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Music Review: Billy Joe Shaver – Live At Billy Bob’s Texas

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Billy Joe Shaver is one of those survivors who just keeps on ticking. The loss of his wife, son, court problems, and a major heart attack may have slowed him a bit but he continues to be active on the road and in his second career as an actor.

His first claim to fame was as a Nashville songwriter during the early 1970s, when such artists as Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Elvis Presley, and others recorded his material. While his own albums have sold moderately down through the years, his 1973 release, Old Five And Dimers Like Me, has been acclaimed as an early classic in the country outlaw movement.

Shaver has always been a dynamic performer on stage. He and his backing band of second guitarist Jeremy Lynn Woodall, bassist Matt Davis, and drummer Jason McKenzie pulled into the legendary 127,000 square foot honky tonk, Billy Bob’s Texas, located in Fort Worth, on September 17, 2011. That performance is being released appropriately as Live At Billy Bob’s Texas, which is a two-disc set containing both a CD and DVD of the performance. He is the 42nd artist to record a live album at the venue.

The 22 tracks, which include two new songs, are a travel through his career, as he brings many of his better songs to life. The concert opens with the rocking “Heart Of Texas” and the energy continues throughout the performance. Many of his best-known songs such as “Georgia on a Fast Train,” “Honky Tonk Heroes,” “Old Chunk of Coal,” “Live Forever,” and “Old Five and Dimers” are resurrected from his past.

At times during his career, Shaver’s sound has bordered on rock and roll. “That’s What She Said Last Night,” “Black Rose,” and “Hottest Thing In Town” find him rocking within a honky tonk framework. His a cappella treatment of “Star In My Heart” proves that his voice is still able to carry a song by itself.

The two new songs are “Wacko From Waco,” which is an amusing look at his recent legal problems and “The Git Go,” which is a summary of the facts of life from his perspective.

Now in his early 70s, Billy Joe Shaver will no doubt continue performing for the rest of his life. As he says, “When you write good songs, people will always remember you.” There are a lot of good songs on this album. If you have not been exposed to the music of Billy Joe Shaver, this is a good place to start.

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