Although his commercial fortunes had not yet matched theirs by the time this album was released, James Hunter had been promoting the revival of classic-era soul for a couple decades before fellow Brits Amy Winehouse, Corinne Bailey Rae, and Joss Stone came along. His command of the idiom has never been less than thorough and convincing -- without knowing that the songs on The Hard Way were newly recorded, anyone might guess that this retro feast was a long-lost gem from 1966. Hunter's voice is equal parts grits and silk, somewhere between Sam Cooke smooth and Bobby "Blue" Bland scorched, and his small combo of sympathetic players could easily have found work in the studios of Hi, Stax, or Chess back when this style reigned. Compared to Hunter's last, 2006's Grammy-nominated People Gonna Talk, The Hard Way, his debut for Hear Music, is a tad tougher -- the horns are more prominent and sharper, Hunter's guitar has more bite to it, and the rhythms cut deeper -- and quicker; at times Hunter veers closer to soul-rock than he has in the past, but he's still working well within his favorite genre. Hunter, as always, is a riveting vocalist -- his singing grabs and never lets go. He handles both the lazy, bluesy tunes and the sweatier uptempo R&B with equal commitment and style, sounding as natural as can be as he tells his tales of love and the lack of it. On the slinky blues ballad "'Til the End," one of a few tunes on which he is joined by New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint, Hunter takes his time spilling out his doomsday scenario of a relationship gone down while the drums, bass, and horns lope along minimally. When he unfurls his brief guitar solo midway, it's economical but searing. On the rocking "Jacqueline" a doo-woppy chorus and squalling sax fill in the holes, and for the title track, a Cooke ringer, the Echo Strings add muscle and sass to the arrangement. Dancefloor denizens once ached for tunes this beat-crazy and would do well to reacquaint themselves with the real deal via James Hunter.
Performance CreditsJames Hunter Primary Artist,Guitar,Vocals
Ellen Blair Violin
George Chandler Background Vocals,Guest Appearance
B.J. Cole Pedal Steel Guitar,Guest Appearance
Damian Hand Tenor Saxophone,Musical Direction
Dave Priseman Trumpet,Flugelhorn,Guest Appearance
Allen Toussaint Piano,Electric Piano,Background Vocals,Guest Appearance
Gillon Cameron Violin
Kyle Koehler Organ
Tony Woollard Cello
Nicola Sweeney Violin
Gill Morley Violin
Lee Badau Baritone Saxophone
Jennymay Logan Violin,Viola
James C. Hunter Guitar,Vocals
Technical CreditsDamian Hand String Arrangements
Richard Mantel Art Direction
James Hunter Composer
Liam Watson Producer,Engineer
Christian "ChrisRam" Ramirez Cover Photo
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Hard Way based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
This is a great new CD. Similar music to his other CDs, which is a good thing. Lots of horns and the Hammond B-3, and a great zydeco-tinged version of his "Believe Me Baby" with music legend Alan Toussaint. If this CD doesn't have you tapping your toes, check your pulse!
James Hunter new release " The Hard Way" meets the challenge of putting out an album that rivals his previous release, " People Gonna Talk." Although Hunter shows his rockin' fervor with " Don't do me no favors" and " Jacqueline," he shows his balladeer expertise with " Hand it Over" and the ska tinged " Carina." As in previous albums, his voice hearkens back to Jackie Wilson, which he does with the title track and " Ain't going nowhere" . However, their seems to be more of a Ray Charles influence, which is evident in the aforementioned " Don't do me no favors," " She's got a Way" and " Believe me Baby." Credit is also due to Hunter's backing band that is tight sounding as ever. If you get to see them in concert, you will be energized and buzzed all night long.
I could listen to Mr. Hunter all day long (which is fortunate considering I have had to). This CD, along with his first two, belongs in everyone's music collection. It's hard not to love its retro sound and his smooth vocals.
After I heard Carina on the radio, I was hooked. There is something so absolutely slick and cool about it that I was motivated to buy the entire album without hearing another song. I've since listened to it the entire way through, and I think it contains some of the most impressively constructed songwriting that I've heard in a bit! It's one thing to borrow on past styles, instrumentally and vocally, but to add something to it, make it unique and your own at the same time? Well done, Mr. Hunter. You've done it again!