Artist: James Hunter Six
Album: Whatever It Takes
Release Date: 02.02.2018
Englishman James Hunter began singing and playing vintage 1950s-’60s R&B in 1986 with Howlin’ Wolf & the Vee-Jays, and was celebrated by Van Morrison, who hired the former rail-worker and song-busker as a backup vocalist and guitarist. Hunter’s been on a quest ever since to make his mark.
Blessed with a smooth, spectacular tenor, and leading a band like this, it should take a whole lot less than Whatever It Takes for the man to make his impact and push this stunning style of American culture beyond a nostalgia trip. As they sashay into the chic, rhumba-inspired “I Don’t Want To Be Without You,” one can’t help but be entranced by the band’s beats, and especially Hunter’s emotional singing.
This, his seventh album, was recorded straight to 8 track tape at the Daptone Records’ California studio (Hunter is the first Brit to record for the esteemed soul label), this is the crisp, hook-filled, and loose yet very confident sound of players obviously playing with sheer delight in their hearts. Listen as Hunter intones “Have a little faith in me” in the title song. Written with his new bride in mind, Hunter really wrote the entire album about the universal appeal of undying love and devotion.
Although tender in nature (and lifted by spectacular sax), he does transmit a hint of distress marvelously in “Mm-Hmm.” On the finger-snappin’ “How Long,” Hunter and the band settle into a gospel groove, with gorgeous Jordanaires-styled background voices lifting the song to great heights. “I Got Eyes” gets wild, an excuse in Hunter’s words to “Scream the highest notes I can imagine.”
Longtime band mates and therefore telepathic, The Six (Hunter, Jason Wilson on bass, Jonathan Lee on drums, keyboardist Andrew Kingslow, and sax players Lee Badau and Damian Hand) all play their asses off on “Blisters,” a steamy, lowdown instrumental that affords Hunter a chance to show off his considerable chops on guitar. Some might complain that these ten originals clock in at just 28 minutes total, but that’s actually a plus. Like many of the old-time classics of the idiom, these gemstones comprise a comet of soul music brilliance that seems familiar, but isn’t.