The Spitz Friday 21st July2006
Review Rick Webb. Pics by Andy Hall
Of course here at Bluesinlondon.com we've always
known James Hunter was ace - check out the interview we did with
him back in March 2005 here.
It seems the rest of the world is at last catching up and 2006 has
seen him playing all over America, including spots on mainstream
chat shows, and joining ranks with Bob Dylan by being featured in
Starbucks (!) with the album, 'People Gonna Talk' which has received
pretty much universal acclaim. In the UK he's done sessions with
Phil Jupitus, Paul Jones, Robert Elms, Mark Lamarr and Andy Kershaw.
Hats off, then, to The Spitz - probably more associated these days
with them Punk Rock Blues types - for putting him on, and including
the mighty Big Joe Louis and His Blueskings (our interview with
Joe here) on the
Joe and the Blueskings, featuring the awesome zebra-skinned echo
twang of King David on guitar and some mighty dark and dirty grooves
- these guys can certainly do 'swamp' in fine style - had everybody
in the packed, and VERY hot Spitz, wound up and ready to go. Then
on comes Hunter and his outstanding band...
His voice is, of course amazing. He's got an extraordinary Sam Cooke/Jackie
Wilson soulful R&B thing going on and it's almost unbelievable
coming as it does from this affable feller from Colchester. He does
it effortlessly and without affectation though; it's entirely natural,
rather than put on in an attempt to sound 'authentic' and maybe
this goes some way to explaining just why he's so good. He, and
the band, manage to capture the magic of those great records of
the past without being merely a pastiche of them. The songs are
new, and the presentation is contemporary, it just feels like these
guys have remembered how to do it properly while everybody else
in the last 30 years have forgotten.
It's easy to overlook, because of his singing, just how good James'
guitar playing is too. Who in the UK (or anywhere) can do that spare,
early Johnny Guitar Watson type of playing that James can do so
effortlessly? If you've ever seen him doing a solo gig, sitting
on his amp in the corner of a pub you'll know just how effective
When I spoke to him about it last year he had this to say:
"My playing comes from trying to fill out the rhythm section
- there's only one guitar so I'm trying to do a cross between rhythm
and lead, trying to make the rhythm as spare as possible so it doesn't
leave a huge gap when you do a lead break. I haven't quite mastered
He's an entertaining performer as well. The effortless class of
his singing and playing is in no way diminished by the cheeky chappie
persona. Often, people this good are so impressed with themselves
that there's no room for any humour, especially if it involves any
self deprecation, yet not so with Hunter - he smiles and jokes with
the audience in between numbers all the time paying up a storm.
Maybe this goes some way towards explaining the audience response.
These are James Hunter FANS, and very personal they are about it
too. They recognise the songs within a few bars and, as Andy the
photographer moved about trying to get through, the crowd were keen
to move out of the way and point out a better angle, as well as
coming up to me as I wrote notes to impress upon me just how good
they thought he was. It's as if they want the world to know what
they already do - that James Hunter is fantastic. It's beginning
to look like the rest of the world is agreeing with them.