Billy Joe Shaver
“Long in the Tooth”
Lightning Rod Records
Lots of country singers have sung about shooting people.
Billy Joe Shaver really has shot someone, a bully in a Texas bar. And it wasn’t exactly a youthful indiscretion. Shaver was 67. (After pulling his pistol, Shaver said to the man, “Where do you want it?” and then shot him in the ear.”)
He’s now 75 and every bit as feisty, even if he’s not as capable of the kind of Olympic level carousing he’s famous for.
“What I used to do all night / It takes me all night to do,” he croaks in the hilarious title cut to his new album.
It’s his first collection of all new songs in seven years, and his best work since 2002’s “Freedom’s Child.”
He gets plenty of help from other feisty friends here. Leon Russell joins in on “Last Call for Alcohol,” which Shaver pronounces “Al-key-hawl”
“I’ve got to find me a better chaser to chase away these blues,” Shaver drawls over Russell’s honky-tonk piano.
Tony Joe White’s rocking electric guitar pops up here and there, along with Mickey Raphael’s harmonica. And longtime pal Willie Nelson lends a hand to “Hard to be an Outlaw.”
“Someday we both may wind up in some junk yard on the side / Until that day you can beat your ass we’re gonna whip and ride,” they sing together.
Shaver has written some of the best country songs of all time and he hasn’t gotten anywhere near the popular acclaim he deserves. And “Long in the Tooth” proves it yet again.
Joe Louis Walker
“The Best of the Stony Plain Years”
Stony Plain, the Canadian blues label (And, yes, Canadians feel the blues too), continues its “Best Of” series with a collection devoted to singer Joe Louis Walker.
Walker, who last year was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, recorded three albums, including one that was named Blues Album of the Year, for the small but mighty label.
Three of the cuts were culled from a live album featuring the late, great Johnny Winter, who, with a horn section, burn up an eight-minute, church-afied “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry,” “Slow Down” and Winter’s “Ain’t That Cold.”
“Eyes Like a Cat” is also here, along with Duke Robillard’s “Highway” and Walker’s own silky smooth “Black Widow Spider.” The best of the cuts may be Walker’s gritty run through the traditional “Sugar Mama.”
Stony Plain has also issued a retrospective celebrating Long John Baldry, the British bluesman who recorded with Rod Stewart and Elton John and many other giants before he died in 2005.
“Too Blessed to be Stressed”
Perpetual Obscurity Records
When Paul Thorn performed at Manny’s in Billings a few years ago, his contract stipulated that chairs be set up in the club, something that no band before or since has asked for.
And then within a few songs, Thorn had his fans dancing on their chairs.
Maybe that was the point.
Thorn is a Mississisppi-born former professional boxer (he went six rounds with Roberto Duran) who plays good-humored bluesy rock. His most famous song has the sing-along chorus, “it’s a great day for me to whoop somebody’s ass.”
This is Thorn’s seventh album with his longtime band, which includes slide guitar ace Bill Hinds. And he goes to church of three tracks with the McCrary Sisters singing backup, the best of them the hand-clapping “Get You a Healin’.”
You can’t listen to Thorn without smiling. He’s got life’s tragicomedy dialed in real tight.
“I got a front row seat to the apocalypse / With a chili cheese dog and a bag of chips / All the women in heaven got hula girl hips,” he sings in his low, John Hiatt voice on “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.”