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James Hunter
The Spitz
Friday 21st July2006

Review Rick Webb. Pics by Andy Hall

Soul blues singer James Hunter

Of course here at 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 bill.

Soul blues singer James Hunter

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 it is.

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 that yet!"

Soul blues singer James Hunter Soul blues singer James Hunter

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.

Related Bluesinlondon pages:
2008 interview with James >>
2005 interview with James >>
Live Review Hammermith Apollo 2008 >>
Live review Jazz Café 2007 >>
Live review Spitz 2006 >>

External Links: - Official Website - Myspace

Trailer for 'People Gonna Talk' >>
Live in Philadelphia >>
Later with Jools Holland >>

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