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Billy Joe Shaver

Old Five And Dimers Like Me – 1996 (Koch)

Reviewed by Joel Bernstein

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CDs by Billy Joe Shaver

Billy Joe Shaver has earned a reputation as one of the greatest of Texas music singer-songwriters, and this album - originally released in 1973 - had a lot to do with that, despite its own meager sales.

Shaver has been associated in people's minds with the '70's outlaw movement of Willie and Waylon, who cut many of his songs. The great Tom T. Hall wrote the liner notes. Bobby Bare discovered Shaver and had the first hits with his material (though usually ignored by revisionist historians). Kris Kristofferson, who produced this album, was at the time the hippest and hottest songwriter in America (hard to believe as that may be now). All of those people couldn't be wrong, and they weren't.

This is a brilliant album, one of the absolute classics of its genre, and its CD release was long overdue. Shaver himself has recorded "I Been To Georgia On A Fast Train" many times, and some of the other songs, like "Black Rose" and the title track, have become common enough for the impact of this album to be dimmed slightly. But only slightly, for these are still the best versions.

Shaver has never had a great voice, but it was stronger in his youth, and he sounds fresh and passionate. Two bonus tracks out for the first time are inferior to those originally issued, but still well worth hearing. Grab this one!