James Hunter

Kick It Around

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True, this record is very derivative of late-'50s R&B on the verge of soul. Yet very few people reviving this style several decades after its peak have done it as well, and in as natural and unforced a fashion, as Hunter does on this album. As a vocalist, his reference points are the suave R&B-soul crossover greats Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and Bobby Blue Bland, perhaps with a bit of Clyde McPhatter (McPhatter's hit "Lover's Question" is one of only two covers on the CD). There's some Georgie Fame, too, in the subtle jazz shadings to both the singing and the songwriting. The songs, too, are smooth but urgent numbers that benefit from smoky saxes and some of Hunter's own stinging guitar. There are many R&B revivalists, and Hunter has several legs up on them: He's a genuinely good, assured soul singer who can pen facsimiles of the old classic sounds that are enjoyable in their own right, and he and his backing players understate rather than overstate. It sounds simple, but not many pull it off.

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