Sunday, September 21, 2014

Billy Joe Shaver Will Live Forever

One of the treasures I discovered living in Texas for the past nine years is the pure and non-commercial country music of Billy Joe Shaver.  Billy Joe, who turned 75 this year, is one of the original outlaws of Texas music.  Over many decades his lyrics and music have shouted out stories of Texas life with charm, wit, and some of the best song writing you will find in any genre.  That said, it's been 7 years since Billy Joe put out an album with new songs.  Fortunately, for us fans, the wait is over.

Billy Joe's musical career started in the early 1970s after he hitch-hiked to Nashville, because he couldn't catch a ride to Los Angeles.  Billy Joe landed a job  in Nashville writing songs for $50 a week.  When such names as Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson began recording his songs the industry took notice and Billy Joe signed his first record deal in 1973.  Waylon Jennings remained a Billy Joe Shaver fan all of his life, and he once recorded an entire album of his songs.  Billy Joe's songs have been covered by everyone from Elvis to Bob Dylan.  He's also shown up in now and then in film, including an appearance in the well regarded film, The Apostle, made by his friend Robert Duvall.

His new album, Long in the Tooth, is a very personal album, and it's full of the exemplary song writing one has come to expect from Billy Joe Shaver.  The opening track, sung as a duet with Willie Nelson, "Hard to Be an Outlaw" is a swamp rock hoot.  It takes well aimed, and well deserved shots at the current state of country music. In a recent interview, Billy Joe was asked about the current state of country music and whether or not today's country music stars have demons.  Billy Joe replied, "They do. They're just not writin' about them." Fortunately, for us, Billy Joe is not afraid to write about his demons.  The title cut, "Long in the Tooth", has all the edge of a great Lucinda Williams tune.  Things get more serious and reflective on the third track, "The Gitgo".  The remaining 7 tracks on this album are all strong.  This 10 track album consistently represents Billy Joe Shaver's work at its best.

The band backing up Billy Joe on this album is top notch, featuring Leon Russell on keyboards, Tony Joe White on guitar, and Mickey Raphael on harmonica.

Enjoy "The Gitgo"

I've seen Billy Joe perform live twice.  His shows are terrific and not to be missed.  He is currently on tour.  Now that he's 75 I don't know how many more opportunities we will have to see his shows.  If he is heading your way I strongly encourage you to catch one.

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