Billy Joe Shaver

Victory – 1998 (New West)

Reviewed by Joel Bernstein

Billy Joe Shaver's songs have always been imbued with spirituality, so it should be no big surprise he's made an album that's unabashedly Christian music. Lyrically, it represents no great change. In fact, he's recorded at least five of these songs on previous albums. Given Shaver's propensity for recycling songs, it's probably more amazing that so many of these tunes are ones he's never recorded before. Of those, the very short ending songs, "The Bow And The Arrow" and Christmas tune "Presents From The Past" are especially fine, even if they could each use another verse.

The big change on this album is musical. Gone is the rock band sound from some recent releases. This acoustic recording is just Billy Joe on vocals and guitar, and son Eddy on guitar and dobro. Billy Joe's singing, always based more on passion than power, is more relaxed and soulful in this setting. He's not the smoothest singer in the world, but freed from having to strain to be heard over a band, he is as emotionally riveting as anyone. There are a lot of louder albums than this, but few that are more powerful.