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Various Artists

A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver Live – 2005 (Compadré)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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Regional icons and rising country stars help singer-songwriter Billy Joe Shaver use his 65th birthday concert to raise money for the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center on this bravura live set. Recorded at the Paramount Theater in Austin, the show boasts fresh versions of Shaver's best-known songs and tunes he requested from friends.

Of the latter, Guy Clark's narration of "The Randall Knife" is a touching highlight. Greater poignancy is evoked via Todd Snider's "Waco Moon," which describes his grieving reaction to the death of Shaver's son Eddy.

Relative newcomers Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis harmonize sweetly on Shaver's "Ride Me Down Easy" (a 1971 hit for Bobby Bare). Rodney Hayden sounds completely authentic on the bar-band classic "Black Rose" as does Cory Morrow the sacred "Live Forever."

Palpable loss informs perennial troubadour Jimmie Dale Gilmore's take on Shaver's paean to his late wife "Heart's A-Bustin'." By contrast, Dale Watson brings a breezy Cajun feel to the Waylon Jennings-associated "You Asked Me To." Yet, Shaver tops them all when he joyously essays the spiritual rebirth that enabled him to "Try and Try Again." Brimming with humor, tears, poetry and faith, this cathartic concert is strongly recommended to Texas country aficionados.