Welcome to another edition of CMM’s Tracks of the Day! Each day we highlight two songs that we love and believe you might have missed. Generally, one song is “older” and one song is “newer.” We often strive for there to be a connection between the two artists, and that’s definitely the case today.
Because of a lack of commercial success, Billy Joe Shaver may not enjoy the same level of name recognition as fellow outlaws like Waylon and Willie, but he was just as integral to the development of the outlaw movement and sound. He’s also widely considered to be one of the great songwriters in country music, and the country-blues-rocker “Thunderbird” is one of my favorite songs of his. The narrator is a man who has reached middle-age and has little to show for it: a crappy job and a passionless marriage. He wishes he could go back to his youth, when it was possible to do things like buy a jug of Thunderbird wine for a small amount of money. It was originally released on the 1976 album When I Get My Wings, and Shaver has rerecorded the song multiple times over the years in different styles. An “electrified”, more uptempo version from the 1999 album Electric Shaver is also terrific, and I struggled to decide which version to highlight here.
Jason Boland is another great artist carrying the outlaw torch, and Shaver is likely one of his primary influences, as his cover of “Thunderbird”, which rivals any other version, will attest. While Boland can do deep and dark ballads with the best of them, presented here is one of my favorite “fun” songs by Boland and his band The Stragglers, “Down Here on Earth”, which features intelligent lyrics about living life to the fullest and a very catchy chorus. Unfortunately, much of Boland’s catalog isn’t available on Youtube so I couldn’t highlight the original studio recording, but this excellent performance from the live album High in the Rockies is just as good.