Billy Joe Shaver

Greatest Hits

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You're forgiven if you wondered "Since when did Billy Joe Shaver have any hits?" when looking at the title of this album. However, if there's anyone who deserves enough hits to fill a CD, it's Shaver, and this compilation offers an overview of his career since joining forces with Compadre Records in 2002. This timing is a bit problematic, since it means his earlier recordings for Columbia, Capricorn, Zoo, and New West aren't here, and those labels have the rights to much of his best and most popular songs, and a number of his best known tunes (such as "Georgia on a Fast Train," "Old Chunk of Coal," and "Honky Tonk Heroes") are included in live recordings that, while spirited, aren't quite up to the standards of the studio originals. However, even lesser Billy Joe Shaver is better than 95-percent of what comes out of Nashville on any given month, and if Greatest Hits is lacking as a career overview, it delivers some great songs and powerful performances from a living legend of American songwriting. Shaver compiled this album and includes a few welcome surprises, such as "Step on Up," from his posthumous collaboration with late son Eddy Shaver, Billy and the Kid, some rough and ready honky tonk rave-ups such as "That's What She Said Last Night" and "Hottest Thing in Town," and a powerful love song for his late wife, "I Couldn't Be Me Without You" (prefaced with a funny but poignant story of how it was written). If you want a collection of Billy Joe Shaver's classic early recordings, you should look for Restless Wind: The Legendary Billy Joe Shaver 1973-1987, a superb anthology on Razor and Tie, but this is a potent sampling of his more recent work and shows that this Honky Tonk Hero still deserves his legendary status.

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