The James Hunter Six
Blue-eyed soul gets a lousy rap and many sharp pokes due to its levels of cultural appropriation. While the classics of the genre—from The Righteous Brothers up through Harry Styles with pit stops at Robert Palmer, Van Morrison, Hall & Oates, Boz Scaggs, Justin Timberlake, and Bowie’s Young Americans—remain in place, historically it’s been rough (beyond sheer pop—say, Justin Bieber’s brand of R&B-pop) for something more raw to get a fair trial.
James Hunter has long trod that rough and soulful road, and With Love is living proof—a collection that seeks to secure his place, once and for all, within the canon. And like the aforementioned Robert Palmer, Hunter and his Six are unafraid of dashing their smooth soul with the good grit of the blues, especially when you consider this crew’s live-in-studio recording vibe.
Focusing on slow ballads and pensive romancers, stunningly cinematic tracks such as “Who’s Fooling Who,” “If I Only Knew,” and “He’s Your Could’ve Been” are from the old school of soul that allowed a Latin shuffle into its sway a la Aretha Franklin’s “Spanish Harlem.” Reaching back even deeper into that school’s kit bag is the doo-wop-inspired “Never” and the ’50s-vocal-group-inflected “Mm-Hmm,” all of which allow Hunter the opportunity of finding new variations on hurt, sex, earnest flirtation, and the brand of open-throated soul nuance initially crafted by Jackie Wilson.
Heavenly stuff, this. If you missed it all the first time, find the JH6 now and cherish his wide, wonderful, and heavy heart and soul.