Billy Joe Shaver has a tab on his Web site called "Owed to Billy Joe," a list of maybe 200 of his songs that have been recorded by other artists. It could well be a way for the wily old five-and-dimer to make sure that his publishing is in order as much as it is a testament to the reach and depth of his music. Of course, many names will be familiar to followers of the last four decades of Texas music (Willie Nelson, Robert Earl Keen, Reckless Kelly), but some may not: Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor, former Replacement Paul Westerberg and even Carol Channing, who apparently once did a version of "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal." About to turn 73, Shaver is revered for songs that are both autobiographical and universal, with equal parts wit and heart, deep faith and an incorrigible roguish gleam. His latest album, Live at Billy Bob's, taken from a September 2011 set at the legendary Fort Worth honky-tonk, marks the first appearance on record of "Wacko from Waco," the song he wrote about the April 2007 shooting incident outside a McClennan County bar that later became a high-profile trial. Shaver was acquitted, and thus cleared to release what may be the best lyric of his entire career: "He was trying to shoot me, but took too long to aim."
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