Billy Joe Shaver, “Long In The Tooth” (Lightning Rod)
Old cowboys love to lament that contemporary country music’s in a sorry state and guilty of casting aside sage singers and songwriters — like Billy Joe Shaver. The crusty Texan trots out that trope at the start of his new album, and then spends the rest of the record showing he still has plenty to say.
“Long in the Tooth” covers a wide range of topics in 10 songs and 32 minutes. Shaver sings about politics, war, the lessons of Jesus and the Garden of Eden, and that’s just in the space of four verses on the tune “The Git Go.”
The title cut’s a hoot, with Shaver noting that as his 75th birthday approaches, “what I used to do all night, it takes me all night to do.” He sings about the rails on “Sunbeam Special,” then rails against America’s class divide on “Checkers and Chess.”
Best of all is “I’m In Love,” a ballad beautiful in its simplicity as Shaver pledges everlasting devotion. The song’s a testament to this cowboy’s staying power.