9 Feb 2016

The James Hunter Six: Hold On!

There is no getting away from it. James Hunter is a magician, a shape shifter, a hundred brilliant singers packed into one super soul singer who can lead you by the hand (or the ear!) absolutely anywhere - and you will go willingly.

Imagine this. You are in a small room, you are pretty fed up. Your partner has left you, the dog has died, the bailiffs are on their way - you may even have a leg in plaster. Yep, it's a bad day. Bursting through the door come The James Hunter Six and it seems as though they have brought with them Sam Cook, Ray Charles, Richard Hawley, Al Green, some spectacular brass players, a mighty organist and pianist, cracking harp and guitar playing, backing singers, (probably) some hand jive experts and certainly some sharp suits plus every good time and soul band lick you have ever heard. His crackling voice gets hold of your plastered leg and you leap to your feet. Waddya gonna do? Bad day? Forget it. Yep. Dance.

The new James Hunter Six album “Hold On!” is an absolutely lip-smacking, hip-shaking, shape-waving, kicker of a feel-good album. I am challenging any listener to this album to try not to dance from the moment the first note of the first track bounces out of the speakers and bounds round the room. Hunter has an extraordinary beautiful voice and even though you may try, it is pointless trying to make comparisons with anyone else. They are all there as subtle echoes but he is very much his own man with a voice that can speak for itself. From the day he emerged almost fully formed with a U.S debut album many years ago that crashed the American Billboard charts and Grammy nominations, Hunter has always been recognised for his remarkable soul-infused voice and song-writing and this album will confirm that reputation. In a former life he has been Howlin' Wilf and the Vee-Jays which built him a huge following for his live shows and brought him to the attention of some major artists, like Van Morrison and since then his reputation has gone from strength to strength.

This album takes you straight into the dance hall, with close up dancing, smooching, sliding, rocking and even a touch of cha-cha-cha with 'This is Where I came In' (delightfully heralded by an organ fanfare and some wonderful classic ballroom piano). Hunter and his hugely talented band glide easily from some solid stomp in 'Stranded', through (surely) the sax-men standing up and giving it large on 'Free Your Mind' and the title track '(Baby) Hold On' to 'Something's Calling' where his effortless and soulful voice lures you into up close and personal on the dance floor.

There's not a weak track on this album and even the one instrumental 'Satchelfoot' - which sees the guitarist strut his stuff and take you straight back to the days of Peter Gunn and black and white detective series – has a great lift to it and will get you up out of your chair again. This is a hugely entertaining and enjoyable album by a superb band. If you want to dance up close with the Great Love of Your Life then make sure the James Hunter Six are on the bandstand.