When you get two of the most distinct voices in country music singing one of the greatest songs of all time, you know it’ll be something special.
This past week, Willie Nelson and Lucinda Williams dropped a cover of Billie Joe Shaver’s “Live Forever,” and as the title suggests, the recording is one that’ll out live us all.
Both Willie and Lucinda have voices unlike any in the world; Lucinda’s a mixture of concrete, barbed wire and gravel road, and Willie’s worn like faded leather. Both classic, and both distinctly their own.
When I saw their names listed together I was simultaneously excited and worried. How would two such distinct voices pair? I felt that it was going to go one of two ways: like beer and brisket, or oil and water.
The song starts with the unmistakable acoustic riff, baked by a rolling snare; the sound of Trigger, Willie’s guitar, then cuts through. Like his singing, the tone and style of Willie’s guitar playing is a form of it’s own.
Weaving in and out of time, like running water, it’s a guitar style that knows no boundary.
His voice then arrives like an old friend, in true Willie fashion:
“I’m gonna live forever
I’m gonna cross that river
I’m gonna catch tomorrow now
You’re gonna wanna hold me
Just like I always told you
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone…”
Knowing the country legends age, and COVID scare this past May, these words arrive with with an added sense of gravitas.
As Lucinda’s backing vocals made their way in, I held my breath…sat back… and smiled.
While I had worried that her accentuated and often abrasive singing style would overpower Willie’s, it actually did the opposite, giving the lead vocal lift, and added character.
They sing in harmony:
“Don’t let the darkness take ’em
Don’t make ’em feel forsaken
Just lead ’em safely to the light
When this old world is blown asunder
And all the stars from fall the sky
Remember someone really loves you
We’ll live forever, you and I…”
Songwriting and singing don’t get too much better than this.
“Live Forever” is the first single to be released from a forthcoming compilation album: Live Forever: A Tribute To Billy Joe Shaver, a new 12-track album that will feature many colleagues and admirers of Shaver, including Willie Nelson, Miranda Lambert, George Strait, and more.
Listen to “Live Forever” here: