"Our hero and friend James passed away early this morning," read a Monday morning statement on Hand's Facebook artist page. "He passed peacefully, with Kayla Allen holding his hand. His sons Shane Machac and Tracer Hand, his brothers Ty and Bimbo Hand, and nephew Cody Hand appreciate all the love and prayers, and need them now more than ever. They are absolutely devastated and overwhelmed at this time, and wanted to ask that everyone please respect their privacy at this time as they grieve this devastating loss. We will let everyone know information regarding any memorial services or things of that nature as that information becomes available."
Dale Watson, another artist with deep Austin roots, offered his condolences in the comments.
"Real Music has lost one of its most talented and ardent soldiers," Watson wrote. "We have lost a dear friend. We love and will miss you James."
Over the weekend, the same page requested prayers for Hand.
"Without going into too much detail, he's currently in the hospital and in critical condition," read the prior statement. "It started out as a heart issue, and has since led to some other complications."
Born James Hand Jr. in 1952, the Waco native was a guitarist and country singer by age 12. He went on to become a regular of honky-tonks and dance halls for decades to come.
In 2006, Rounder Records issued 55-year-old Hand's first widely distributed album, The Truth Will Set You Free. It was produced by two Texas country music giants: Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson and Lloyd Maines, the multi-talented father of Natalie Maines.
Hand's website shares both producers' raving reviews of an album featuring "In The Corner, At The Table, By The Jukebox" and other examples of a hidden Texas gem's songwriting talent.
"You probably won't hear James on your country music station these days, but if you're one of the folks out there who loves true, honest, down-to-earth country music songs, based on hard life lessons and affairs of the heart, then James Hand is your man," Benson said.
"James Hand music uses no smoke or mirrors," Lloyd Maines added. "There is definitely no glossing over of any aspect of this CD... James writes lyrics that haven't been written before and I suspect that he's lived every word in these songs."
Fans of current roots and Americana artists might recognize Hand from his role in Charley Crockett's "That's How I Got to Memphis" music video.
"Honky tonk heaven just received an embarrassment of riches," Crockett wrote on Facebook. "I got a lot more to say but for now lemme just leave this with you. If you play country music in Texas, you owe somethin' to James Hand. I never had the chance to know George Jones but by the grace of the creator I had a friendship with ol' Slim and in that way I touched hands with the greatest."
"The first time I saw James Hand I was shocked," Royal said, as quoted on Hand's website. "He looked and sounded so much like (Hank Williams) that I was frozen in my chair as I listened. His songwriting and performance style are real throwbacks to the sounds and times I truly love. He's a perfect gentleman and true Texas troubadour."