Many listeners have only heard of Blaze Foley/Michael Fuller through others’ versions of his songs, or even from the Malvern native being mentioned as a subject in the songs of others — although hopes are this will change with the release of “Blaze.” The best-known Foley tribute songs are Townes Van Zandt’s “Blaze’s Blues” from 1994, and “Drunken Angel” by Lucinda Williams from her Grammy-winning 1998 album “Car Wheels On A Gravel Road.” Before recording an entire album of Foley songs in 2011, guitarist Gurf Morlix recorded a tribute song in 2009 called “Music You Might Have Made.” More unlikely acolytes Kings of Leon recorded a tribute song called “Reverend” in 2016.
It’s Foley’s compositions that are his musical legacy, of course, but that’s especially so with so few official Foley recordings available — and with his incisive songwriting so ripe for interpretation. In 2003, Lyle Lovett released a version of the Foley song “Election Day.” In 2005, John Prine issued his notable version of Foley’s “Clay Pigeons.” “Blaze” co-star Alia Shawkat’s “Arrested Development” castmate Michael Cera also recorded a version of “Clay Pigeons” in 2014. The Avett Brothers often perform the song live.
Following an aborted duet single release of the song with Willie Nelson in 1987, Merle Haggard issued a solo version of “If I Could Only Fly” in 2000 — and even made it the title of the album (his 50th!), which became a late-career comeback album for Haggard, called “his masterpiece” by the British Guardian newspaper. Little Rock native Jim Dickinson cut a version of the song for his 2002 release, “Free Beer Tomorrow”; Rogers native Joe Nichols recorded a version in 2007 and Nanci Griffith recorded it in 2009.