Billy Joe Shaver

Gypsy Boy

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For his second record on Phil Walden's Capricorn label, Billy Joe Shaver and Walden pulled out all the stops. Knowing that the material was there, it was just a question of bringing the right group of players and a production team to bring it out and present it to the public. Produced by Emmylou Harris' husband at the time, Brian Ahern, the album features his Nash Vegas new country mafia: Emmylou herself; Rodney Crowell, then a member of her Hot Band; Ricky Skaggs; Nicolette Larsen; Neil Young's producer and pianist, David Briggs; his steel player, Ben Keith; legendary country guitarist James Burton; country harmonicat supreme Mickey Raphael; drummer Karl Himmel; bassist Norb Putnam; Randy Scruggs; and others. While Shaver wrote most of the tunes here, including one of his signature anthems, "Honky Tonk Heroes," "Silver Wings of Time," and his first-ever single, "Chicken on the Ground" (re-recorded here), it is some of the collaborations and covers that make the album a standout. Most notably is Crowell's "In Going Crazy in 3/4 Time," a masterpiece written for Shaver's style of slow, deliberate delivery that is so moving. Add to this Shaver's collaboration with Bobby Bare on "We Stayed Too Long at the Fair" and the album closer, "You Asked Me To," with Willie Nelson and the evidence is plain to see that Shaver and his team had learned how to make a songwriter's album. This has the emotional depth of his Capricorn debut, but places Shaver at the center of his songs like the masterful storyteller he is. With the background singing and dynamite playing, Gypsy Boy really moves and stirs. It's one of Shaver's finest moments on record.

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