in performance: billy joe shaver

billy joe shaver

“I’m gonna do one here that I recorded way before most of you all were born,” said a lean and spirited Billy Joe Shaver before a sizable crowd of remarkably diverse ages last night at Cosmic Charlie’s.

The tune was Thunderbird, a song that has long emphasized the harder and, at times, harsher side of the honky tonk inspirations that have been at the heart of the veteran Texas songsmith’s best music. For Shaver, the tune was something of a sermon – one that wasn’t preached so much as simply felt. He dropped to his knees as an immensely electric guitar solo from Jeremy Woodall wailed and later raised his hands to the heavens as the tune’s final verses chimed away.

Overall, a surprisingly loose Shaver was in action this night, one that fronted an industrious quartet that did some serious reeling in the years as the two hour program progressed. He joked about his marriages, his bad habits and his wild times from the past. But there was some reformation at work, too. Throughout the show, Shaver sipped nothing stronger than bottled water, but still belted out near suicidal rampages like Ragged Old Truck with bloodshot relish.

Stylistically, the show covered considerable ground. Half of the performance emphasized semi-acoustic arrangements, as on Bottom Dollar and a fascinating Oklahoma Wind that had drummer Jason McKenzie diverting the groove to tabla.

The show highlight, though, was a solo reading of Light a Candle for Me that faded into an a capella finale surrounded by remarkable audience quiet.

Sure, Shaver had to stop the tune early on and politely scold a few revelers near the stage to get establish that quiet. But the point proved effective. After all, when Billy Joe Shaver tells you settle down… well, brother, you had best shut your yap.



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