Billy Joe Shaver, Everybody's Brother

Note: The following artist performs Saturday or Sunday during the Big State Festival at Texas World Speedway, 17529 State Highway 6, College Station. Besides music, events include stock-car racing, a barbecue cook-off, mechanical bull riding, camping and more. Visit or call 512-888-7469 for tickets and/or further information.

They say the Lord works in mysterious ways, and He sure chose an interesting prophet in Billy Joe Shaver, who once famously sang he grew up "pickin' cotton, raisin' hell and balin' hay." Shaver's religious philosophy can perhaps best be summed up in the lyric "if you don't love Jesus, go to hell," but he comes by his faith honestly. He's been through six kinds of hell this decade alone, some of which he details on "The Tough Get Going": "Got married and broke my neck the very same day." (That's only the beginning of Shaver's recent tribulations.) Save the title track, a curious hybrid of hymn and Native American ghost dance, the music on Everybody's Brother is better suited to honky-tonks than church-houses. But even the songs that aren't explicitly religious ("Rolling Stone," "The Greatest Man Alive," Tanya Tucker duet "Played the Game Too Long") offer a window into Shaver's hard-won faith, and the ones that are ("Get Thee Behind Me Satan," Johnny Cash duet "You Just Can't Beat Jesus Christ") are the words of a man who's seen the worst this world has to offer but keeps his gaze fixed squarely towards the next one.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray