Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Billy Joe Shaver: Long in the Tooth [Lightning Rod, 2014]
Raving the title track as if he has no teeth at all and topping an old reprobate's catchy cannot-love plaint with an old Christian's melodic yours-for-life pledge, the 75-year-old delivers the latest old man's summum. Striving as always to keep the tunes irresistibly familiar without making a fuss about it, he also deploys his knack for strokes of wordplay you swear someone must have gotten to first, and sometimes you'll be right--"I'm playing checkers while they're playing chess" has been turning trope, although not to my knowledge followed by "They make the big moves that make me a little less." On the other hand, "Is it a lover or a liver/I really need the most?" in the breakup-qua-detox song "Last Call for Alcohol" would seem to be his. Willie delivers "The Git Go" and "Hard to Be an Outlaw" more tellingly on his new album. But Shaver owns everything here nonetheless. A-