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If ever there was a mixed bag, this is it. Billy Joe Shaver's well-deserved, substantial reputation as a songwriter has been established by his straightforward, heartfelt narratives whose melodic craft is elegant and deceptively simple: In other words, he makes what he does look easy. And while many have covered his songs, no one performs them like him. This well-meaning tribute album to an American cultural giant is no doubt well-meaning. There are a three generations of songwriters and musicians on this concert, form Billy Joe's own time are Guy Clark, as raggedly graceful a Texas bard as there is, with Verlon Thompson; Texas-cum-Nashville stalwart; Sonny Throckmorton; cowboy-roots rock songwriter Joe Ely and his Lubbock compatriot, the original cosmic cowboy Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Coming up immediately after are hardcore honky tonk man, Dale Watson; Texas frat boy and poet-hero Robert Earl Keen, and the enduring Geezinslaws. The younger generation is represented by Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis, Jack Ingram, Todd Snider, and Cory Morrow. The performances are wildly uneven. Shaver is in great form here except when backed by Texas barroom country rockers Diamondback Texas on "Georgia on a Fast Train" which feels forced. But his mini set of "You Wouldn't Know Love" (done in blues a cappella), "Try And Try Again," ad his latter day classic "Tramp on Your Street," are just fantastic. Guy Clark's "Randall Knife" is, as usual, powerful. Willis and Robison score big on Shaver's "Ride Me Down Easy." Ely's "Honky Tonk Masquerade" is resolutely fine, as is Gilmore's version of Billy Joe's "Hearts-A Burnin'. The rest falls short of the mark, not for lack of trying, not for any reason except that the gap between the first and third generations is by and large unbridgeable in terms of literacy, the mechanics of the craft, and the heroic times the elders lived through. Enough said. ~ Thom Jurek