With wit, down-home stories and classic Texas-style country tunes, Billy Joe Shaver captivated a near sold-out Lafayette Brewing Company Saturday night in downtown Lafayette.
The Grammy-nominated, prolific songwriter was backed by a young, hard-charging band more than half of the age of the 73-year-old but the tight band served Shavers’ tunes well. Shaver has penned about 500 songs over the years — some of which have been performed by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.
Perhaps most known for “I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train,” Shaver’s songs are what every good country tune should be about: relatability. There’s heartbreak, longing, drinking and violence. There’s leaving and coming back home. Shaver surprised some country music fans in the room by saying he has found God and did a number of gospel songs. Shaver joked that he had been “born again again.”
Shaver sprinkled in a few ballads to break things up, but Shaver was at his strongest when the honkytonk was hot and the lead guitar was blazing. After his songwriting and impressive vocal range, Shaver is known for his missing index and middle fingers on his right hand. They were lost after a machining accident. Dressed in old blue jeans, a denim button-up shirt and a big brown cowboy hat with a large feather in the brim, Shaver played a little acoustic guitar Saturday night but left most of the strumming to his lead and rhythm guitar players.
Whether they were fans of Shaver’s entire catalog or just know “Georgia on a Fast Train,” the crowd was hot and engaged into Shaver’s set, which clocked in at almost two and a half hours. There were many dancers up front for both rollicking and slow songs. The crowd was a mixed group — some making their first visit to Lafayette Brewing Company.
While Shaver’s thick Texas accent was hard to decipher at times between tunes, his voice soared once the music started. The sound was excellent overall.
Shaver was a great get for the young promotion tag team of Jim Voelz (Mom and Pop Productions) and Nate Pientok. While Shaver’s name will never be as big as Cash, Jennings and Nelson’s, it was amazing to see the man behind some of those legends’ music. And Lafayette had the rare chance to see that the songwriter can certainly hold his own on-stage.