Written by Samuel Barker
Nov 29, 2008 at 08:30 PM
ImageWhen you look at all the legends of the “Outlaw Country” movement, there is a special tie holding them all together, the songs of Billy Joe Shaver. Shaver is the unsung hero of the movement, the man carrying the words and imagery that created a phenomenon in country music during the 70s. Even now, Shaver moves through life without the ballads in his honor his peers like Willie Nelson receive. He has no mystique about him, really. He’s just a straight up man, a man who has done about everything a man can do with his life and told the world about it in song.

The stories of hardship, perseverance and under-appreciation are known well by his fans, so they are not something I need to rehash in these words, instead, I will tell of one of the most significant songwriters of the modern music playing at a restaurant turned music hall for an audience that equalled half the population of the location, China, TX.

Walking into the door at Courville’s, you take in a nice vibe that feels like the imagery used to describe old gigs from Country’s forefathers. Drinks flowing, great food and a friendly atmosphere that makes enjoying a night of timeless music go to another level.

Shaver took the stage with a band I’d never seen him with before, but was glad to catch. Solid drums, stand-up bass and a lead player. Sadly the names all escape me at the moment, but they were fine musicians who backed up Shaver’s tales perfectly.

There is something mezmerizing about seeing Shaver and hearing his recollections of his life, then getting the songs that tell the rest of the story right there in your face. It fills you with sorrow, laughter and, most importantly, hope.

Opening the show was Houston area folk musician Matt Harlan, who played a fine, subdued set to the attentive audience at Courville’s. He told stories, played songs and spent no time promoting himself or peddling wares. He was simply a songwriter spreading stories of life. A damn fine compliment to Shaver.