Billy Joe Shaver: Live at Billy Bob’s
By Terry Paul Roland
Billy Joe Shaver earned his status as a living legend long ago. Unlike the first days of the band he formed with his late-great son, Eddy Shaver, he is now at a point where he can relax on stage while he stands and delivers some of the finest country songs of the last 50 years covered with the familiar echo of Eddy’s earthy, blues rock guitar magic. He can also take some satisfaction today with mainstream country’s use of the hard rock influence he and Eddy explored more than 20 years ago. Of course, to pull off the magic of bringing two distinct forms of music together requires the kind of talent Shaver and son possessed back then. This is an element that is sadly missing from much of today’s country music. Today, with two live releases already out covering many of the same songs on this collection, the question is: why release a third live album? The answer is not that hard to figure out once hearing this energetic collection of Billy Joe at his best. Most important, this is his first live album since Eddy’s untimely death on New Year’s Eve, 2000. 1992′s Storyteller: Live at the Bluebird was Billy Joe and Eddy performing beautifully together in one of Nashville’s best, intimate venues. 1995′s Unshaven: At Olde Smith’s Bar, as Shaver with both Eddy and Billy Joe in peak form. Live at Billy Bob’s demonstrates that Billy Joe Shaver still has some bullets left in his old gun(not literally, of course). He’s alone now and Eddy’s absence is clear. So, this first live album without his son allows him to demonstrate he is still the Honky Tonk Hero, the unshaven saint of rowdy Texas nights. His band is competent, though not inspired. Any group of musicians would suffer in comparison to Eddy. But this band more than holds its own on such classics as “Ride Me Down Easy,” “Black Rose” and “You Asked Me To.” He also performs seldom heard songs like, “When The Word Was Thunderbird,” from the 1981 album, I’m Just An Old Chunk of Coal. The strongest feature of this new live collection is hearing his tale of the 2007 shooting in Lenora, Texas where he left a bully 20 years younger than him with a bullet from a .22 lodged in his neck. After he was acquitted in 2010, it was time to find some comedy in those trying times. Hearing his live version of “Wacko from Waco”(preveiously released earlier as a studio duet with close friend, Willie Nelson) is a living testament to the survival of an artist who continues to live out his songs in sometimes dangerous ways proving he’s still the outlaw of the old days.