The sophomore album from Morgan James, 2014's Hunter, features the Broadway vocalist's mix of retro-R&B and '70s-influenced singer/songwriter soul. Ostensibly James' debut album, Hunter actually follows up her 2012 Nina Simone tribute concert recording, Morgan James Live from Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. That said, Hunter is James' first recording of all-original material and, in that sense, a much more personal statement than her live debut. Produced by jazz and bluegrass guitarist Doug Wamble, Hunter finds James delving deeply into a collection of tunes that, while not show tunes in any sense, still make clever use of her stage-honed chops. It also doesn't hurt that Wamble, an experienced musician with a wealth of musical skill and cross-genre knowledge, has assembled a backing band that features a bevy of heavyweight jazz artists, including acclaimed pianist Robert Glasper, saxophonist Ron Blake, trumpeter Ravi Best, and others. However, rather than having James focus on jazz standards or even jazz-influenced pop songs, Wamble helped the vocalist craft an R&B-inflected album that brings to mind classic artists like Carole King and Hall & Oates as well as more contemporary singers including Beyoncé and the late Amy Winehouse. James, who made her Broadway debut in 2010 alongside Nathan Lane in The Addams Family, has a big, resonant voice with a ton of flexibility, perfectly suited for such crisp, soulful cuts as "Heart Shake" and "Bring Yourself to Me." Elsewhere, she delves into several equally compelling bluesy midtempo numbers, including "You Never Lied" and "Drown." Ultimately, it's that voice -- matched with Wamble's superb musical vision -- that creates the soulful, exuberant vibe of Hunter.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar