Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Original Honky Tonk Hero

Photo by Gary Goldberg

It doesn’t get any better than this. Seriously.

This is the best thing I will ever post on Setting The Woods On Fire. Your mission is to download and absorb. Then go out and buy everything you can get your hands on by Billy Joe Shaver. You’ll be better for it. (And my mission here will be complete, notwithstanding the general public’s refusal to recognize the genius that is Tom T. Hall.)

In 1973, Waylon Jennings gave into Billy Joe Shaver's "threat" and recorded an entire album’s worth of Shaver’s songs. The result, Honky Tonk Heroes, is an amazing album that is probably my favorite country L.P. ever pressed. (The only other one in the running is More A Legend Than A Band by The Flatlanders.) Anyway, Waylon’s album was the shit. And 10 out of 11 songs were penned by the then-unknown Shaver.

But this collection might be even better. Here you will find the original Billy Joe Shaver version of each track from Waylon’s record (some of which were recorded after Waylon’s album). Two of the songs on Honky Tonk Heroes were never recorded by Billy Joe, so for these I’ve included the Waylon version.

I'm not going to tell you why it's good. Just listen for yourselves. And while you’re at it learn what you can about Billy Joe Shaver.

The Original Honky Tonk Heroes

1. Billy Joe Shaver – Honky Tonk Heroes
2. Billy Joe Shaver – Old Five And Dimers Like Me
3. Billy Joe Shaver – Willy The Wandering Gypsy And Me
4. Billy Joe Shaver – Low Down Freedom
5. Waylon Jennings – Omaha
6. Billy Joe Shaver – You Asked Me To
7. Billy Joe Shaver – Ride Me Down Easy
8. Billy Joe Shaver – Ain't No God In Mexico
9. Billy Joe Shaver – Black Rose
10. Waylon Jennings – We Had It All
11. Billy Joe Shaver – Slow Rollin' Low

Buy Billy Joe Shaver
Old Five And Dimers Like Me
Restless Wind: The Legendary Billy Joe Shaver 1973-1987
Honky Tonk Heroes (collection)
Greatest Hits
When I Get My Wings
Tramp On Your Street

Buy Waylon Jennings
Honky Tonk Heroes

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post Paul and, like the comparison with Elvis Costello's Almost Blue with the originals I have never before tried a Billy Joe Shaver original 'Honky Tonk Heroes' before. I've always previously compared 'Honky Tonk Heroes' with 'Old Five And Dimers' and have always found it a very tough call as I love both versions of these great songs. If I was pushed I'd say I probably prefer Billy Joe Shaver's 'Willy The Wandering Gipsy' over Waylon's.
I love his grit and sawdust delivery and think it really suits this affectionate ode to Willie. Not that Waylon puts a foot wrong of course and 'Honky Tonk Heroes' has one of the top 10 country songs of all time in 'We Had It All' so it's a high scoring draw for me overall. And that's coming from someone who had Billy Joe number 1 in my recent top 10. So it's no surprise that I will second your advice to go out now and buy all Billy Joe Shaver has offer. Would probably, like you say, start with 'Old Five And Dimers' or 'Tramp On Your Street' but recently I've been really enjoying 'Freedom's Child', which has really grown on me. Great stuff.

Gill said...

You just made my world a better place....thank you.

LD said...

Great stuff. Having had the pleasure to meet Billy Joe on several occasions, I can say with authority that you'll rarely meet a nicer, more accommodating personality. Just don't piss him off while you or he are drunk. He'll get outlaw country on your ass in a heartbeat. HA!

Paul said...

LD do you speak from experience?

LD said...

HA! No. But some dude in a Waco honky-tonk found out the hard way a few years ago. Here's a site that talks about the Billy Joe Shaver shooting.

Bob said...

Who is the guy circled in orange?

Paul said...

You know Bob, to tell you the truth I really don't know for sure. When I first bought the album a long time ago I just assumed it was Billy Joe Shaver (based on the way they're all looking at him), so in my head that circled guy has always been Billy Joe Shaver.

But I'm definitely not a detail guy and I make a TON of assumptions (two things that have gotten me into trouble on the blog and at work), so who the hell knows? Maybe I've been wrong all these years? That would be kind of embarassing.

It's not like I ever took a close look. And as I mentioned before I don't have a fact-checker here.

A little help...?

LD said...

Billy Joe is second from left, in the cowboy hat and to Waylon's immediate right. Not sure who the other guys are by name, but they're obviously The Waylors. To the intertubes!

LD said...

I stand slightly corrected. One of the guys on the cover is Roger "Captain Midnight" Schutt, famed late-night country DJ on Nashville's WKDA. Unfortunately, I can't locate a picture of him, so I can't confirm which one of these dudes is him. Since Waylon is surrounded by other bandmates ... including the great Ralph Mooney, his steel player, to our far right ... I suspect that Captain Midnight is the squirrelly lookin dude in the back. But that's just a guess.

Paul said...

Schutt is the guy standing behind the bar. Says so in the original liner notes. So you're right.

I feel like a doofus. When I went back and looked at the picture I got the feeling I had the wrong guy all along.

LD said...

You mean I could've looked at the liner notes this whole time?!?! Sheesh. I'll join you in the doofus line.

cameo said...

thanks so much for posting this. i'm sold...

eric said...

my vote for best version of old five and dimers goes to jerry jeff. i still love billy joe shaver, he wrote the theme to the cartoon squidbillies which can be seen on the cartoon network late at night.