James Hunter – The Bell House (Brooklyn, NY)

James Hunter Bell House
Photo by Steven Erdman

Literally off a plane after an afternoon spent getting a visa, James Hunter made his way to a packed house at Brooklyn’s Bell House. If the hassle of traveling brought any stress on the British blue-eyed soul singer, the stage seemed to take it away—even after a twenty-one song set list, this one still had it in him to keep the house blowin’.

Hunter is a refreshing sound in the contemporary fold who’s not afraid to embrace the R&B sounds of the soulful fifties and the swinging sixties. With a committed croon, he is the epitome of a passionate performer, cradling his guitar as his band modestly follows closely behind. The band opened with the punch-drunk “She’s Got A Way” before dipping into “People Gonna Talk,” where a seductive sax tiptoed back to a time when AM radio ruled the airwaves. As nostalgic as Hunter may be, he still has an innovative way of weaving in his own bag of tricks, as in “Chicken Switch” where his guitar impressively clucks away like a damn bird—nearby you could hear the opening band’s lead guitarist say, “I’m stealing that!”

Hunter’s a performer of the moment; smiling eyes and an ear-to-ear grin, who possesses a natural, inviting quality even when he’s blue (“Baby Don’t Do It”). Categorized neither by race nor age, you can find James Hunter under the FEEL GOOD music section. Van Morrison says he’s the “best kept secret in British rhythm and blues,” but perhaps a secret he should stay, so we can have him all to ourselves.

– Melissa Caruso

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