Broken Freedom Song
This collection of fifteen songs, four of them new, was recorded in front of a live audience at the Gershwin Theater in San Francisco in July 2002, well before the war in Iraq, but Kris Kristofferson’s song selection was eerily prescient. The blunt Rhodes scholar has always aired what’s on his mind, and the 66-year old was in a particularly cantankerous mood on this night.
Unembellished but for the mannered playing of Stephen Bruton on acoustic guitar and mandolin and Keith Carper on bass, Kristofferson, with his acoustic guitar and harmonica and a vocal tone that’s more Willie than Waylon, shows how to craft a potent protest song by getting to the point and then getting out of the way.
“The Circle”, which depicts the lack of accountability in war, is about artist Layla Al-Attar, who was killed with her husband by a stray cruise missile in Baghdad launched by Bill Clinton, as well as “los Olvidados” (the disappeared) of Argentina. “Sandinista” is dated but heartfelt; “Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down” (from 1990) talks about bombing Baghdad “into the Stone Age.”
A few toss-offs lighten the proceedings. “Sky King”, about a Vietnam-era Army helicopter flight instructor, is sung to the tune of “Big Bad John”. Kristofferson refersto “The Race” as “an answer song to ‘The Wind Beneath My Wings” — “You are the shit beneath my shoes.”