James Hunter has been a staple on the UK Soul scene since the mid-80’s and even while singing backups/touring the world with Van Morrison in the mid-90’s it seems that he is just now hitting his career heights in the late-2010’s. He has recently had songs featured on NBC’s Superstore and now The James Hunter Six release Whatever It Takes, a strong set of ten warm retro-soul tracks that are a joy to hear.
Hunter has found a perfect fit on Daptone Records as the label caters to the bands soulful strengths. Their second effort with the label was recorded directly to tape by producer Bosco Mann capturing the music and singing which traces its roots directly back to the heyday of soul. Just as the label has done for Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones and others, James Hunter steps directly into Daptone’s sweet production formula and delivers the goods.
“I Don’t Wanna Be Without You” starts the album off on a yearning rhumba high before the title track sharp drums lay the grooving foundation for the smoky vocals but it is the motoring “I Got Eyes” that really pops, complete with wails from Hunter to close. “Mm-Hmm” dips into ballad land exploring the age old struggles of love while the B3 kicks off the instrumental “Blisters” which expertly features cooking electric guitar work in this glorious Freddy King tribute.
The shuffling “I Should’ve Spoke Up” and “Show Her” both display a delicate pop touch while “Don’t Let Your Pride Take You For A Ride” is perfectly titled as Hunter sings about missing out on a deeper connection over a driving beat. The stripped down acoustic “How Along” features great acoustic guitar picking action and even better gospel drenched backing vocals before the album closes with the sultry groove of “It Was Gonna Be You”.
Granted there is nothing new offered here, but the songwriting, production and performances are all top notch. There may not be a must hear single amongst the ten short tracks, but conversely there is not one to skip either; each song brims with confidence and style. Fans of retro-soul or any greats of the genres past (Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, etc) will take instantly to The James Hunter Six’s Whatever It Takes; it glows with a shine from yesteryear.