There are some who wrote off James Hunter’s last album, People Gonna Talk, as the work of a misguided nostalgia buff. Evidently, that didn’t bother the guitar-?slinging Colchester soul man, who returns to his 60s touchstones of Marv Johnson and Georgie Fame for the unapologetically retro R&B of The Hard Way.
Hunter makes no attempt to hide his influences while pursuing a more sophisticated sound. On the contrary, he openly honours his forebears, much like his mentor Van Morrison once did, by building on their legacy with well-?written songs performed with heartfelt conviction. It helps enormously that Hunter is a superb string bender and has producer Liam Watson (the White Stripes) recording his combo playing live in the studio, accompanied by New Orleans great Allen Toussaint adding perfect piano fills and vocals. If you thought no one made albums like this any more, they don’t so enjoy The Hard Way.
James Hunter hits Nathan Phillips Square for the Toronto Jazz Festival June 24.