Long In The Tooth
Billy Joe Shaver
Lightning Rod Records 2014
Review by David Bowling
Bill Joe Shaver is one of the original outlaws of country music. During his career he has gained more fame as a songwriter than performer. His songs have been covered by the cream of country musicians including Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and dozens more.
He has built his music on simple melodies and lyrics containing well-formed characters. While he has never received the solo commercial success he deserved; he has now returned with the 23rd album of his career titled Long In The Tooth.
Time has passed for the now 75 year old Shaver and life is beginning to close in. He has suffered a heart attack, been tried for shooting a man, and lost his mother, son, and wife in the last 10 years. He has now turned his characterizations inward and produced a personal album that is one of the best of his career.
It has been nearly seven years since he has released any new material but his songwriting skills remain formidable. The title song, “Last Call For Alcohol,” “American Me,” and “Hard To be An Outlaw” all find him plumbing the depths of his psyche and cloaking his findings in in catchy music.
While he is a country artist, he has incorporated the blues into his music. His songs have always had a gritty side to them and his gravelly vocals and life experiences give them the authenticity that the blues is built upon.
Long In The Tooth is an album of a man looking back at his journey through life. In Shaver’s case, it has been a difficult and hardscrabble existence but one with little compromise. It is those qualities that he brings to his new album. It is a release that will hopefully bring him some well-deserved attention.