Various Artists - Live Forever: A Tribute To Billy Joe Shaver
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Live Forever: A Tribute To Billy Joe Shaver (New West Records, 2022)

Various Artists

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

This 12-song tribute to songwriter Billy Joe Shaver features country music outlaws, both old (Willie Nelson) and new (Ryan Bingham, Nikki Lane, Margo Price) with a few wildcards (Edie Brickell, Nathaniel Rateliff) also thrown into the mix. Shaver is best known among country folk, but is loved by any and all that appreciate truly heartfelt songs.

True outlaws, like David Allan Coe, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, recorded Shaver songs, but some of his greatest songs express a deeply spiritual side to his art. One of the best of these, "I'm Just An Old Chunk Of Coal," is covered wonderfully here by Miranda Lambert. The title track, sung by Nelson (with help from Lucinda Williams) also speaks to Shaver's spiritual hope.

You might also put Steve Earle in that modern day outlaw category, and he's heard covering "Ain't No God In Mexico." It suits Earle perfectly, the same way "Tramp On Your Street" is oh so relatable for Allison Russell. Nelson is featured again on "Georgia On A Fast Train," which has been in the redheaded stranger's live set for many years.

This collection highlights multiple sides of Shaver's musical personality. Amanda Shires turns "Honky Tonk Heroes" into a barroom hellraiser, while Brickell does a fine job bringing out all the softness from "I Couldn't Be Me Without You." Sometimes being consistently true to oneself is the biggest outlaw move, and Billy Joe Shaver changed Nashville, more than it altered his unique personality. This album is a worthy tribute to his timeless songwriting craft.

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