Review : Billy Joe Shaver - Live at Billy Bob’s Texas
AllmusicWhen it comes to the vast majority of recording artists, the answer to the question, "how many officially released live albums do I really need," carries a simple answer: zero to one. In Billy Joe Shaver's case, the question doesn't even apply. Really, just ask any fan. Though far from a household name, Shaver is revered internationally for a catalog of songs that has been covered by an astonishing array of other artists, from rockers to country artists to jazz musicians and soul singers, though none of the cover versions of his songs do justice to his own live performances. ...full text
PopmattersLike that more famous self-proclaimed Jewboy Kinky Friedman, I too claim Billy Joe Shaver as my spiritual advisor. While Friedman and Shaver are good Texas buddies, I get my inspiration solely from Shaver’s music. I did meet the man once after a show. He ended his performance with the line, “And if you don’t love Jesus, you can go to Hell.” So I went up to him and said, “I don’t love Jesus, and I am probably going to Hell, but I love your music.” He glared at me for a minute, spied the Star of David hanging around my neck, and grabbed my head in a headlock and said. “You’re Jewish? That’s okay. I believe in all religions and their gods. Judaism, Buddhism. Islam. Whatever. I just believe in a higher power and so I believe in them all just to be safe.” Then he started to cackle.
So while Shaver writes and performs songs like “You Can’t Beat Jesus Christ” during his live shows, such as the one recorded here, his religious beliefs are inclusive and appeal to our better angels. On compositions such as “Old Chunk of Coal”, “Try and Try Again”, and “Live Forever”, Shaver preaches the importance of trying to be a better human being for one’s own sake. Sure, it may be the way to personal salvation, but the emphasis is on the personal rather than salvation for the glory of a higher power. When he sings these songs here in Texas, it’s like attending a church service in a bar. Not a bad place for a preacher to be if looking for sinners.
Shaver’s individual trials and tribulations have been well documented (check out Luciana Pedraza’s excellent movie Portrait of Billy Joe for details). His father tried to kill Billy when he was still in the womb, and then his father abandoned the family. Shaver dropped out of school in the eighth grade so he could pick cotton, then lost two fingers in a machine accident. His two-time wife (married, divorced, remarried) died of cancer. Then his son Eddy died of a heroin overdose. And then Shaver had a heart attack on stage while performing. These are only some of the low points. To say he’s had a hard life is like calling the Pacific Ocean a large body of salt water. Duh.
Yet he still has a great sense of humor, especially about himself. His songs and repartee make frequent references to sex and situations from the side of the underdog on tracks like “That‘s What She Said Last Night.” He freely admits to being lazy and no account, unable to satisfy his woman but trying to love all women all the time anyway, and such. He laughs at himself, including on one of the two new songs from this live show, “Wacko from Waco”. He’s the title character, and the song makes reference to a recent infamous incident in which Shaver shot a man who was threatening Shaver with a knife outside a bar. Shaver was found innocent in a Texas courtroom, which is no easy feat. Incidentally, the CD contains both live and studio (with Willie Nelson joining in) versions of this song as well as the other new track, “The Git Go”....full text
GlidemagazineWaylon Jennings recorded nine of Billy Joe Shaver’s songs for his 1973 album Honky Tonk Heroes. It was the opening salvo of country music’s outlaw movement. Three years later Shaver declined a featured role on Wanted: The Outlaws, the best-selling record that gave the movement its name. Since then his songs have been recorded by Elvis, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and George Jones. He’s remained active as an artist, releasing a dozen albums on a half-dozen labels. Yet Shaver deserves greater recognition. A new CD/ DVD recording of twenty songs performed in concert—plus two studio versions—provides an excellent overview of his lifetime of work, as a songwriter and a performer.
Shaver’s songs are straightforward expressions of personality, contrasting with the literary style favored by contemporaries like Kris Kristofferson and Tom T. Hall. That forthrightness may explain why Shaver’s work isn’t more appreciated. It seems so easy. A description of his hardscrabble youth: “I got a good Christian raisin’ and an eighth grade education” (from “Georgia on a Fast Train”) recounts facts from his past while placing the singer squarely in the middle of country tradition. In performance he shares his born-again beliefs, “You Can’t Beat Jesus Christ,” along with details of a recent bar-room dust-up, “Wacko from Waco,” and never seems calculating. In his 2005 autobiography Billie Joe Shaver: Honky Tonk Hero, he shares his approach to songwriting: “To me, the song is poetry. That’s all it is. It’s the way I describe the world around me, make sense of it.”...full text
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