James Hunter

...Believe What I Say

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The singer/songwriter James Hunter introduced his retro blue-eyed soul approach with this 1996 debut. The smooth Sam Cooke/Clyde McPhatter-influenced vocals weren't quite as confident at his career's start, but for the most part, those smitten by People Gonna Talk will find this a terrific addition to their small Hunter collections. To his credit, Van Morrison was an early supporter, and he appears here on two Bobby "Blue" Bland covers. Morrison had already covered "Ain't Nothing You Can Do" on his live It's Too Late to Stop Now release, so it's likely he brought that to Hunter's attention. "Turn on Your Lovelight" sounds like it could have come off Morrison's His Band and the Street Choir, as he trades verses and harmonizes with Hunter in a spirited performance. Hunter's vocals emphasize Ray Charles more on this album, and not just on the cover of "Hallelujah I Love Her So." The original "Let Me Know" is fashioned from Charles' soul-blues-gospel, right down to the Raelettes-styled backing vocals. Damian Hand and Nick Lunt's sax section is integral to the snappy groove, and bringing the great soul woman Doris Troy along for a duet on "Hear Me Calling" is another classy move. But it's Hunter's terrific voice, sparse yet jazzy guitar, and excellent original songs that make this album so fresh, crisp, and hip.

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