The Real Deal

With BILLY JOE SHAVER, it’s a package deal. Along with the amiable stylings and songwriting genius that have attracted everyone from Tom T. Hall to Elvis Presley, you get the foibles: odd musical choices, a sincere but heavy-handed Christian didacticism, and substandard songs that play like a parody of, well, Billy Joe Shaver. There’s a bit of all this on THE REAL DEAL (Compadre), Shaver’s first proper studio album in three years. His chestnut “Live Forever” gets the anthemic treatment, with platinum hats Big & Rich joining in, and there’s an ill-conceived Nanci Griffith duet along with some funny songs that aren’t all that funny. Yet “There’s No Fool Like an Old Fool,” “Sweet Melody,” and the title track are three pieces of trademark Shaver magic. Judging by these, this old chunk of coal’s still got a lot of fire in him.

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