Some have called James Hunter a rarity’ British blue-eyed soul. Hunter delivers a classic yet perpetually modern brand of rhythm and blues that captivates listeners across generations and earned him two Billboard Blues #1’s, tours with Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison, Etta James, and Willie Nelson. With a soulful tenor that recalls a range of R&B giants from Sam Cooke to Bobby Bland, Hunter leads his band, the James Hunter Six, through strict tempos and lightning-quick switchbacks.
Onstage, the fifty-one-year-old British singer and songwriter James Hunter has the energy of a man half his age, or younger. With a soulful tenor that recalls a range of R & B giants, from Sam Cooke to Bobby Bland, Hunter leads his band, the James Hunter Six, through strict tempos and lightning-quick switchbacks. He is warm, engaging and likely to be telling a joke while checking with the audience to see if they’re having a good time. Hunter’s tight, taut compositions are rooted in American soul music without being bound to it, while his irreverence allows him to evade clich’ and keep the genre vibrant. He nails the sound of R&B in its formative years when it was part rock ‘n’ roll, part jump blues, all swing and swagger. Hunter swoons, croons, screams and rips as he and the group time-warp back to the early days of AM rock radio, minus the static.
‘Often, that’s where the soul revivalists fall flat,’ Hunter says. ‘They invest the music with a mystique that it doesn’t warrant, which destroys it. I was playing in a club once and a very earnest young French couple said to me, ‘Do you feel your music is like a religion?’ ‘No,’ I said. ‘I take it seriously.’
In the early Nineties, Van Morrison caught James at a gig in Wales and subsequently hired him as a backup singer for several years of touring and recording. James appeared on Morrison’s live album, ‘A Night in San Francisco,’, and on the studio set, ‘Days Like This.’ In 2006, GO Records/Rounder released ‘People Gonna Talk,’ the first James Hunter album ever issued in the US. With its affectionate echoes of Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson, the disc became an airplay staple on some of the nation’s most influential radio stations. The Los Angeles Times praised James Hunter’s ‘extraordi’nary soul voice’; Rolling Stone called his album ‘a treat not to miss.’ It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Tradi’tional Blues Album and James himself was nominated as Best New/Emerging Artist in the annual Americana Music Awards.
His next album, ‘The Hard Way’ earned even better accolades, with Rolling Stone calling it ‘unbelievably awesome’ and the New York Times praising Hunter’s ‘tight, slithery groove’ and ‘sweet growl.’ The album featured a guest appearance by avowed Hunter fan Allen Toussaint, and like its predecessor reached #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart. Hunter toured extensively behind it, both as a headliner and supporting the likes of Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Willie Nelson, Van Morrison, Chris Isaak, Boz Scaggs and others.
‘He’s one of the best voices and best kept secrets in British R&B and soul.’ ‘ Van Morrison
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