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James Hand

Shadows in the Ground – 2009 (Rounder)

Reviewed by John Walker

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CDs by James Hand

Texas artist James Hand, 57, has long been a Texas treasure, but is finally receiving more widespread acclaim. The 12-song release - his second for the label - includes only 1 cover, a western swing version of Nat King Cole's hit Mona Lisa. The rest of the record contains originals written by Hand that provides proof that traditional country music is still alive and well.

Co-produced by Asleep at The Wheel front man Ray Benson and Lloyd Maines, Hand delivers each song with a passion seldom heard today. Many have compared his talents with past greats such as Hank Thompson and Lefty Frizzell, but Hand has the unique ability to sell each song with his soulful vocals. One can feel the anguish he is going through as he sings the heartbreaking song Don't Depend On Me.

Just A Heart along with Floor to Crawl are each songs that remind you of the days of Ernest Tubb or Webb Pierce. The steel guitar of Maines is a great addition here as well.

Hand is not all heartbreak and woe, however. His wry humor shows through in a upbeat honky tonk barnburner that will remind many of Roger Miller' style with The Parakeet.

What is a good old fashioned country record without a trucking song? Midnight Run certainly fits the bill quite well. Also, what better way to close out a record such as this than with the uplifting gospel Men Like Me Can Fly.

This is everything a country record should be. Heart and soul, and mix in some humor and heartbreak.