8.21.08 James Hunter at the Filene Center - Carter Rawson
Every so often, one is reminded that a really tight band can breathe fresh life into old sounds without having to a) completely deconstruct the song, b) add a drum machine or c) exorcise the music into an overweening display of virtuosity. Subtract these devices and what you have is soul. And soul is what James Hunter and his band have by the bucket load.
Smitten by the acquisition of Hunter’s 2006 release “People Gonna Talk”, your humble reviewer-at-large unabashedly trekked out to catch a half-hour set from the British blue-eyed soul boy who nabbed an opening slot for Chris Isaak. True to form, the set had all the ebullience of those storied R&B traveling roadshows of the 50s & 60’s where each act was given 15 minutes to win over the crowd. Hunter only needed about five to establish that his impressive mix of originals and covers reflects the sort of imagination that transcends the tag as a revival act.
On the surface the group dynamic recalls the charm and chumminess of the popular Brit-Soul tribute film “The Commitments” but there’s no mistaking the talent that has resulted in guest work with Van Morrison and a Grammy nomination. Personal faves included the catchy “No Smoke Without Fire” and a 5 Royales cover before James and the band were whisked off to sign copies of their new CD “The Hard Way” to a throng of autograph seekers. It was a welcome invasion indeed and clear sign that this is a group to watch for.