Induction into the country outlaw club doesn’t always translate into name recognition and record sales. Case in point: Billy Joe Shaver. For more than 20 years this roadhouse rocker and consummate songwriter has resided on the obscure side of the Waylon and Willie equation. Best known for penning the bulk of Waylon Jennings’s 1973 classic Honky Tonk Heroes, Shaver later put out a few of his own albums, and they went nowhere on a fast train. But you don’t get called an outlaw for crawling off to die, which may explain how a guy in his 50s could come out of left field with Tramp on Your Street, one of the best country albums of 1993. Texas, both as state and state of mind, figures prominently here, but there’s no cliched Lone Star bravado. Shaver kicks up the honky-tonk sawdust and finds both failure and redemption there. He’s also old enough to make this a family affair of sorts. His guitarist and son Eddy, who did time with Dwight Yoakam, douses the album with manic blues riffs. But it’s the father’s words and thin, tenorish delivery that cut deepest, about not only a life lived but also the one that’s still left to play out. He sounds like a work in progress when he sings, “I’m just an old chunk of coal now, Lord / But I’m gonna be a diamond someday.” For Billy Joe Shaver, that future is now. He opens for Junior Brown. Friday, 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 525-2508. Saturday, 10 PM, FitzGerald’s, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Peter Nash.