James Hunter

People Gonna Talk

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Truly a man, and an album, out of time, James Hunter travels back to the '60s for this slinky shot of retro soul-blues. The singer/guitarist/cartoonist's (he draws the comical caricatures of the band in the liner notes) third album for his third label, isn't a departure from previous releases, but it summarizes what he does best. Kicking off with the Caribbean breeze of the title track, things quickly shift to the funky Austin Powers soul of "No Smoke Without Fire." Hunter's combo of twin saxes, bass, drums, and his own tasty guitar makes for unique jazz/blues/pop that has its roots in Ray Charles' small combo, King Curtis, and Van Morrison's early-'70s work, in particular His Band and the Street Choir. Vocally, Hunter's croon falls on the smooth Sam Cooke side of Boz Scaggs. The album seems like it was made in the late '50s, and the clean sound along with Liam Watson's spacious production is the only giveaway that it was recorded in 2005. None of this would amount to much though if the songs didn't connect, and these do. Perfectly written and arranged, these are each polished gems with instantly memorable choruses and lyrics that although heavy on moon-June-spoon, never sound forced or uncomfortably contrived. Hunter is a punchy, pithy guitarist, cranking out taut solos with the economy of Steve Cropper. Some tunes such as "Talkin' Bout My Love" with its jaunty horns and twistable beat seem like they were grabbed from, or written for, a '60s beach flick. At 14 tracks running 40 minutes, it's over before you want it to be, always the sign of a quality album. An anomaly in 2006 with its mini sax section and sparse, danceable songs, the album nonetheless shimmers with hip-shaking grooves. Although the disc is decidedly retro, it exudes classy, cool fun that feels timeless. An instant party starter, it'll make you want to do the Twist, the Jerk, the Shimmy, and the Mashed Potato, or at least learn how.

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