Miles Hunt

By the Time I Got to Jersey

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Originally called Common Threads Live after a New Jersey-based radio show which hosts acoustic performances on a regular basis, By the Time I Got to Jersey is an engaging, warm album featuring Hunt, as well as regular Wonder Stuff bandmate Malcolm Treece on guitars, vocals, and nothing else. Hunt's voice is still the fine, high but not (generally speaking) strained thing it is, friendly even at its sharpest, while the playing throughout is brisk and fun by both performers. If anything is the big revelation, it's Hunt's newfound chumminess, admitting at one point that his MTV host stint made him realize how many musicians mistake arrogance for being cool -- and then recognizing that during the Wonder Stuff days he was exactly the same way! Of the Wonder Stuff songs that make up the bulk of the set, "Circlesquare," by definition much different from the semi-baggy original and working all the better for it, and a slowed-down, lovely ramble through "Caught In My Shadow" are the highlights. The set-starting "Don't Let Me Down Gently" turned out to be a smart choice, active and immediate. A few post-Wonder Stuff songs crop up as well, starting with the then-new "Manna From Heaven," a ruminative number that definitely sounds like something the Stuffies couldn't have done. It just seems to require this kind of spare arrangement more than anything else, though some of the lyrics hold the old bite. Two Vent414 songs also crop up; "Fixer" has the same slower feel of "Manna From Heaven" at the start before gently firing up as it goes, while "Your Latest Innuendo" is a lovely if barbed ballad. A small but spirited audience cheers things on, and Hunt's abilities as a low-key raconteur are on display at various points (thus the amusingly titled "Blah Blah" tracks).

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