Billy Joe Shaver | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Billy Joe Shaver

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One of the original members of country music's outlaw movement, Billy Joe Shaver penned all but one of the songs on Waylon Jennings's classic 1973 album Honky Tonk Heroes, and since then his songs have been recorded by everyone from the Allman Brothers to Elvis Presley. A veritable handbook of badass existence, they're rife with hard drinking and hard loving and other details of a rough Texas life. Shaver's own solo career produced a few hits in the 70s but fizzled out long ago. He staged a surprising comeback a few years ago with the superb Tramp on Your Street, which reunited him with Waylon on several tunes and generally charged up his music with a new energy; he's been getting his due as a dark lurking presence in country music ever since. Joined by son Eddy, a hot-shit lead guitarist who worked with Dwight Yoakam in the 80s, he combines honky-tonk twang with an exuberant hard-rock bluster, borrowing the energy of rock without losing his essential good-old-boy vibe. The recent Unshaven: Live at Smith's Olde Bar (Zoo) offers stunning testimony to his live power. Produced by Pearl Jam knob twirler Brendan O'Brien, the CD captures a drum-tight trio letting loose: Eddy Shaver's fat leads retain a hearty twang amid the flash, while his father's heartfelt singing warbles over top. Billy Joe Shaver may have achieved his long-overdue success, but he's still a hell-raising outsider who could easily kick the ass of just about any Nashville star. Friday, 10 PM, Whiskey River, 1997 N. Clybourn; 528-3400.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Hugh Brown.

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