Home of the Live Music Calendar Follow STLBlues on Twitter Follow STLBlues on Facebook Home of the Live Music Calendar Live Music Is Better, Book It Here!! Live music is better, book yours now!
James Hunter – The Hard Way
East Side SlimBy East Side Slim

James Hunter – The Hard Way

James Hunter – The Hard Way
GO Records, under license to Hear Music – 2008

James Hunter is an incredibly talented soulful singer, songwriter and guitarist from Great Britain. He and his band had been slogging it out over there for 20 years or so prior to his “breakout” CD in the United States, 2006’s People Gonna Talk. Of course, breakout in blues/R&B/soul circles is a relative term, but the CD garnered Hunter much (very deserved) attention. While that 1st CD is a nice album, this CD, The Hard Way, takes everything further and finer.
The Hard Way might not hit you over the head with its charms, but it’s gonna getcha. The sounds here will flow like honey around your soul – golden sweet and ultimately very satisfying. The music is heavily influenced by Sam Cooke, Motown (Smokey and Marvin) as well as by James Brown, Ray Charles, Stax…all the best of the classic soul era, yet Hunter’s music is vibrant and current – he’s not ready for any museums. Hunter’s voice has a nice amount of grit to it, which adds to the emotional impact of his delivery. His vocal talents tend to overshadow his guitar playing, but give a careful listen and you’ll be treated to tasteful fretwork that fits each of the songs perfectly

The Songs: (all songs written by James Hunter)

1. The Hard Way
--This cut is reminiscent of some of the sly, pop-soul tunes Sam Cooke recorded in the early 1960s, including horns and strings being used to add a little sugar to the mix.

2. Tell Her
--Flashes of Marvin Gaye's early-period Motown recordings? I think so.

3. Don't Do Me No Favours
--This shakes off a little of the gloss, toughening up the vibe a bit. It’s built around a chicken-pluckin’ guitar line and baritone sax. Hunter plays the guitar on this CD, and rips off a nice Steve Cropper inspired solo about half way through the tune. Shades of James Brown in the vocal delivery? Possibly…

4. Carina
--Ska-soul. Yes, that’s right, ska-soul, and it works very well actually. If you can, picture Marvin Gaye out front of a late ‘60s ska band, with horns and a string section. This one is very satisfying.

5. She's Got A Way
--Very cool percussion work here, with this track being firmly in the James Brown-school mixed with some pre-country-soul era Ray Charles. Nice!

6. 'Til The End
--This cut slows way down, oozing late-night funk and feel. Think about being in an after-hours club, with a slow, jazzy Ray Charles number wafting through the airwaves. The horn charts here are killer.

7. Hand It Over
--Sam Cooke with a Latin feel…subdued horns, lightly strummed guitar, hand percussion (rather than a drum kit) and lightly inserted strings (that sound almost as if they were being plucked). This one is very cool.

8. Jacqueline
--After a couple of slower, lighter tunes Hunter ups the tempo and energy with this one. It’s reminiscent of a late ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll tune (well before the days of ROCK), not unlike what was coming out of New Orleans with Lloyd Price and such.

9. Class Act
--A subtle ska rhythm played on organ gives this tune an interesting sound, that’s for sure. It’s Motown-inspired – I’m thinking Temptations, but regardless this is another fine song from Hunter. Nice horn charts (love that Bari sax), some harmony vocals on choruses, very well done.

10. Ain't Goin' Nowhere
--Back to James Brown territory, from the days before his music became pure rhythm. James even goes a little crazy on guitar here, ripping off some wild surf/Cropper styled runs. How about James Brown out front of the Mar-Keys with some string punctuation?

11. Believe Me Baby
--This is probably the most blues-inspired tune on the set (rockin’ Ray Charles from the time just before he really hit it big), and it features more of Hunter’s wild guitar lines. He’s a nice player, and it would be great to hear some more of his playing up front of things, but he puts the song first. That’s all good.

12. Strange But True
--Simply put, this song is amazing. It’s just Hunter and his acoustic guitar, singing a love song to his baby – and I don’t mean infant. It’s not sappy by any means. He sets up an interesting rhythm pattern on his guitar, and sings quietly but very soulfully. I’m jealous; I wish I could do this. This is one of those songs that you realize is absolutely perfect the moment you hear it. Well done!

The Verdict:

You know you’ve stumbled across some fine music when you wear out the replay button on your CD player - I hit replay 3 times for the CD the 1st time I put it in my player - this is a good one, folks!

It’s not blues, for sure, and if I had to label it something I would call it R&B or early soul. This kind of music has never stopped sounding fantastic, sweet late ‘50s R&B and early- to mid-60's soul, before it was heavily funk-influenced. Folks like Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, early James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Eddie Floyd, from the time when the song and melody ruled, rather than how many notes or beats you can squeeze into a measure. I can’t say enough good things about this CD, and James Hunter deserves all the positive attention he has received upon its release. Let’s rate this bad boy – an STLBluesometer rating of 4.00 for The Hard Way from James Hunter.

For more information about James Hunter and his music, see the following websites:

Lee Howland - aka "East Side Slim"
The STLBluesometer

Enjoy our Blues reviews
STLBlues CD Reviews :: By band/artist first name
St. Louis based bands & musicians
More National Bands
 Live Music Calendar | Send Blues News | © STLBlues 2000 | Privacy Policy