The third and last of Billy Joe Shaver's Columbia Records albums of the 1980s, Salt of the Earth was the singer/songwriter's first album of all-new material in six years and his last recording for another six, making it, by definition, a pivotal album in his infrequent recording career. It effectively encapsulates his characteristic style, from the hard rocking honky tonk of "Whiteman's Watermelon" to the gentle "Hill Country Love Song." Shaver's conflicted morality allows him to announce fervently that "You Just Can't Beat Jesus Christ," then follow that song with "The Devil Made Me Do It the First Time" (the inevitable punchline being, "the next time, I done it on my own"). In Shaver's world, men work hard and play hard, too, and faith is observed more in intention than practice. Self-referential, funny, and moving, Shaver's songs, sung with cracked-voice conviction and played with gutbucket force, define outlaw style, here as on his other recordings. This album didn't get a lot of attention when it was first released in 1987, and Sony's Lucky Dog imprint did fans a service on September 19, 2000, by remastering and reissuing it as part of its Pick of the Litter series of deserving, underappreciated vintage albums.
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