Hold On The James Hunter Six Dap­tone Records

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tim McNa­mara

For some­one who has sup­ported the likes of Aretha Franklin, Van Mor­ri­son and Wil­lie Nelson, James Hunter’s po­si­tion at the fore­front of con­tem­po­rary rhythm and blues shouldn’t sur­prise; what of­ten does sur­prise, how­ever, is the fact his sub­lime voice hails not from some soul-dripped me­trop­o­lis in the US, but Es­sex in Bri­tain. Nom­i­nated for a Grammy in 2006 for his al­bum Peo­ple Gonna Talk, the Bri­tish singer­song­writer has long been lauded for his raw take on soul, so it’s fit­ting that his won­der­ful fourth al­bum and fol­low-up to 2013’s Minute by Minute lands on Brook­lyn’s Dap­tone im­print.

One gets the sense Hunter and Dap­tone la­bel co-founder and pro­ducer Gabe Roth share sim­i­lar pas­sions for by­gone record­ing tech­niques, judg­ing by their ef­forts to fash­ion an al­bum that sounds like it’s from an­other era. That’s not to say Hold On is bereft of mod­ern pro­duc­tion sparkle; it’s there, but un­der­stated. Hunter’s fine band wisely sub­scribes to the “less is more” maxim, in­ter­spers­ing tenor sax­o­phone, or­gan, dou­ble­bass and drums spar­ingly so as to let Hunter’s gritty voice take pride of place. From the bossa nova rhythms and wist­ful back­ing vo­cals of This is Where We Come In to the strolling rhythm of closer In the Dark, Hunter cap­ti­vates with his vo­cal edge and vivid song­writ­ing about love, loss and life. In be­tween, there are tracks such as A Truer Heart, per­me­ated by horn stabs and har­mon­ica, and Satchel Foot, a play­ful num­ber that com­bines or­gan, stir­ring gui­tar war­blings and, of course, horns to form a rolling groove.

If there’s one gripe, it’s that it’s all over too soon; 10 great songs van­ish in a lit­tle more than 30 min­utes. That said, Hold On shines a spot­light on a trou­ba­dour at the top of his game, aided by a band that knows its role is to en­able, not en­gulf.

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