Alec Dubro

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 498

[Kristofferson is] a romantic, and unashamedly so. Not too different from the Kerouac vision of the Fifties, with a reverence for the "real" America and an unfortunate case of city sophistication. It's a feeling most of us have felt, but Kristofferson has pulled it off in his life and made some really fine music in the process.

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Kristofferson's biggest hit in rock circles has been "Me and Bobby McGee," an undiluted piece of romance, and to some extent, an epitome of a Kristofferson ballad. On [The Silver Tongued Devil and I] there is a song that is even more sentimental, to some people cloyingly so, but which I think is just a real pretty country song. "Jody and the Kid" is that, a neat kind of circle song. It begins with a little girl following Jody around, with folks saying "Looky yonder … there goes Jody and the kid." In the second verse she grows up and they get hitched. And it ends with another little girl, their daughter, following Jody down to the levee, just like her mama did.

"Jody and the Kid" is a perfect example of one of Kristofferson's contradictions, and of his ability to charm. It's the contrast between the crying-sweet lyrics and Kris' gravelly-deep macho voice, which is just arresting….

It is as lyricist that Kristofferson excels. His melodies are good, but without his poetry they wouldn't be much. In another "Bobby McGee" type of song, "When I Loved Her," Kris sings some deceptively simple lines that make people listen….

There is, undoubtedly, nothing harder to bring off than simplicity and directness. It is, truly, a measure of the artist as a person. Kristofferson is direct in a way that few can make a go of. Johnny Cash is another, and so was Otis Redding. It's a case where the overwhelming personality animates a relatively simple artistic framework. Kristofferson hasn't reached the level of either of those artists, but he clearly shows the potential as a singer and a songwriter….

If his style puts him in a class apart from most folk singers, then his contemporary vision, his compassion, separate him from the more simplistic variety of country singer. Country music is developing a sense of the complexities of moral issues, and Kris Kristofferson writes about the new world.

"Billy Dee" is Kristofferson's song about a needle-freak friend who was just overwhelmed by the world. His picture lacks the moralistic tone that most songs have when they attempt to deal with hard dope….

Kris Kristofferson is a very talented man. He's worked hard and waited long, and it looks like his time is here. The Silver Tongued Devil and I is one of the better albums to be released this bleak year, and one that has the capability of reaching an awful lot of people.

Alec Dubro, in his review of "The Silver Tongued Devil and I," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1971; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 91, September 16, 1971, p. 42.

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