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Stagecoach: Kris Kristofferson pinch hits; Kenny Chesney lite as usual

May 1, 2011 |  7:28 am


"I wish my voice sounded better," Kris Kristofferson said by way of apology for an even craggier-than-usual throat on Saturday at Stagecoach -- "but it never was any good," he added, laughing at the reality. Kristofferson, 74,  was pinch-hitting for Loretta Lynn, who had a scheduled appearance but begged off because of recent knee surgery.

But if his vocal cords emitted sounds that would never get him past the audition screening for "American Idol," his songs have more than earned him a place among American music's all-time greats.

He tapped his classics and more recent songs in a solo set in which several hundred fans cheered at his exceptionally literate lyrics. His songs examine life's realities in ways that few in mainstream country today dare consider. But the soul-deep ache of "Nobody Wins" or the upbeat empathy of "Here Comes That Rainbow Again" trumps the empty calories that prevail on country radio.

A good chunk of them belong to headliner Kenny Chesney, whose mission Saturday, if not in life, is to lead the masses happily down the path of nonstop escapism.

Not there's anything wrong with a good time, especially on a cool Saturday night in the desert. But release and celebration ring more powerfully if they're the outcome of a struggle more meaningful than the choice between a beer or a margarita. But then, Chesney's repertoire being what it is, such choices are unnecessary. There are more than enough free-flowing, attitude-enhancing beverages to go around.


Stagecoach: Vocal harmony from Secret Sisters, Rhonda Vincent, and Steel Magnolia

Stagecoach: Mel Tillis pleads to Ruby, 'Don't take your love to town'

Stagecoach: David Serby, Stealing Angels, the Cleverlys, Lukas Nelson bring twang to the desert

--Randy Lewis

Photo: Festival-goer Josh Bleeker waits for the first act on the main stage at the Stagecoach Country Music Festival, April 30, 2011, in Indio. Credit: Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images