Miranda Lambert interprets Billy Joe Shaver’s “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Someday)” as a barroom jam with tinkling piano, a swinging rhythm, and drawling vocals. The track is the latest release from the upcoming Live Forever: A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver, due Nov. 11.
Shaver, a real-deal outlaw who allegedly once asked a man, “Where do you want it?” before shooting him in the face, died in October 2020 at 81. Along with the mouthful title that is “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Someday),” the Texas native wrote country staples like “Live Forever,” “Old Five and Dimers Like Me,” and “Georgia on a Fast Train.” In 1973, Waylon Jennings gave Shaver his break by recording Honky Tonk Heroes, an entire album of Shaver compositions.
Live Forever, produced by Charlie Sexton and Freddy Fletcher, assembles Shaver friends and acolytes like Willie Nelson, George Strait, Rodney Crowell, Amanda Shires, Margo Price, and Allison Russell to record new versions of his songs.
“Billy Joe’s words have inspired countless artists for decades…myself included,” Lambert says in a statement. “I was singing his songs in honky-tonks all across our home state of Texas by the time I could drive. ‘I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal’ was always one of my favorites to perform. I was honored when they asked me to record it for this project and join so many of my heroes to celebrate his incredible legacy.”
Shaver is also the subject of a book released this past July by Texas A&M University Press. Live Forever: The Songwriting Legacy of Billy Joe Shaver, by author Courtney S. Lennon, aims to illustrate Shaver’s often unsung impact on country music.