(For all back issues go to the Archive)
JAMES HAND, Shadow On the Ground—Produced by the redoubtable tandem of Lloyd Maines and Ray Benson, Hand’s Shadow On the Ground seems almost an impossibility—country music so deeply rooted in the genre’s honky tonk roots it gives nary a nod to contemporary conventions. Even its one cover—wait for it—wait for it—of the Ray Evans-Jay Livingston classic American pop evergreen, “Mona Lisa,” with Benson adding a Spanish-tinged electric guitar line and Eddie Rivers crying longingly on the steel, dares not advance any further for inspiration than Carl Mann’s similarly propulsive 1958 Sun single of same (the great Nat King Cole is nowhere in sight, except in blessed memory), but even so Hand’s sprightly take occupies ground for which it holds the sole deed.
SPUYTEN DUYVIL, In Spite Of the Devil, by Billy Altman—Spuyten Duyvil describes itself as a group whose sound "wanders the last 100 years of American music conjuring embittered civil war veterans, recalcitrant small town bawds, suicidal bureaucrats, star crossed lovers and bravehearted fools navigating the mysteries of daily life." In other words, they've got something to say, not merely something to sell.