Billy Joe Shaver is bringing out his new album, "Long in the Tooth," with some welcome momentum.
The veteran Americana singer and songwriter and Outlaw Country icon is back on the charts thanks to Willie Nelson's version of Shaver's "Hard to Be an Outlaw" on his new Band of Brothers album which debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on the Country Albums chart last month. Nelson duets with Shaver on the song for the latter's Long in the Tooth, which comes out Aug. 5, and the collaboration has already put some jet fuel behind the project.
"It's always great to work with Willie 'cause he's the master, man. He's The One," Shaver tells Billboard. "I knew this was going to be a hit record, just like I knew (Waylon Jennings' 1973) Honky Tonk Heroes album was gonna be a hit, and this feels even bigger than that. There's just something about (Nelson) that, when he does something, you know, 'Doggone it, it's gotta be good.' And thanks to that it looks like things are gonna be hotter for me now."
Shaver says that for Long in the Tooth, his first new album in six years, "what I had in mind was writing the best songs I could possibly write. It's my personality and all that stuff that came through. I'm still writing the same way I did as when I first started. Some things change a little bit, but not enough that you'd miss my character." The set was co-produced by Nashville stalwarts Ray Kennedy and Gary Nicholson, and, in addition to Nelson, it features contributions by Leon Russell, Tony Joe White and others.
Shaver acknowledges the album's autobiographical bent, including a title track that pays homage to a friend who passed away, while some songs like "The Git Go," find Shaver taking a broader view of world affairs albeit in his own particularly way. "That one's just kind of taking the look at everything," he explains."It's like predicting rain when you're standing in it; anybody can see what you're saying. I feel like everyone feels that way about this whole (political) mess we're in. It makes no sense, but the only thing we're saying about it is it makes no sense."
Shaver, meanwhile, says the gap between albums "seemed like forever," but he's pleased to say he has more -- a lot more -- where Long in the Tooth came from. "Oh, we have beacoups," he says. "I've written nearly 500 songs, and all of them are good. I don't write or finish them if they're not good. I figured I'd die before I got another shot, but I'd be out playing live and run into all the old critics that had known me for years. I promised them I'd do an album of all new songs on it, and I did. And this one's good enough to get me back to do another one, I think, 'cause I've got the songs for it. "That's all I want to do, really, is put out records so people can hear them, and I figure I better get to it before I run out of time, y'know?"
Listen to "The Git Go" below.