Black Music Matters Festival

Billy Joe Shaver

I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal – 1998 (Koch)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

Originally released in 1981, this was the first of three records Billy Joe Shaver made for Columbia after moving over from Capricorn. While it is the first Shaver album on which his son Eddy appears, it's characterized more by the outlaw country sound from whence Shaver emerged than the revved-up, electric revamping Eddy contributed beginning with 1987's "Salt of the Earth."

There are a few stylistic wrinkles - the gorgeous "Blue Texas Waltz," and the western-sounding "Mexico" - but Shaver's usual concerns are here: Texas and Texans, sin and redemption, good old girls and good old times, and tales of various honky-tonk heroes, including his own dissipated, creaky, charming self (one of his perennial themes, Jesus Himself, is notable by His absence, however).

This contains as strong a collection of Shaver songs as can be found anywhere, sung in his trademark rough-hewn style. In other words, there's nothing surprising or revelatory here - just vintage Shaver.