Billy Joe Shaver

Billy Joe Shaver

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On his third album for Columbia, Billy Joe Shaver went back to the basics. Issued in 1982, long after the sheen had faded on the outlaw movement, of which Kris Kristofferson called Shaver the most authentic of the bunch, and despite five albums, he remained a figure in the shadows, though most folks knew his songs. Like Dan Penn a decade later, Shaver decided to record a set of his classics and put them out there for public consumption in a modern setting. While it didn't work commercially, it made for a hell of a record. Shaver's redos of "Been to Georgia on a Fast Train," "Ride Me Down Easy," "Lowdown Freedom," "Old Five and Dimers Like Me," "One Moving Part," "Tell Me Virginia," "How Many Hearts Must You Break," and others are delivered with the kind of humble yet burning passion that Shaver put into the songs in the first place. Here he sings them for all they're worth, wringing every ounce of spirituality, emotion, and Texas grit from the heart of them. Shaver comes across as a bigger-than-life Buddha, recounting both good times and bad, all of them held in a kind of equanimity to be reflected upon, learned from, and imparted from his experience. This is a songwriter's album to be sure, but it is also a singer's album. Never had Shaver sounded so assured, so full in possession of his voice, or so sure of his direction as on this album from 1982.

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