Billy Joe Shaver

Billy and the Kid

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The very nature of this project -- Billy Joe Shaver and producer Tony Colton collecting and "finishing" some songs by Shaver's late son, guitar wrangler and songwriter Eddy -- is fraught with wrenching emotion and struggle; evaluating it is perhaps pointless. But Billy Joe Shaver has done not only an admirable thing, but a worthy one aesthetically. He lays his own broken heart out for the listener on the opening track, "Fame." Raw, accompanied only by his faltering guitar, Shaver digs deep in to offer his gratitude for what he still has -- his unchanging nature, his friends, his life -- in spite of everything -- losing his mother-in-law, mother, wife, and son inside of a year -- and reflects the confounding nature of fame and desire. Billy Joe sings on three more tracks, all of them demoed by Eddy, and a rhythm section; his vocals finish them. On "Lighting a Torch," with its squalling hard rock guitar edge and plodding lyric line, Billy Joe sings Eddy's words with a razored wisdom he wished he didn't have, and indeed, sings them into the ether expecting a response: "I never seen a darker sunrise/I've never felt a deeper pain/The very moment you were dust on the rise/ I was lighting a torch with a brand new flame/You can see me on the dark night/A shadow down in the neon light/ I take my whiskey and I wait for the pain/Lightin' a torch with a brand new flame..." The other seven cuts are all Eddy in one form or another. There's "Baptism of Fire," from a live date in Nashville. It proves him not only a smoking player, but a fine songwriter and worthy frontman. His lyrics, sung in a tense, barely restrained bluesman's baritone, are full of iconic images, metaphors for spiritual and fleshly truth. The demos of Eddy playing guitars and singing, like "Eagle on the Ground," are rough but full of finesse, vision, and heart nonetheless."If It Don't Kill You," which Eddy wrote with Colton and Lacy J. Dalton, is a burning metallic rocker, full of riffing and menacing force and is poignant in its appropriation of Nietzsche: "If it don't kill ya' /It's got to make you strong." The sheer drifting atmospherics on "Window Rock," with Billy Joe singing over Eddy's ghostly guitars across the curtain of mortal existence is hunted, beautiful, and desolate. The album ends with Eddy playing the blues on "Necessary Evil." Just a guitar and his voice, moaning them out and piercing them with his leads. Then profound silence. This is a last testament, finished out of love and agony; it should be embraced for that, but also for its considerable evidence of the depth and beauty of Eddy's talent. That silence is deafening.

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