Reviewed by Rev. Keith A. Gordon
Many of country music's greatest talents have considered Billy Joe Shaver their favorite tunesmith, and his songs have been recorded by everybody from Bobby Bare and Kris Kristofferson to Elvis Presley. Chances are that you're probably familiar with Shaver's songs even if you have no idea the man himself. Suffice it to say that what makes Shaver a great songwriter is that, for good or for bad, he puts a large part of himself into each of his autobiographical songs. As such, listening to this is like opening a book and looking at a cracked and faded old portrait of the artist.
Shaver is a Texas storyteller in the vein of Guy Clark or Townes Van Zandt. He's grizzled and gruff, humbled by too many miles and sobered by too much alcohol, and he pours his life into every song. This includes some of Shaver's best known material, like "Georgia On A Fast Train" and "Old Chunk Of Coal" as well as some of his best songs in "Old Five And Dimers" and "I Couldn't Be Me Without You." The album also offers up two previously-unreleased songs, but it's the recent remake of the high-flying "Live Forever," recorded with Big & Rich, that best showcases Shaver's warm voice above his songwriting skills.
Billy Joe Shaver's "Greatest Hits" offers up old school honky tonk country with a bit of Lone Star spirit for both new and old listeners alike.