In this week's episode, we're featuring the hardscrabble, renegade raconteur Billy Joe Shaver's Columbia debut: "I'm Just An Old Chunk Of Coal" (1981). Shaver's story is one of persistence, resilience, raw talent and significant ups and downs - but his rise to a respected elder statesman of the Outlaw country scene has been almost entirely organic. With virtually no aid from the mainstream country establishment, longtime friend Willie Nelson directed Shaver to Nashville, where he found himself beating down doors until an eventual tentative hire for $50/week as a songwriter for Bobby Bare. However, after Waylon Jennings recorded almost an entire album of his songs in '73 on his seminal "Honky Tonk Heroes" album, Shaver's stock skyrocketed amongst his peers. With Jennings' success, Shaver's songwriting talent became became clear and his debut record followed in the same year. His grimy, gritty vocal that lilts and drawls from one lyric to another makes listening to "I'm Just An Old Chunk Of Coal" an "almost religious experience" (according to one reviewer) - and highlights include the driving "Fit To Kill And Going Out In Style"; some glorious three quarter time stepping to "Blue Texas Waltz" and longtime fans will recall with fondness the time that Shaver combined his unhappy marriage, very real thoughts of suicide, a whole sheet of LSD and a ragged old truck into a 20th Century country masterclass.
- If That Ain't Country
- Billy Joe Shaver - I'm Just An Old Chunk Of Coal