James Hunter Brings His Soul to Troubadour

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James Hunter
James Hunter makes 'The Hard Way' easy

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."

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