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Billy Joe Shaver

Restless Wind: The Legendary Billy Joe Shaver 1973-1987 – 1996 (Razor & Tie)

Reviewed by Roy Kasten

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CDs by Billy Joe Shaver

Here we have a seminal country songwriter singing some of his most influential songs with elegant, swinging back-ups and a weathered and unschooled voice. "Black Rose," "Old Five and Dimers Like Me," "Ride Me Down Easy," will all be familiar to country fans, but were it not for this reissue, Shaver's versions would be lost. He doesn't have Haggard's sonorous charisma or Jennings' baritone soulfulness; still his gritty tone fits the cocksure five-and-dimers of his songs. His production moves from classic acoustic Nashville to STP-fueled honky-tonk. Shaver knows the songs from inside out. Each has an inevitability of phrasing and melody; every lyric brings an appealing humility (but never self-pity) to the outlaw. This mixture can find wisdom as in songs like "Low Down Freedom"("Low down freedom, you done cost me, everything I'll ever lose/You're as empty as my pockets, from the top of where you start to the bottom of my boots"). The only criticism is that even with 18 songs this could have been a double CD, for Shaver stands with Williams, Haggard, and Cash as one of the most prolific and consistently satisfying writers in the history of country. This collection just begins to prove it.