Several people in the know regard James Hunter as one of Britain's most
soulful singers. On his second solo album, "Kick It Around," he more than
justifies that praise. As well as being a fine singer, he also shows
himself to be a highly adept songwriter, having written (or co-written) 10
of the album's 12 tunes.
The album opens with the title track, which has a hint of "Fever" about
it. It shows off Hunter's voice to great effect, and establishes the
band's overall sound. There is very much a retro feel to it, even though
the material is nearly all original. The combination of baritone and tenor
sax (Nick Lunt and Damian Hand, respectively) blends terrifically well with
the trio of Hunter (guitar and vocals), Dave Lagnado (double bass) and
Preston Prince (drums).
The band's musical style mostly fits somewhere between R&B and soul. The
most obvious comparison is the sound of the Drifters, although on tunes
like "Mollena" the influence of Sam Cooke is in evidence. Elsewhere, the
finger snapping "Strange But True" also hints at Ben E. King. All of these
tunes show that Hunter is a man of impeccable taste, and has learnt from
his influences, rather than simply imitating them.
The album rounds off with a couple of cracking tunes. The first is the
instrumental "Night Bus," written by the band. It sounds like something
that might have been recorded by someone like the Bar-Kays on the Stax
label, with the horns in particular having a rare old time. Then, to top
it all off there is "Tell Her For Me," which has a touch of "There Ain't
Nothing You Can Do" about it. All that is left to do after that is stretch
out and hit the replay button.
"Kick It Around" is a very fine album. Hunter achieves a great retro
sound, that will greatly appeal to fans of 50's R&B, as well as soul fans,
and even one or two of the early rock'n'rollers. It is not too difficult
to imagine that in another era songs like "Believe Me Baby" could have been
covered by Elvis Presley. Hunter has an ear for a catchy tune, and most of
the music on "Kick It Around" will have you shuffling around in your
seat. You can track "Kick It Around" down via the RUF records web site
This review is copyright © 2001 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.