Besides working as a horse trainer, James Hand, from the tiny town of Tokio near Waco, has been haunting honky-tonks with his hard-won tales for more than thirty years. Suddenly, at 53, his on-and-off music career is decidedly on. The Truth Will Set You Free (Rounder), his first national release, is also his best. There’s some Lefty and George Jones in his music, but Hand is really a Hank devotee: He sings a bit like him, and his songs pack a similar emotional wallop. Wrenching, honest fare like “I’ve Got a Lot of Hiding Left to Do” and “If I Live Long Enough to Heal” will bury Hand’s days as an unknown—if enough people still crave the real deal. Hand himself sums up his anachronistic status when he claims that “they’ll run out of typewriter ribbon before I run out of songs.” Um, James … J.M.
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