Texas music legend Billy Joe Shaver will tour heavily during the final weeks of 2009 and most of the year 2010 as he looks to a new album and a series of live dates with Texas confrere Willie Nelson. This past spring, no less than Bob Dylan mentioned him in the lyrics of his song “I Feel a Change Comin’ On” from his album Together, Through Life: “I’m listening to Billy Joe Shaver and I’m reading James Joyce/Some people they tell me I’ve got the blood of the land in my voice.”
Shaver will appear in a sold-out show with Texas music royalty Willie Nelson, Ray Price, Billy Bob Thornton and Kris Kristofferson on Wednesday, December 16 at Carl’s Corner in Hill Country, Texas. He has also launched what he calls the “Bottom Dollar Shows” to keep the music flowing in recession-plagued times. Selected home state live dates will cost $1 to attend. He can afford to do this because he’s found that when the cover charge is low, he sells far more merchandise and CDs. “We’re going to start this at our Willie’s Nightlife Theater date on December 20, and if it catches on, we’re going to take it everywhere,” he says.
Two new guitarists have joined Shaver’s band in recent weeks: Jamie Hartford, powerhouse guitarist and son of the late John Hartford, and 15-year-old Adam Carter, a South Carolinian who learned much of his technique by listening to the late Eddy Shaver’s recorded work.
Shaver has been writing material for the new album and is starting to talk with producers. He is excited about a new composition, “The Get Go,” which he’s debuting in live appearances.
In recent months, Shaver has learned that he comes from historic bloodlines. His great-great-great grandfather was Evan Thomas Watson (1759-1834), a Virginia-born Revolutionary War veteran who settled in an area of the Arkansas Territory that would become part of Texas. Shaver has known since childhood that he’s part Native American as well, but recently learned that he’s also a descendant of Crazy Horse, the respected war leader of the Oglala Lakota who fought against the U.S in an effort to preserve the traditions and values of the Lakota way of life and participated in the Battle of the Little Bighorn in June 1876. Shaver recently visited the tribe’s reservation, close to where a large mountain carving similar to Mount Rushmore is being created as a Crazy Horse Memorial. He was given a Native American name: Spirit Eagle.
Shaver is truly one of the most respected living figures in American music. Johnny Cash called him “my favorite songwriter.” (He has written for Cash as well as Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, The Allman Brothers and Bobby Bare.) The Washington Post noted, “when the country outlaws were collecting their holy writings, Billy Joe Shaver was carving out Exodus.”
The All Music Guide lists 23 albums, from 1973’s Old Five & Dimers Like Me on Monument Records through 2007’s Everybody’s Brother on Compadre Records. Among his many classic songs are “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Some Day),” “Honky Tonk Heroes,” “Georgia on a Fast Train,” “Live Forever,” “Tramp on Your Street,” and “Try and Try Again.”
The following are Shaver’s dates for the holiday season and the start of 2010:
Sat., Dec. 5, 2009 SAVANNAH, GA The Jinx
Sun., Dec. 12 COLUMBIA, SC White Mule Music Pub
Wed., Dec. 9 BIRMINGHAM, AL Zydeco’s
Thurs., Dec. 10 RUSTON, LA The Dawghouse
Fri., Dec. 11 FORT WORTH, TX Longhorn Saloon
Fri., Dec. 18 HOUSTON, TX Firehouse
Sat., Dec. 19 FREDERICKSBURG, TX Luckenbach Dancehall
Tues., Jan. 5, 2010 STEAMBOAT, CO Big Ski Trip
Sat., Jan. 16 STEPHENVILLE, TX City Limits
Fri., Feb. 12 AUSTIN, TX Paramount Theatre
Thurs., March 11 THE WOODLANDS, TX Dosey Doe