James Hunter Six - Whatever It Takes

James Hunter Six
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The James Hunter Six - Whatever It Takes

Soul music can have a life changing effect. That is something that a New Jersey native can attest to. She heard the music of The James Hunter Six on the radio, and inspired to attend a show in New York. A year later, that fan became the number one fan of The James Hunter Six when she married him and became Mrs. Jessie Hunter at a wedding ceremony in New Orleans.

The James Hunter Six - Whatever It Takes

Soul music can have a life changing effect. That is something that a New Jersey native can attest to. She heard the music of The James Hunter Six on the radio, and inspired to attend a show in New York. A year later, that fan became the number one fan of The James Hunter Six when she married him and became Mrs. Jessie Hunter at a wedding ceremony in New Orleans.

Love can have an inspirational effect on a performer – even a road wise lifer such as English soul singer James Hunter, who fronts The James Hunter Six on their new record, Whatever It Takes. The impact might not be immediately apparent to those who recalls Hunter’s 2006 record People Gonna Talk or even those who go back to the 1990s when Hunter fronted a band called Howlin’ Wilf and the Vee Jays. However, the music on the soon to be released record by The James Hunter Six was inspired by the romance between James and Jessie that culminated their 2016 wedding in New Orleans.

Hunter’s music, as it has since the release of the critically acclaimed People Gonna Talk, remains rooted spiritually, lyrically and musically that era between 1958 and 1964. That means Hunter’s sound is centered about a little bit earlier than his Daptone records label mates, the Dap Kings, a band whose hard-core funk sound was driven by the late, great Sharon Jones.

So, while Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings drew their inspiration from what was coming out of Memphis and Muscle Shoals in the late 60s and early 70s, Hunter’s kindred spirits are artists such as The Drifters, Sam Cooke, Ruby and the Romantics and the Jerry Butler-led Impressions.

The James Hunter Six share a strong commitment to old school romantic lyricism with their label mates. That comes through from the opening track, “I Don’t Wanna Be Without You,” a swinging number that infuses churchy electric organs with a Latin styled cha cha beat and percussion through “It Was Gonna Be You,” a mid-tempo Caribbean infused ballad that finds Hunter wrapping his ragged baritone around a song that finds him extolling the inevitability of the love he has found. “If anyone was gonna be a guiding hand/if anyone was gonna be an oasis in the burning desert sand/ If there was a future I can put my dreams into it was gonna be you.”

Those two songs bookend a project that serves an ode to love found. The opening track finds hunter describing the transformative power of love. He begins by singing about how he was set in his ways when they met and swings into a hook where he declares that “I don’t wanna be without you baby/like before.” Hunter kicks up the pace and funkiness on “I Got Eyes,” a track driven by honking horns, jangling guitar riffs and kicking drums, but that finds a growling Hunter keeping his mind and his eyes on that lady.

The lyrics on Whatever It Takes speak of the spark that new love can add to the rough and ready vocals of a guy like Hunter. However, this record also shows the musical benefits of long term artistic relationship. Hunter and his side men have been together for at least 20 years, and singer and musicians work together like an old couple that finishes each other’s sentences. Solidly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 

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