James Hand has been around the block more than once. His true-life tales make that clear. "I drink too much/I'm too proud/I'm an easy touch/and I'm too dang loud/I do a lot of things that I ought not do/But I'm not different, I'm just me/And that's the only way I know how to be," he sings on "Here Lies a Good Old Boy." Pride, revelry and the independent spirit of Texas are consistently present on his latest.
The album's been a long time coming. Hand has been a regular on the Texas juke joint circuit since he was 13 years old, but at 53, this is his first nationally-distributed album. It was worth the wait. Set to swaying two-step beats, this is a country traditionalist's dream - weepers and winners, sadness and swagger keep the rollercoaster moving full-thrust ahead.
Occasionally, Hand cribs too overtly from the Hank Sr. songbook - on "Baby, Baby, Don't Tell Me That" and "Shadows Where the Magic Was," for instance - but even then his confident delivery makes them true to heart. A life fully lived gives the songs strong legs, but Hand is deeply indebted to the expert instrumentalists he recruited - most notably, the always spot-on Lloyd Maines on guitar, steel and Dobro and lead guitarist Redd Volkaert - for inspiring them to dance.