Billy Joe Shaver is one of the most influential songwriters in the modern history of country music. His songs have been cut by everyone from Elvis Presley to Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jennings' landmark 1973 album 'Honky Tonk Heroes' consists almost entirely of tracks he wrote. His debut solo album 'Old Five and Dimers Like Me' is considered a hallmark of the outlaw country movement in the '70s, and Willie Nelson considers him the greatest living songwriter in the world. But despite all those past accolades, the grizzled 73-year-old says the songs he's been working on for an upcoming album are the best he's ever written.

The hard-living entertainer is lucky to be alive, much less actively involved in making new music. His early penchant for alcohol and fighting is the stuff of Nashville legend, and he's outlived his wife and son, only to nearly die himself after suffering a heart attack onstage in 2001. In 2010 he was acquitted after pleading self defense in an incident in which he shot a man in the face outside of a Texas bar.

"I've screws in my shoulders, and a new knee - it's been there about two years," Shaver tells the Nashville Scene. "The other one is going out. I got a four-way bypass, had a heart attack onstage, broke my neck three times. I got stents in me all up and down. If you was to junk me, you'd get more than I'm worth. I'm beat-up, but I still got a lot of fight left in me."

Shaver released 'Live at Billy Bob's Texas' last year, a collection featuring live renditions of many of his classic songs along with two new tracks. He reveals he's currently working on a new studio album, which he is clearly enthusiastic about. "I think it's going to be the best album I ever did," the Texas troubadour says.

In fact, the new material is so strong that Shaver is loathe to jinx the project by revealing too many details. "It's so descriptive that I hesitate to tell you the titles of any songs because that'll be the end of it,' he states. "Somebody in town will write it. The big stars, if they hear it, they write around it or get influenced by it and don't even realize it. Then they play it and it looks like I'm sucking hind-tit every time."

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