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Hard Way

The Hard Way

4.0 5
by James Hunter

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Rolling Stone
Recorded at Toe Rag Studios in London (where the White Stripes cut Elephant), accented by Hunter's tasty guitar and subtle horn arrangements, The Hard Way is a career achievement for the bandleader who broke through in 2006 with the Grammy-nominated People Gonna Talk.
The Independent (U.K.)
Best of all is "Don't Do Me No Favours," a New Orleans-flavoured groove featuring an infectious combination of syncopation and slide, with a terse, springy guitar break and organ solo pitted against warmly riffing horns, with Hunter's blue-eyed home-counties soul vocal leading the way.

Product Details

Release Date:
Hear Music

Related Subjects


Album Credits

Performance Credits

James 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 Credits

Damian Hand   String Arrangements
Richard Mantel   Art Direction
James Hunter   Composer
Liam Watson   Producer,Engineer
Christian "ChrisRam" Ramirez   Cover Photo

Customer Reviews

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The Hard Way 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
James Hunter new release &quot The Hard Way&quot meets the challenge of putting out an album that rivals his previous release, &quot People Gonna Talk.&quot Although Hunter shows his rockin' fervor with &quot Don't do me no favors&quot and &quot Jacqueline,&quot he shows his balladeer expertise with &quot Hand it Over&quot and the ska tinged &quot Carina.&quot As in previous albums, his voice hearkens back to Jackie Wilson, which he does with the title track and &quot Ain't going nowhere&quot . However, their seems to be more of a Ray Charles influence, which is evident in the aforementioned &quot Don't do me no favors,&quot &quot She's got a Way&quot and &quot Believe me Baby.&quot 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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago