New Releases

When Six Are One


Back in 2011, I reviewed James Hunter’s Grammy-nominated Rounder release, People Gonna Talk, a fine album of bluesy soul that displays Hunter’s knack for channeling the Stax style made popular in the early 1960s. Hunter followed that in 2008 with The Hard Way (Hear Music), which carries on that tradition and grew Hunter’s reputation as an avatar of the sound made famous by the likes of Jackie Wilson, Otis Redding, and James Brown. On his third stateside album, 2013’s Minute By Minute (Fantasy), Hunter -- now going by the name The James Hunter Six in a nod to his longtime band’s tremendous aptitude for harnessing a vintage sound -- again sets the analog tape rolling, delivering a fresh set of timeless, original tunes.

The album kicks off with “Chicken Switch,” and immediately you know you’re in capable hands. Hunter’s voice, ripened perfectly with middle age and leavened by the twin saxes of Damian Hand (tenor) and Lee Badau (baritone), imparts an authenticity that is certainly the envy of every retro singer currently adopting the era of their soul forefathers. From here, the album only gets better.

The title track swings along under Hunter’s gravel-and-bone vocals, and his sotto delivery on “Heartbreak” accentuates the truth of romantic loss. “One Way Love” (better than no-way love, according to Hunter) starts hot and burns all the way through, enlivened by the Six’s cohesive playing, while closing track “If I Only Knew” cools the tempo and energy with Hunter’s gravelly croon.

The James Hunter Six is played the South by Southwest 2013 festival in Austin, Texas in support of the album, and have a handful of other tour dates around the world.