Authentic Outlaw Billy Joe Shaver - in 2007 he shot a guy in the face after a dispute, claiming 'I hit him right between a mother and a fucker' - returns at 74 to reassert his bad-boy credentials musically. He begins in good if less aggressive company with Willie Nelson dueting self-deprecatingly on It's Hard To Be An Outlaw, lamenting the state of pseudo-outlaw Country amongst other disappearances as far as these glorious old codgers see it. Second and title track Long In The Tooth is a juice-harp heavy declaration of, amongst other things, Shaver's sexual aptitude even at his advanced age: What I used to do all night/it takes all night to do/but the women-folk don't complain/'cause I still got a young man's brain/I can still do more than most men do. That's certainly a lot of doin'. A heavy guitar riff ejaculates mid-track to assert another kind of youthfulness. So far, rather self-obsessed, but it's good romping stuff. Third track is a harmonica driven beauty The Git Go and the acerbic lyrics about corrupt politicians and how rich kids go to college, the poor kids fight in wars is an outlaw sensibility far nobler than shooting a guy in the face, and is musically a country gem. It's this kind of songwriting that has made Shaver famous, and to confirm just listen to his debut album Some Old Five and Dimers Like Me, many of the songs on this album performed by many Country greats. Willie Nelson performs a beautiful version of The Git Go on his own latest album Band of Brothers [as well as Hard To Be An Outlaw], and the Shaver songwriting reverence continues.
After this, the rest of the album runs out of poop. The songs are formulaic country fare, and although pleasant enough, one misses the Outlaw bragging of the first two, as well as the social observation of the third. Sixth Last Call For Alcohol is a typical example: a bar-room honky-tonk with Shaver's increasing attempts to semi--yodel here as in the the rest of the songs being a little naff. But it's fun enough if you like this kind of lite country, and perhaps it exemplifies the truth of the opening track's regret. Ninth I'm In Love is a little cloying, but its romanticism is endearing when set against the boasting of the title track and perhaps lets us into the secret of Shaver's Other as well as Outlaw persona.