The James Hunter Six at Lincoln Hall | Concert preview
Daptone’s Gabriel Roth brings out the best in the U.K. soul man.
The previous chapter in the story of this working-class British R&B crooner was incredible enough. Despite a brief gig as a backup singer for Van Morrison, James Hunter was in his forties and busking when he picked up a record deal. The former railroad signal-box repairman’s People Gonna Talk (2006) and The Hard Way (2008) earned places on top ten lists on both sides of the Atlantic and prominent slots on the blues charts.
The latest chapter is bittersweet. Hunter lost his wife, Jacqueline, to cancer in 2011. But the new Minute by Minute, his third album to be released stateside, has all the right ingredients for introducing Hunter to the cool kids and everyone else. Unlike his previous outings, it’s credited to his band of two decades, which boasts twin saxophones, organ, upright bass and drums. (Hunter slings the guitar himself.)
Recorded in the States with Grammy-winning producer Gabriel Roth of Daptone Records, Minute by Minute has that lean, analog-era warmth of a classic ’60s album. But more than the sound, it’s Hunter’s lived-in voice that makes the disc essential listening.
There’s some Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson to be found in Hunter’s soulful croon. But that U.K. filter counts for something, too. The jumped-up “One Way Love” recalls his former employer Morrison. And the dynamite tunes are a grab bag of ’50s and ’60s R&B with rockabilly, bubblegum and boogie-woogie accents, all cooked to perfection. But Hunter really delivers on slow-burning cuts like “So They Say,” a hard-won, tear-soaked testament to love’s power that can’t be faked.