A permanent fixture in the world of Rhythm and Soul, James Hunter follows up five critically acclaimed albums with his latest recording, Whatever It Takes, for New York City’s venerable label, Daptone Records. At the height of his famed recording career, Hunter and Daptone co-founder and producer Bosco Mann recorded an elegantly crafted collection of 10 originals that are evermore poignant and compelling than the singer’s previous works. The James Hunter Six and Mann recorded Whatever It Takes straight to tape at Daptone’s Penrose Studios in Riverside, California. Whatever It Takes will be internationally released on February 2, 2018.
The first Brit to sign to Daptone Records, Hunter is revered by critics both in his native UK and stateside, with MOJO touting Hunter as “The UK’s greatest soul singer” and the Los Angeles Times praising his “extraordinary soul voice.” Of his prior recordings, Rolling Stone called his U.S. debut People Gonna Talk, “a treat not to miss” and his second album “unbelievably awesome,” while The New York Times noted of The Hard Way, Hunter’s “tight, slithery groove” and “sweet growl.” Hunter’s accolades include milestones of reaching #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart; a GRAMMY® Award nomination for “Best Traditional Blues Album”; years as a singer touring and recording with Van Morrison; and many TV appearances on Conan, Later…with Jools Holland, and other late night TV shows.
Subsequent to his acclaim as one of today’s renowned soul singers, Hunter’s restless genius penning emotive and captivating works results in his best written compositions to date on Whatever It Takes. The needle drops on “I Don’t Wanna Be Without You” with saxophones grabbing your collar, pulling you close and moving you over the undulating curves of a rhumba. His words curl casually into your ear alongside the coquettish bubbling of the organ. The casual confidence of a song-smith who’s honed his craft beyond reproach, Hunter’s effortless intimacy on the track drives a perfect synchronicity with its crooning melodies, harmonies, and rhythms. A unified devotion serving only their master’s voice, his almost violently tender voice plucks lyrics off a seemingly endless vine and feeds them to the listener with the eager patience of a lover.
The mood and tempo then climb up into the swaggering backbeat of the title track. Drums then tear into the bottom of the groove with the full-throated rapture of “I Got Eyes.” Hunter is egged on by complicit background singers here and there. They ease in and out of Whatever It Takes, serving harmonies like tuxedoed waiters in an expensive restaurant, offering perfect pairings for each melodic course.
“Mm-Hmm,” suddenly a tender mood hits. Verses of regret cascade in delicate shapes over dancing rhythms. A word-less chorus paints a painfully detailed picture of misfortune with an eloquently barren hum. Then, a bang. “Blisters,” an instrumental cigarette before you have to get up and turn the record over. Hunter’s guitar work is fearless like a buck knife carving initials into the knobby bark of a Freddy King shuffle.
Take a breath. Side Two: “A tender word too few, came a half a day too late…” “I Should’ve Spoke Up” comes pitter-patting down a rain-soaked sidewalk, lost in sweet, soft, sentimental regret. Then come the talkings-to. “Show Her,” with ostinato bass, drums and organ scrawling “actions speak louder” dutifully on the chalkboard behind Hunter’s lessons. The frenetic tutorial of “Don’t Let Pride Take You for a Ride” practically tears itself apart in its final cautionary refrains. “How Long” is a yarn spun out on a porch with its gospel harmonies and foot stomping. And stepping out just as he stepped in, “It Was Gonna Be You,” an affectionate simplicity and sincerity that defies the quirkiness of the tim-tom clockwork over which it’s delivered.
There is a common theme on Whatever It Takes. It’s not a record about infidelity, shallow seductions, fleeting backdoor trysts, or any of the other common clichés of R&B. These are poetic testaments to truer love. Loyalty, devotion, humility, and the inevitable regret of those who take love for granted. Clearly inspired by his new bride, Hunter is singing about the preciousness of a love he plans to keep, Whatever It Takes.
1. I Don’t Wanna Be Without You
2. Whatever It Takes
3. I Got Eyes
6. I Should’ve Spoke Up
7. Show Her
8. Don’t Let Pride Take You for a Ride
9. How Long
10. It Was Gonna Be You
THE JAMES HUNTER SIX — WINTER & SPRING 2018 TOUR DATES:
February 16 – Annapolis, MD – Ram’s Head
February 17 – Fairfield, Connecticut – StageOne
February 18 – Pawling, New York – Daryl’s House
February 19 – Boston, Massachusetts – City Winery
February 21 – New York – City Winery
February 22 – Bethlehem, Pennsylvania – ArtsQuest
February 23 – Maplewood, New Jersey – Rent Party
February 24 – Washington, DC – Pearl Street Warehouse
February 26 – March 2 – Miami, FL/Montego Bay, Jamaica – Keeping the Blues Alive Cruise
March 6 – London, UK – Borderline
March 8 – Paris, France – La Boule Noire
March 9 – Alencon, France – La Luciole
March 10 – Cleon, France – La Traverse
March 13 – Munchen, Germany – Ampere
March 14 – Koln, Germany – Luxor
March 15 – Hannover, Germany – Faust
March 16 – Hamburg, Germany – Knust
March 17 – Berlin, Germany – Lido
March 23 – Madrid, Spain – Secret Social Club
March 24 – Miranda de Ebro, Spain – Ebrovision event
March 25 – Badalona, Spain – Teatre Principal