions prove how malleable his material really is (and that his melodies are just as strong as his lyrics), while Tom Verlaine's cool but passionate take on "The Hawk" and the alt-folk of Mark Kozelek and Hannah Marcus' "Lights of Magdala (which Kristofferson recorded but didn't write) demonstrate how much Kristofferson's work means to so many musicians. Elsewhere, the performances by Kelly Hogan and Paul Burch are as strong as you'd expect, Northern Lights and the Mother Hips sound great, and Jon Langford's duet with Chip Taylor finds him at the top of his game. In short, hipsters who don't know Kris Kristofferson's work as a songwriter (or longtime fans keen on hearing new interpretations of his stuff) are advised to check out Don't Let the Bastards Get You Down pronto.

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