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BILLY JOE SHAVER

The fatal drug overdose of Eddy Shaver this past New Year's Eve colors the words his dad sings on The Earth Rolls On (New West)--even though the pair made the album before his death. Most of the life-after-death tunes, including the gripping blues-rock title track, are actually about the passing of Billy Joe Shaver's longtime wife, Brenda, but the tunes about the father-son relationship resonate longer. "Star in My Heart" is a premature celebration of Eddy's attempt to fight his addiction; even eerier is "Blood Is Thicker Than Water," the only song on the album that Billy Joe and Eddy wrote together. The two of them nonchalantly swap digs that land with the force of Mike Tyson's fists: Billy Joe opens by disparaging his son's choice of a wife ("You found her walking the streets carrying a sack of quarters / Now she's stealing rings off the hands of your dying mother"), but Eddy lashes back, charging, "I've seen you puking out your guts and running with sluts when you was married to my mother / Now the powers that be are leading you and me like two lambs to the slaughter." Eddy's willingness to confide in his father as the verse winds down only makes his death seem that much more tragic: "I need a friend, I'm your son, and you're always going to be my father." But the album's not a complete downer: "Leavin' Amarillo," a no-holds-barred good ol' boy kiss-off, is packed with zingers like "Screw you / You ain't worth passing through." It was produced by Steve Earle cohort Ray Kennedy, who balances Eddy's blues-drenched guitar pyrotechnics with a bright twang; it's as good or better than any of the five other albums the Shavers recorded together. Shaver is playing two nights at FitzGerald's four-day American Music Festival; on the second, he'll be joined by fellow Texan Jessie Taylor. Saturday, June 30, 9:30 PM, and Sunday, July 1, 9:15 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118. The music starts around 1 PM both days; see Folk & Country listings for complete lineups. Shaver also plays a free in-store at 3 PM on Sunday at Record Emporium, 3346 N. Paulina; 773-248-1821. PETER MARGASAK

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