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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Shaver shows his spiritual, optimistic side

Johnny D's, Somerville, Mass., Nov. 18, 1998

By Jeffrey B. Remz

SOMERVILLE - The attention of the country music world may have been on Garth Brooks and his massive marketing effort in putting out "Garth Brooks: Double Live," but he was not the only game in town Wednesday for music fans of the genre.

One of the real outlaws of country, Billy Joe Shaver, was back in town at Johnny D's in Somerville touting his latest gem, "Victory."

The album on the new, small New West label out of Minnesota, showcases Shaver (Billy Joe and his son Eddy) playing spiritually- and Christian-based songs in an acoustic vein.

And during a 90-minute show, the duo worked quite well together on several levels.

Seated throughout the set, Billy Joe Shaver offered messages of hope and inspiration whether about his love for Jesus or his ex-wife, Brenda, who he is twice divorced from, but soon to tie the knot yet again.

"Ain't no two ways about it/I have been saved by Jesus Christ," Shaver sings plaintively in "You Can't Beat Jesus Christ."

Later, Shaver tackles love in the quiet "When the Fallen Angels Fly: "I don't know if anyone's ever loved me/the way you love me tonight."

While the songs tackle heavy duty topics, nothing came across as heavy handed or preachy in the case of the spiritual songs. In fact, there is a believability and honesty to Shaver's songs.

Shaver, 59, isn't the most compelling of singers with his rough voice, though, he was generally in good form. He had an easy going stage presence, at ease with his station in life. He did well in playing songs from various parts of his career, including "Old Five and Dimers," "Live Forever" and Georgia on a Fast Train."

Eddy was a standout throughout, on acoustic guitar, whether playing bluesy licks (the opener "Good News Blues" was a standout), slide or straight country. Fiddler Matt Leavenworth, a stalwart of the Boston country scene, helped out on several cowboy songs, offering some musical diversity.

Now the Texan will never ever even hope to reach the meteoric sales figures of Brooks, but Shaver's message of hope and sustenance is at least as compelling.