On Tuesday night, James Hunter is bringing his unique variety of soul to the Troubadour. Unique, you may well question? Yes, unique.
Critics, in their effusive praise, wrong-peg Hunter as a revivalist purist of the Sam Cooke/Jackie Wilson school, but his music takes in a wide range of influences, including '50s piano-based R&B, early Skatalites horn charts, an almost post- modern guitar deconstruction of Ike Turner or Hubert Sumlin, and the New Orleans R&B of Allen Toussaint, who guests on Hunter's The Hard Way," the follow-up album to the 2006 Grammy-nominated People Gonna Talk."
I chatted with Hunter while he was traveling to the Stir Summer Concert in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he was opening for Willie Nelson. He seemed happy, as befits a man whose album hit No. 1 on the Billboard blues chart last week. I think that after 20 years we finally got good at what we were doing," he said with a chuckle.
When asked about the mix of styles, he concurs that it's deliberate: People don't associate strings with a ska beat. We've done that once before with 'People Gonna Talk.' It's a bit of an unexpected approach, y'know. Even though the stuff is kind of familiar, I try to do something as different as I can with it."