James Hand puts the hard back in country. His latest, like his first self-release, is filled with slow, pain-filled, forlorn, low-moaning weepers. "In the Corner, At the Table, By the Jukebox" and "Over There, That's Frank"- both featuring the barroom as the congregation of the miserable = bookend an unrelenting procession of heartache and suffering. The occasional up-tempo or hillbilly number is just as pain-filled and forlorn. The only song that reveals even a glimmer of hope is the closer, "Do You Belong;" an exhortation to faith, you may feel you need it after the preceding 11 cuts.
All of this misery is affectingly rendered by Hand with a voice that, not so much in sound as in its warble and pathos, irresistably calls forth comparison (hackneyed though it may be) to Hank Williams. Hand's backup band is also stellar -by turns Dave Biller and Dale Watson on electric lead, The Derailers' rock-steady rhythm section of Mark Horn and Ethan Shaw, and Jason Roberts on fiddle. But if there's one thing (besides Hand himself) that make this album what it is, it's the spine-tingling work of steel man Ricky Davis (currently a member of Watson's band).
Simply put, if the object is getting pleasure from another man's pain, it's hard to beat what James Hand has produced here. (Cold Spring, Box 162822, Austin, TX 78716, 512-320-9156, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)