Billy Joe Shaver delights
Cactus Cafe, Austin, Texas, Nov. 24, 2002
By Andy Turner
AUSTIN, Texas - Colorful and charming to the core, Billy Joe Shaver is a delight to watch perform.
In a show on the campus of the University of Texas for the CD release of "Freedom's Child," his exceptional new album on Compadre Records, Shaver was in a very good mood, having earlier in the day won some sort of "chicken shit contest" at Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon.
The early part of the show focused nearly exclusively on material from the new album, including "Hold On to Yours (And I'll Hold Onto Mine)," "Magnolia Mother's Love," "Corsicana Daily Sun" and the naughty "That's What She Said Last Night," which became a running punch line throughout the night.
Shaver and his more than capable backing band then tore through his classics like "I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train," "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal" and "Woman is the Wonder of the World" and provided a rollicking rendition of "Black Rose."
He played "Love is So Sweet" and "Star in My Heart" from "The Earth Rolls On," the last album he recorded with his late son Eddy, who died of a drug overdose on Dec. 31, 2000. He made reference to Eddy at the conclusion of "Star in My Heart," a song about the sometimes rocky relationship between the two.
It's been well documented that his son's tragic death is far from the only heartache Billy Joe Shaver has experienced over the years. Literally in some cases: He had a heart attack on stage on last year.
But Shaver showed no signs of slowing down. He often acted out lines from his songs and was full of energy and enthusiasm all night. Hell, he even jumped up in the air and smiled when he sang, "Love is so sweet, it makes you bounce when you walk down the street." And it was impossible not to smile with him.
Shaver concluded with "Try and Try Again," a song that he delivered with more evangelistic intensity than what's good for a man with a history of heart trouble.
Somehow, though, it seems foolish to worry about the strength of Billy Joe Shaver's heart.
Opener Hayes Carll was outstanding during his brief performance. The Houston-area singer-songwriter is getting a lot of acclaim for his debut, "Flowers and Liquor" (also on Compadre), and it certainly seemed warranted.
Carll was good-natured and humorous between songs, and his well-written story songs such as "Highway 87" and "Easy Come Easy Go" bring to mind the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Lyle Lovett and Charlie Robison.