Today is the late great Billy Joe Shaver’s birthday and his fans are getting a great gift. New West Records announced today that a tribute album for Shaver is on the way. The album will contain covers of some of Shaver’s best songs by some of the biggest names in country and Americana. Willie Nelson, George Strait, Miranda Lambert, Nathaniel Rateliff, Steve Earle, and many more are on board to give the legendary songwriter a fitting tribute.
About songwriting, Billy Joe Shaver once said, “When you write songs, and you write good songs, people will always remember you. Words will always outlive us. And if your name is attached to those words, you’re gonna live forever.” This album and its range of artists is proof of that.
Live Forever: A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver will hit shelves and streaming services on November 11th. The 12-song collection will feature artists who knew and worked with Shaver as well as younger artists who only know his music. The common thread among them is their admiration for Billy Joe and his skill as a songwriter. You can hear the love and admiration in the first single from the album. Check out Willie Nelson and Lucinda Williams singing Shaver’s signature song “Live Forever” below.
Live Forever Is a Heartfelt Tribute
Texas-based recording artist Charlie Sexton and producer, musician, and studio owner Freddy Fletcher co-produced the album. While Sexton met Billy Joe Shaver a handful of times, Fletcher worked with the legend for years. More importantly, they were friends. Fletcher told Variety, “A few years before he passed, he just asked me, ‘Hey, if something ever happens to me, make my music live’ and I said, ‘You got it, buddy.’ But I would’ve done this anyway.”
About the power of Billy Joe Shaver’s songwriting, Fletcher said, “Those songs were true stories. I mean, he wasn’t sitting around in some office somewhere writing. And I think that was his beauty.”
In a press release for the album, Willie Nelson seconded this. “He was just real. There wasn’t a phony drop of blood in him.”
The Importance of Billy Joe Shaver
Billy Joe Shaver didn’t reach the same level of success as some of his Outlaw Country contemporaries. Where Willie, Waylon, Kris, and Johnny have all gone on to become household names among country fans, Billy Joe is still unknown to many. However, an ever-growing group of fans is passionate about his work. At the same time, the artists who knew him held in him high regard.
Just about everyone knows of the songwriting prowess of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. They both laid high praise on Shaver. Cash called Billy Joe his favorite songwriter. Before Shaver’s death in 2020, Willie called him “The greatest living songwriter.”
Waylon Jennings recorded nearly an entire album of Billy Joe Shaver’s songs. Shaver penned all but one song on Waylon’s iconic 1973 album Honky Tonk Heroes. The story behind how that happened is about as Outlaw as it gets. You can check that out here.
In short, without Billy Joe, country music in general and Outlaw Country specifically wouldn’t sound the same.
Live Forever Pre-Order Info and Tracklist
Live Forever: A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver hits streaming platforms and record store shelves on November 11th via New West Records/Pedernales Records. The album will be available on CD and standard black vinyl. Additionally, Vinyl Me, Please will have 500 copies of the Old Chunk of Coal color vinyl edition. Magnolia Record Club will have 300 units of the purple, blue, and green color vinyl edition. Heady Wax Fiends will carry 300 copies of the green and gold vinyl editions. New West will have a limited denim-colored vinyl pressing. Pre-order your copy today.
- Willie Nelson (w/ Lucinda Williams) – Live Forever
- Ryan Bingham (w/ Nikki Lane) – Ride Me Down Easy
- Rodney Crowell – Old Five And Dimers Like Me
- Miranda Lambert – I’m Just An Old Chunk Of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be A Diamond Someday)
- Edie Brickell – I Couldn’t Be Me Without You
- Nathaniel Rateliff – You Asked Me To
- George Strait – Willy The Wandering Gypsy And Me
- Amanda Shires – Honky Tonk Heroes
- Steve Earle – Ain’t No God In Mexico
- Margo Price – Ragged Old Truck
- Willie Nelson – Georgia On A Fast Train
- Allison Russell – Tramp On Your Street