Review: Billy Joe Shaver at Sunrise Stage

Review: Billy Joe Shaver at Sunrise Stage

Billy Joe Shaver sure enough is a living legend. He’s penned several songs the likes of Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Elvis and the Allman Brothers went on to record and perform. Admittedly, prior to this show, this was just about the first time I’d ever heard about the guy, but by the end of it I received a bona fide honky tonk education.

I rolled into the brand new Sunrise Stage a few minutes before show time to take the place in. This was the venue’s first ever show. I’d been there before for the grand opening of Sunrise Guitars, when the room was just a platform stage and an otherwise empty room. Now, the typical setup has a little more than 100 cushioned soft chairs, a wine and beer bar, a refined acoustics system over the walls and stage and a real nice sound system.

When Shaver took the stage, grizzled in a high-mileage denim shirt and dilapidated brown hat with the rest of his band, I grabbed a seat in the back (mostly for ease of access) to take in the venue. Once the lights came down and the music started, it really started to feel intimate, even from the back of the room. The stage is low to the ground, and the seats run up pretty close to the stage, so it felt close.

Really, the sound in the room was something to behold, maybe the best sounding room for a 100-seat concert venue in town. The room sounded so dry — meaning organic, present and little room noise or echo interference — nearly recording quality. The drums especially sounded so warm and full. The only thing I wanted more of was a vocal presence, but that might be due to Shaver’s old age and vocal ability. The man is 78.

Shaver is a man built from stories. The show was equal parts storytelling and songs. He was a charmer, cracking jokes about his “Trump hair”, the first beautiful woman he ever witnessed who he still remembers to this day in vivid detail, and the characters he’d met at some of his favorite juke joints. The crowd just adored him. A lot of the people there hooted ‘n hollered at just about every appropriate moment. I was probably the youngest guy in the audience if that helps paint the picture here.

Shaver performed all of his most famous works, including a rousing rendition of “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Some Day),” a song Shaver wrote just after he chose to give up drugs and booze and turned to God for help, and which Johnny Cash recorded in 1978. His songs contained many jabs at politics and the ineptitude of politicians, and criticized the state of modern country radio. There was a humble wisdom to his verses.

The guitar player in Shaver’s band was just smokin’ his guitar. Nary a misplaced note, rapid chicken pickin’ from beginning to end, and even some elements of modal experimentation in his solo sections. About a half hour before they finished up, the drummer took on a 10 minute solo (and everyone took a bathroom break, poor drummers can’t catch a break).

All in all, Sunrise Stage is a swanky place that’s going to be serving up a lot of refined Americana, blues, folk, country and rock. I don’t expect to see many fresh, young acts with a price point of $50 per ticket — at least it is for the spring series — but I expect there will be a lot of listening room-ready artists that will come through and give Fayetteville an experience it hasn’t had before.

Sunrise Stage Spring Concert Series

Shake Russel & Michael Hearne – Friday 4/28

Adam Hood – Friday 5/5

Ian Moore – Sunday 5/14

The Nighthawks (acoustic show) – Sunday 5/21

Tickets: $50 available at

Categories: Music