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Though he's been making powerful original Country music for over forty years, until recently James Hand had unjustly remained one of American music's secret treasures -- a local legend in Texas, modestly plying his craft in countless smoky dives and dancehalls to a slowly widening circle of admirers. What he does, he does straight from his heart, taking the hard-won lessons that life and love have taught him and pouring them into his songwriting and performing. James Hand sings like nobody but himself, his phrasing drawing out the pain and humor of his lyrics with an unpredictable yet soulful series of tiny inflections. His songs are equally mysterious and unclassifiable. While they are noticeably rich with the influences of his heroes -- classic country architects like Hank, Lefty, and Ernest -- Hand's songs are uniquely his, imbued with equal parts gallows humor and the ability to stare unflinchingly into life's darkest corners.
Today at the unlikely age of 59, Hand is just starting to receive the attention he deserves after having released his first nationally-distributed album in 2006. Now poised at the brink of worldwide attention, if anything, he is more humble now than ever. “The people around me really came through for me,” he says, with not a trace of affectation, “The record company, my producers, and my band. In fact, sometimes I think the only person who hasn’t been kind to me is me…”
Born in Waco, TX, rodeos and country music surrounded James from an early age, and quickly became part of his daily life. The classic strains of Lefty Frizzell and Hank Williams made their mark on him, but a more substantial influence on his performing and songwriting has been life itself. “I’ve been writing songs since I was kid – since I was ten or eleven. Just the other day I found some songs in a little bitty envelope that my grandmother had tucked away into china cabinet. And with the life I’ve lived, there’s no shortage of songs. They’ll run out of typewriter ribbon before I run out of songs.”
When it comes to writing and recording songs, Hand has learned a valuable lesson from his long nights playing endless sets for dancers in honky-tonks. “You see,” he says, “there are a lot of songs, the ones you feel like you’ve put your heart and soul into, that go unnoticed out on the dance floor. Ninety-nine percent of people want to hear something they can dance to and sing along with. If it’s too complicated, they can’t do that. Even when listening to records like this one I’ve made, people don’t want to be overwhelmed – it’s just got to be understood.” With no artifice – just his songs, his voice, and his life – James Hand makes himself understood very easily. When he explains it, it sound so simple: “A song and an album are absolutely worthless if people can’t go home, learn it the song themselves, sing it, and know that they’ve felt that way some time or another.”
Now after the last few years of touring the US, UK, and Europe, and fulfilling his lifelong dream of appearing on Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, James Hand is now preparing to record his follow up CD on Hillgrass Bluebilly Records. Hillgrass Bluebilly production team will co-produce and release the project which will only include all new James Hand original songs.