James Hunter Six - People Gonna Talk (2006)

James Hunter Six
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In 2005, James Hunter signed with GO/Rounder Records and began working on his biggest international release, People Gonna Talk, with producer Liam Watson (the White Stripes). In order to capture Hunter's authentic R&B sound, Watson painstakingly sought out old analog recording equipment and recorded the album "live." In fact, other than the lack of hiss and pops, it is virtually impossible to distinguish People Gonna Talk from an album recorded circa 1962.

In 2005, James Hunter signed with GO/Rounder Records and began working on his biggest international release, People Gonna Talk, with producer Liam Watson (the White Stripes). In order to capture Hunter's authentic R&B sound, Watson painstakingly sought out old analog recording equipment and recorded the album "live." In fact, other than the lack of hiss and pops, it is virtually impossible to distinguish People Gonna Talk from an album recorded circa 1962.

While Hunter proclaims that his work isn't "retro," there is an almost unnervingly nostalgic feel to People Gonna Talk. Elements of 50s and early 60s R&B greats emerge throughout the disc, but the influence of Sam Cooke is most omnipresent. And Hunter's attractive vocals, sounding like a gutsier marriage of Boz Scaggs and Johnny Rivers, work well throughout. He captures much of Cooke's smooth magic on slower cuts like "Mollena" (the underpinning of which is a very Cooke-like latin rhythm) and "I'll Walk Away" but shows his vocal range on upbeat cuts such as "No Smoke Without Fire" and wonderful rocker "Talking ‘Bout My Love." Hunter also serves as exclusive songwriter on the disc, and the compositions are solid and melodic front-to-back.

It's been 20 years since Rockabilly music had a rebirth in the US and UK, but early R&B has not enjoyed such a resurgence. Well, People Gonna Talk makes a convincing statement that it should. At a time when radio is spewing a fair amount of anti-music, there's a lot of appeal to album that basks in engaging tunes, soulful vocals and the simple arrangements of guitar, bass, saxophone and drums. It's not so much a step back as a reminder of the foundation of arguably the greatest music of the last half century. And a welcome reminder it is. Recommended.

By Chris Rizik

 
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