Friday, September 10, 2004


As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Sept. 10, 2004

It’s curious that Billy and the Kid is credited solely to Billy Joe Shaver, considering that most of the vocals and songwriting and virtually all of the guitar work was done by his son Eddy, who was “the Kid” of the title.

It’s ironic because during the years that Eddy Shaver played with his dad, the albums were credited to “Shaver,” a band name that was shorthand for giving the father and the son equal credit.

And as a matter of fact, most the cuts here were originally intended as part of an Eddy Shaver solo album -- a project that was halted when Eddy died of a drug overdose on New Year’s Eve 2000.

In the liner notes Billy Joe writes that he and his son’s musical collaborator Tony Colton finished the album after “visits and instructions from Eddy.” I’ve listen to enough of Billy Joe Shaver’s music to know that this God-fearing Texan is not the type to make such a claim lightly.

While it’s touching that Shaver would do this for his son, the sad truth is that it doesn’t measure up to most of his albums of the past 10-15 years.

First of all, poor Eddy just wasn’t the songwriter his dad is. In truth, few people are. Billy Joe’s tunes on Waylon Jennings’ classic Honky Tonk Heroes (including the title song, “You Asked Me To,“ “Black Rose” and seven others) practically defined the “outlaw” movement of the ‘70s. (And Billy Joe didn’t rest on his laurels. His songwriting in the last 10 years is as strong as ever.)
Secondly, Eddy’s music, a metal-tinged blues/boogey that seems to aim somewhere between Stevie Ray Vaughan and Gv’t. Mule, gets monotonous.

That’s not to say Eddy doesn’t have some good moments on this album. “Baptism of Fire,” a live recording, is a slow burner. With its images of “long legged women in short, short skirts,” and “holy rollers who ride subway trains,” sung to a backdrop of liquidy guitar, shows Eddy at least had the beginnings of an interesting songwriting career.

The same could be said of “Eagle on the Ground,” a demo featuring just Eddy and his guitar. The picking is flashy on this minor-key tune, but the lyrics, which deal with the cost of addiction -- “there were demons in them bottles that tore the angels down and set afire their wings” -- give the song its punch.

But it’s the father, not the kid, who has the best songs on the album.

“Fame,” a lo-fi recording of Billy Joe strumming a guitar, is a simple but moving reflection about loss and failure.

But best of all is the ultra-spooky “Window Rock,” in which Shaver’s fire-and brimstone Christianity melds with Native American mysticism. Over a spacey, psychedelia-dripping guitarscape by Eddy, Billy Joe sings:

“If you take enough peyote, evil ones will soon find you/They will stalk you in the dream world, but Window Rock will see you through/by the light of the Navajo moon.”

I can see why Billy Joe wanted to complete his son’s album. And besides, you can’t argue with “visits and instructions.” But I’m hoping he’s busy right now writing new songs and getting on with his own work.


* Rubber Factory by The Black Keys.
Normally the music snob in me would look askance and hold my nose at a couple of goofy looking white kids from Akron, Ohio making a career of pounding the crap out of cranked up old blues riffs.

That’s exactly what The Black Keys do. And not much more.

But somehow, they make it work. In fact the new album by The Keys, for the most part is just as brash and unabashed -- and just as simple -- as their previous two.

But singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach seems to be singing with more confidence. And Patrick Carney tears into his drum set as if he’s trying to summon the wicked spirit of Keith Moon. The music bounces and flows.

Most the songs are raw garage blues rampages. But there are a couple of spots where the Keys dare to get pretty. “The Lengths” is a minimalist soul ballad, with Auerbach making a lap steel scream for joy.

All but two of the songs are original (O.K., “Stack Shot Billy” is a rewrite of “Stagolee”). But their choice of covers shows The Keys have fine tastes.

“Act Nice And Gentle” is an old Kinks song. Auerbach and Carney perform it like a tougher version of Mungo Jerry. (And the lap steel gets a great workout here.)

The other cover is bluesman Robert Pete Williams’ ode to self-loathing, “Grown So Ugly,” previously covered (37 years ago) by Capt. Beefheart. The Keys were undoubtedly influenced by Beefheart’s version, but theirs is even more primitive.

The Black Keys will be in Santa Fe 10 p.m. Tuesday. They’re playing at The Paramount. They’re the official “after party” for Neko Case and The Handsome Family, who are playing earlier at The Lensic. Tickets for the Black Keys are $12, but if you have a Neko ticket stub they’re only $5.

Big Barn Dance: Taos singer Michael Hearne presents his second annual Big Barn Dance this weekend at The Old Blinking Light and Casa de Caballos Barn in Taos. The acts this year include Terri Hendrix with Lloyd Maines, Bill & Bonnie Hearne, The Buckarettes, Manzanares, Syd Masters & The Swing Riders, Shake Russell & Dana Cooper, Luke Reed, Mentor Williams, The Rifters and of course Michael Hearne & South by Southwest.

Ticket prices range from $25 to $50. For a complete schedule CLICK HERE

No comments:

Post a Comment

THROWBACK THURSDAY: The History of "Happy Birthday to You"

  Tomorrow, September 22, 2023, will mark the 8th anniversary of a federal judge's landmark decision that declared the song...