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The Truth Will Set You Free

James Hand

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Album Review

James Hand sounds like the kind of guy who was playing hard honky tonk music in beer bars and roadhouses long before "Young Country" reared its ugly head and made his music unfashionable, and there's a good reason why — he's been doing just that in a career that has spanned four decades. After all that time, Rounder Records finally took a chance on him and released Hand's first nationally distributed album, The Truth Will Set You Free, in 2006. While one can clearly hear hints of Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Hank Thompson, and Johnny Horton in Hand's strong, lonesome voice and songs of broken hearts and hard living, he doesn't sound like he's trying to copy anyone so much as he's writing and performing in the style of these creative contemporaries, and at its best The Truth Will Set You Free plays like a country record that could have been made 40 years ago without suggesting this man is playing at being "retro." (He still has his day job as a horse trainer, which tells you plenty about his attitude towards the current state of Nashville.) "In the Corner, At the Table, By the Jukebox" is a brilliant evocation of the solace of a night at the bar, "If I Live Long Enough to Heal" suggests Hand clearly remembers his last broken heart, and "Little Bitty Slip" is a rollicking tale of the hard work of keeping a happy home. While the production by multi-instrumentalist Lloyd Maines and Ray Benson (of Asleep at the Wheel) is sometimes a shade too clean for the material, the performances are spot-on, and Hand truly delivers the goods on all 12 cuts — it's stretching the truth to say he's the last of the great honky tonk men, but The Truth Will Set You Free shows there are still some real country singers and songwriters out there playing it raw and real and waiting to be heard, and Hand's soulful, heartfelt music is a joy to hear.

Customer Reviews

The Truth Will Set You Free

James Hand is the real deal. A traditional honky-tonk singer with the real sound of wind-blown Texas in his voice. Not some faux Nashville country pop poseur. It's an amazing experience to stumble into a local watering hole and hear this guy sing. He writes his own songs and his voice will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Something very few people since Hank the first have been able to accomplish.

Biography

Born: 1952 in Waco, TX

Genre: Country

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

A local legend in West Texas, James Hand spent the better part of four decades writing and playing pure honky tonk country before he earned any significant attention outside the Lone Star State, when Rounder Records released his first nationally distributed album, 2006's The Truth Will Set You Free. James Hand was born in 1952 in Waco, TX, and developed a passion for country music early in life, joining a band that was playing local roadhouses at the age of 12. While Hand loved music, 15 dollars...
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The Truth Will Set You Free, James Hand
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