Waylon and Willie and Johnny and Kris may have lit the fire of public awareness, but those in the know will likely attest to the fact that when the so-called outlaw country movement first took flight, it was Billy Joe Shaver who helped lead the charge. His album "Old Five and Dimers" remains an undisputed classic of the genre, the perfect prototype when it comes to hard-bitten narratives with a rowdy, rambunctious appeal. Likewise, no one questioned his credibility when he unabashedly dubbed an album "Real Deal" a few years back. Clearly then, Shaver is still trumpeting his wares, and if any evidence is needed, "Live at Billy Bob's" is the document that proves it.
Shaver's testimony to unhinged indulgence and unapologetic intentions shines through the majority of these 22 songs, spread scattershot across both a CD and DVD each recorded in a single night of revelry at Billy Bob's, the infamous Fort Worth honky-tonk that's frequent host to many an insurgent ensemble. The sweat-soaked set boasts its fair share of stand-outs - a stripped down take on signature song Old Five and Dimers, a relentlessly rocking Georgia On a Fast Train, the bawdy double entendres of That's What She Said Last Night, a cynically self-effacing Wacko from Waco et. al. - while the energy remains urgent and unimpeded throughout. Although recorded on the heels of several potential setbacks - a 2007 assault charge, recent heart surgery and an aggravated shoulder injury, this 73-year old troubadour shows more spit and sass than many artists with only a fraction of his years. Indeed, Shaver takes the same unrepentant stance advanced by Willie, Merle and David Allan Coe, rebels and raconteurs who make no concession to age or infirmity.
Ultimately, "Live At Billy Bob's Texas" provides both the perfect primer for those unaware and a timely rejoinder for anyone who may harbor their doubts. Shaver continues at the top of his game, and that tireless tenacity is delivered intact.