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The Real Deal

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Album Review

If any album will bring Texas legend Billy Joe Shaver the widespread acclaim and commercial success he has deserved for 30 years, The Real Deal is it. Recorded for Compadre Records, it features 14 new songs and a redo of his and his late son Eddy's classic "Live Forever" with Nashville hotshots Big & Rich. The tune's been duded up some and doesn't have the stark power the original does, but as an anthem it works like a charm. In fact, the words still shine through the mix here because at age 66, Shaver's become one hell of a singer. There are other duets here as well. Nanci Griffith makes an appearance on "Valentine," a spare, acoustically driven ballad. Kimmie Rhodes — another Austin songwriter who deserves far more than she's received — duets with him on his "West Texas Waltz." The new version is elegant, deep, and soulful. And Kevin Fowler shows up on the honky tonk strutter "Slim Chance and the Can't Hardly Playboys" with the fine lyric "They've got a new song out on Polish Records/It'll be a Polish hit real soon." Country gospel makes its appearance on "Jesus Christ Is Still the King." "You Ought to Be with Me When I'm Alone" is one of Shaver's great broken love songs. The shuffling title track lays out the truth of Shaver's own story, and it's as down-home, dirt-filled, and dusty as the West Texas landscape. The Real Deal boasts nothing it can't deliver, and it is the album Billy Joe Shaver's been waiting to make all his life. It is full of heart, blood, grit, and poetry.


Born: 16 August 1939 in Corsicana, TX

Genre: Country

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Billy Joe Shaver never became a household name, but his songs -- including "Good Christian Soldier," "Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me," and "I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train" -- became country standards during the '70s and his reputation among musicians and critics didn't diminish in the ensuing decades. One of the best synopses of Shaver's upbringing is his own song "I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train." When he sings, "My grandma's old-age pension is the reason that I'm standing here today," he...
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