Billy Joe Shaver | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Billy Joe Shaver 

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BILLY JOE SHAVER

Most of the major figures of the 70s outlaw movement--including Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and David Allan Coe--have continued to make listenable records into the 90s, but Billy Joe Shaver might be the only one who's done his best work this decade. Though he's still best known for writing most of the tunes on Jennings's 1973 classic Honky Tonk Heroes, his 90s albums for Zoo and Justice have captured him as a giant presence in his own right, overshadowing alt-country pretenders with the real, uncut shit. His latest offering is an all-acoustic gospel album called Victory (New West)--after his mother. Billy Joe's abetted only by his hotshot guitar-slinging son Eddy, and his singing has never sounded better. Some of the tunes, such as "Live Forever" and "Old Five and Dimers," have been recorded before in full band versions, but the lean purity and conceptual solemnity of Victory seem to have prodded him to greater heights. On a certain level the album is an anomaly in Shaver's oeuvre, but its unpreachy themes have percolated in his music for years. Many of the songs deal with the difficulty of reconciling spiritual yearning with hard living--one of several threads also explored in Robert Duvall's The Apostle, in which Shaver made his acting debut as the title character's best friend. Shaver will perform with his electric band on the first evening of the two-night Harvest Moon Festival at FitzGerald's. Sharing the bill with him are the Chicago Cajun Aces, C.J. Chenier, Honeyboy Edwards with Devil in a Woodpile, and the V-Roys, whose new All About Town (E-Squared) continues the Nashville quartet's unremarkable exploration of pure pop and hardscrabble country rock. Friday, 6 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Billy Joe and Eddy Shaver photo by Peter Nash.

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