Willie Nelson, George Strait + More Tribute Billy Joe Shaver on New ‘Live Forever’ Album [Exclusive Premiere]
Willie Nelson, George Strait, Miranda Lambert and more are among the top country artists who have joined together on a new album in tribute to the music and legacy of a true country music renegade. Live Forever: A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver is set for release on Friday (Nov. 11), but Taste of Country readers are getting to hear the entire new project a day early in this exclusive premiere.
Nelson teams with Lucinda Williams for the new the 12-song project, which Charlie Sexton co-produced with Freddy Fletcher. In addition to Strait and Lambert, Nathaniel Rateliff, Ryan Bingham and Nikki Lane, Steve Earle, Edie Brickell, Rodney Crowell, Margo Price featuring Joshua Hedley, Allison Russell and Amanda Shires also took part in new renditions of some of Shaver's best-known songs.
Nelson and Williams put their own spin on "Live Forever," while Strait tackles "Willy the Wandering Gypsy and Me." Lambert's take on "I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Someday)" once again shows her range in covering other artists' material, while Crowell is perfectly suited to "Old Five And Dimers Like Me.'
The cross-genre and multi-generational roster of artists is a tribute to Shaver's broad influence, as well as the lasting qualities of his songs.
Shaver was one example of an artist who achieved legendary status despite having bucked the system in country music at every turn, and he was a founding father of the Texas Outlaw Country music scene. He died on Oct. 8, 2020, at the age of 81, after suffering a stroke. Several of the artists involved in the new tribute album laud his bold originality, both as a person and as a songwriter.
"He was just real; there wasn’t one phony drop of blood in him," Nelson recalls, while Strait states, "It was an honor to be a part of this tribute to one of Texas’s best. He got down deep into the very soul of country ... See you down the road, amigo."
"Billy Joe’s words have inspired countless artists for decades…myself included," Lambert shares. "I was singing his songs in honky tonks all across our home state of Texas by the time I could drive.
"'I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal' was always one of my favorites to perform," she adds. "I was honored when they asked me to record it for this project and join so many of my heroes to celebrate his incredible legacy."
Price's connection to Shaver's songs was more than just musical, especially in one instance.
“I first met Billy in a dusty parking lot outside of Luck, Texas. I was drinking straight out of a bottle of Wild Turkey and he asked me for a pull," she recounts. "We talked for a long time about his songs. I told him my favorites were 'Black Rose' and 'Ragged Old Truck' and I said, that second one might have saved my life. I was in a deep depression when I first heard it and that song pulled me out. He put his hand, minus a few fingers, on my shoulder and said, ‘Me too darlin, me too.’"
Live Forever: A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver is currently available for pre-order in a variety of formats and across a number of digital music platforms. The album is set for release on Friday via New West Records.
Click below to hear the entire album before it's available for public release:
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