The Earth Rolls On


New West Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It breaks my heart any time that a young, talented musician dies while they're in their prime, no matter what the cause of their death might have been. Often, that pain I feel is multiplied because the world hasn't awakened to recognize their talents while they were alive, and only through their deaths will their gifts be recognized and posthumously honored.

At the outset of the 20th Century, guitarist Eddy Shaver died at the age of 38. With his father, legendary country music artist Billy Joe Shaver, the two had recently recorded some of the best roots music I have ever had the pleasure of hearing, on the albums Victory and Electric Shaver.

The group Shaver's latest release, The Earth Rolls On, serves as a final tribute to the talents of Eddy Shaver, but more importantly, it showcases the absolute artistry father and son had, and why Billy Joe Shaver has rightfully become a master of this genre.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Take the opening track, "Love Is So Sweet," for instance. Probably not something you'd expect from a country music legend, this two-minute blast of adrenaline is as rock-oriented as anything you'd expect to hear on the radio today. Billy Joe Shaver's weather-worn vocals only add to the power and mystique of the track, and it sets the pace for what turns out to be arguably Shaver's best album yet.

Whether it's the acceptance of all life has to throw at you ("The Earth Rolls On") a loving tribute to one who was lost before we were ready to say goodbye ("Star In My Heart"), the recognition of the power of family ties despite the hardships that come with that kind of relationship ("Blood Is Thicker Than Water" - featuring a powerful lead vocal from Eddy Shaver) or a pimp-slap against an area which has done you wrong ("Leavin' Amarillo"), The Earth Rolls On is a disc that welcomes the listener with open arms and guides them through a roller coaster of emotions.

But don't take this album as a farewell to Eddy Shaver, who appears throughout most of the disc on lead guitar. Instead, many of the album's heart-wrenching songs were Billy Joe Shaver's goodbye to his late wife. Sadly, Eddy Shaver's death only hammers these messages home.

And if you're impressed with the kind of singer and songwriter that Billy Joe Shaver is, you'll be in tears recognizing the talent that was lost with Eddy Shaver's death. Listen to the electrifying solos on "Evergreen Fields" and the drawn-out guitar licks which close "The Earth Rolls On," and wonder aloud why this young man didn't become an absolute superstar in any genre. Listen to his vocals on "Blood Is Thicker Than Water," and realize you're listening to a carbon copy of his father, albeit without the years of experience and hard living giving them an edge. Then, cry that we lost him too soon.

The Earth Rolls On would have been an album that would have earned my highest praise even if Eddy Shaver had lived to tour behind it. As it was, it was magnificent. And tragically, Eddy Shaver's death only makes the album that much more powerful. If you have never discovered the music of Shaver, or you want to add to your collection of Billy Joe Shaver's recorded work, The Earth Rolls On is a must-own - and is easily the best disc I've listened to all year.

Rating: A

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of New West Records, and is used for informational purposes only.