Of the three or four luminaries who pointed country music in new directions in the 1970s, Kris Kristofferson turned out to be the most disappointing, squandering his musical talent in drugs and alcohol — he has admitted they ”kinda got in the way of the work” — and running off to Hollywood. His early songs were fairly revolutionary, though, wedding working-class country, classic urban folk, and hippie poetry (”Me and Bobby McGee”). At the same time he managed to infuse country music with both a new literacy (”Loving Her Was Easier Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again”) and a frank sexuality (”Help Me Make It Through the Night”). But as a singer Kristofferson is monotonous and virtually toneless, something that’s obvious on Singer/Songwriter, a double-CD set divided into one disc of Kristofferson’s original recordings and one of better-known covers by the likes of Ray Price (”For the Good Times”) and Johnny Cash (”Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down”). Still, despite his vocal limitations, there’s often an honest poignancy in Kristofferson’s own stripped-down renditions, his low rumble of a baritone sounding like reverberating echoes from a pained and wounded heart. B+

  • Music