Shaver The Earth Rolls On

Jerry Lee Lewis once recorded a number called "My Life Would Make A Good Country Song." The idea was probably tongue-in-cheek, at the time, but I couldn't get it out of my head while listening to this album. After decades of slogging it out on the honky tonk circuit, and being one of the instigators of the "outlaw country" movement, in recent years it finally seemed Billy Joe Shaver would get his due in the brave new alt-country world. His secret weapon was his son Eddy, a guitar wiz in the mould of Clarence White and Dickey Betts, but when he became a victim of a heroin overdose shortly after this album was completed, the loss could only be deemed incalculable. Fortunately we still have this fine album. From the sound of it, The Earth Rolls On was intended to be the long-overdue crossover to a larger rock audience, but now is a last testament to Eddy's uncommonly large talent. Of course, this adds even greater emotion when father and son duet on "Blood Is Thicker Than Water," and Billy Joe moans the title track in a voice as tough as old leather, but generally the impending tragedy isn't as evident on the rest of The Earth Rolls On. Billy Joe is one of the original good ol' boys, and that means a new slew of hurtin' classics ("New York City Girl," "You're Too Much For Me") and the occasional middle finger salute ("Leavin' Amarillo"). The album boasts lively production from Steve Earle associate Ray Kennedy, and the band includes Wilco's Jay Bennett and E Streeter Gary Tallent, helping to make it easily the equal of Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash's recent comeback recordings. Let it be merely your introduction to Billy Joe Shaver's extraordinary career. (New West)