Charley Crockett released a surprise album titled, Lil’ G.L. Presents: 10 For Slim- Charley Crockett Sings James Hand, his ninth full-length album in the past six years.
The album is an ode to Crockett’s good buddy and Texas country music great, James “Slim” Hand, who passed away in June of 2020. To accompany the record, Crockett penned a heartfelt letter detailing how Slim played a pivotal role in helping Crockett grow as a singer/songwriter:
“If you listen to his writing style and the portraits he painted in his music, or that plaintive one of a kind voice he had, then you know he was without equal in our time.
I didn’t ever meet Hank Williams or George Jones, but I knew James Hand, and, in that way, I’ve touched hands with greats.”
After Hand passed away, Crockett felt like he owed it to him to make a tribute album.
“I didn’t get a chance to tell him what he meant to me or take that tour around America with him so I damn sure was gonna keep my promise to record his songs.”
The sky is the limit for Crockett this year, as he continues to grow his grassroots following. Last year, he released two albums, while also increasing his Spotify streams by 250%. And in 2019, Crockett made appearances at Stagecoach, Newport Folk, and the Grand Ole Opry.
And if that wasn’t enough, he plans on releasing ANOTHER album this year as well.
“Lesson In Depression”
Here’s the letter in its entirety:
The first place I ever saw James “Slim” Hand play was at The White Horse in Austin, TX years back. It was also the last place I saw him before he passed away unexpectedly in 2020.
I’d heard about James for years before I finally got to see him sing. Willie Nelson called him “The Real Deal” and I’m telling you right now it’s a fact that there wasn’t a more authentic character in country music during James’ lifetime. I followed him all around the honky tonks of Austin. He used to play solo at Threadgill’s Old #1 on Lamar for the dinner crowd. I remember seeing James on stage at Blues City in Memphis, TN. He did “That’s How I Got to Memphis” and it hit me so hard the way he sang it that I went back to my motel room and learned it that night with tears in my eyes.
One year I snuck into the Ameripolitan Awards show at the Paramount Theater on Congress in Austin. I was scared to death they were gonna throw me out but when I walked in Slim was standing right there in the lobby and he treated me like an old friend just so nobody’d bother me. Later that night after he’d won an award, he got up with the band at The Continental Club. I remember he didn’t have a guitar in his hands, and he was wearing a white and red suit I’d seen him in a couple times before. He sang “In The Corner” and “Lesson In Depression” among others. He was hypnotizing in a way I’d never seen from a country performer. I knew right then I was looking at the greatest honky-tonk singer and songwriter in the world.
When I first met James, I couldn’t even get a gig in Austin. Thanks to Jay Moeller and Billy Horton that changed over the years. James and I played together at The Kessler Theater on my first show back after I had heart surgery in 2019. One of my fondest memories will always be the show we played together at Gruene Hall later that summer. He was so good it hurt.
I had told Slim I was gonna cut his songs. He told me he wished I’d hurry up and do it! Me and the boys in The Blue Drifters asked him to come on the road last summer with us and do all the shows and festivals as a package deal. He thought about it for a long while and decided that at 68 years old he had it in him to make another “Midnight Run,” if you know what I mean. I spend a lot of time daydreaming about what that summer might’ve been like. All the things I was gonna ask him about his life. But the storm that was 2020 came and ol’ Slim slipped off into the hot Texas night and on up to the big house. I cried like a child when I got the news he was gone. I remember me and Taylor Grace passing by his exit near the town of West, TX one night a couple months earlier, Tokio Road. Just a few miles up the highway from where Willie Nelson was born and raised in Abbott, TX.
He’d sent me a song he’d recorded on his phone about a week before he passed. We decided to call it “Slim’s Lament” and included it as the final cut on this album. He was still getting better right up to the end. I swear the man was in the room when we were cutting his songs out at Billy’s place in Wyldwood. I didn’t get a chance to tell him what he meant to me or take that tour around America with him so I damn sure was gonna keep my promise to record his songs.
If you listen to his writing style and the portraits he painted in his music, or that plaintive one of a kind voice he had, then you know he was without equal in our time. He didn’t cut his first record until the age of 47, even though he was playing in front of audiences at age 13. Had he been recorded at 27, the count might be different. That’s why I had to make this album for Slim. I’ve said it many times and I’m gonna keep on saying it. I didn’t ever meet Hank Williams or George Jones, but I knew James Hand, and, in that way, I’ve touched hands with the greats.
I hope you’ll find joy in these recordings, as I have. These stories make up the life and times of a Texas legend. To the longtime fans of James, and new listeners finding his songs for the first time, thank you for your support. This one’s for you Slim.