Billy Joe Shaver returns to L.A. on Saturday
There are outlaws and there are outlaws in country music. There's the metaphorical type, represented by musical iconoclasts such as Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, and the literal kind, like Merle Haggard, who did a stint in San Quentin for burglary and attempted escape during his reckless youth.
Then there’s Billy Joe Shaver, the esteemed Texas singer and songwriter who’s returning to the Redwood Bar in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, not long on the heels of his acquittal in April for shooting a man outside a bar in 2007. He's also every bit the musical iconoclast of his higher profile pals.
Last fall, when he played the Redwood, it was a real life enactment of “Crazy Heart”: a veteran musician who is lionized by his peers -- Jennings recorded an entire album of Shaver’s songs, “Honky Tonk Heroes,” in 1973 -- but little known outside musical circles was backed without rehearsal by a group of young admirers he met upon walking into the bar. One of the songs he sang that night, “Live Forever,” showed up in “Crazy Heart,” sung by Robert Duvall.
At that time, Shaver said he was following lawyers’ advice not to speak of the case because it was still in progress, but went on to assert that the shooting, in which he injured a man whom he said had threatened him, was self-defense. The jury agreed, and acquitted him.
Now he’s back on the road, and as much as Shaver is respected for his skill with a pen, he’s also a remarkably engaging performer, often waving his arms and twisting his body to get across his trenchant songs such as “Old Five and Dimers Like Me,” "Georgia on a Fast Train" and “I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal,” which John Anderson recorded.
Eilen Jewel and Dave Gleason will open Saturday’s show for Shaver.
-- Randy Lewis
Photo of Billy Joe Shaver by Dave McClister. Credit: Compadre Records / Music World Entertainment