Reviewed by Jerry Renshaw, Fri., Feb. 27, 2004
James HandLive From the Saxon Pub Austin TX (KnightKlub) James Hand is an enigma. At 47, he looks and sounds way older than his years; his songs and voice would've been the perfect fit for a beer joint back in '51 or so. Word has it Hand quit watching Hank Williams footage for fear of inadvertently picking up his mannerisms. As it is, his nervous quaver and darker-than-dark lyrics call to mind ol' Luke the Drifter pretty readily. All that said, it would be terribly unfair to lump Hand in with all the Hank impostors plying their trade out there. His honky-tonk is as real as it gets, and Live From the Saxon captures him in his element. It's all Hand, all the way, with the exception of a fiery "Folsom Prison Blues," "Get Rhythm," and Buck Owens' "Loose Talk." Songs like "I'm Just an Old Man With an Old Song" and "The Pain of Loving You" sound like they were written in that perpetual 3am of the soul, Hand's pained yowl giving voice to a broken heart. Even uptempo numbers like "The Truth Will Set You Free," which borders on rockabilly, are bittersweet at best; oftentimes, the truth is a deal-breaker. Pete Mitchell and Herb Steiner supply some very tasteful Tele and steel, with rock-solid BB Morse on stand-up bass, and drummer Woz making the most out of a hi-hat and snare.