Book Review: Texas Platters
Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., April 8, 2005
Honky Tonk Hero
by Billy Joe Shaver, assisted by Brad Reagan
University of Texas Press, 189 pp., $19.95
A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver
During the last few years, Texas music poet laureate Billy Joe Shaver has gone increasingly multimedia. Besides his film work, from Secondhand Lions to SXSW 04 documentary The Portrait of Billy Joe, Shaver has now penned an autobiography or part of one, in any event. Honky Tonk Hero is most troubling in its brevity, Shaver recounting his entire life story in just 72 pages and filling the rest of the book with photographs and lyrics. Like his music, his conversational writing style is so engaging it leaves the reader craving more. Nevertheless, Shaver hits all the high points, from his rough East Texas childhood and three marriages to Brenda to his time in Nashville and his later-day renaissance with his guitar-wielding son Eddy. It's an effortless read, and the lyrics do, as the author suggests, read like poetry. Again, though, it all serves as a tease best remedied by a big dose of his immortal music.
In the music department, a new live tribute disc was recorded here in Austin August 2004 at Shaver's 65th birthday party, which took place at the Paramount Theatre. It features folks like Guy Clark, Dale Watson, Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis, Robert Earl Keen, Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Todd Snider performing either one of Shaver's songs or one that he inspired in some way. Shaver performs on four tracks, including a bittersweet a cappella take of "You Wouldn't Know Love." Except for Snider's "Waco Moon," which was written after his friend Eddy's death, none of the performances stand out as especially memorable.