April 2006

James Hunter
Presented by Gary Topp
April 12, 2006SupermarketToronto
Too Short But Oh So Sweet
by Sue Bullas with photo by Roger Humbert
James Hunter is a revivalist who loves the essence of what music was like before music was genrefied. This was music that consisted of elements from original R’n’B, Soul, Blues and even a little Country all mashed together. He brings listeners of today the realness and authenticity of this style of music using instruments in creative ways and collaboration of sounds from the twangy almost tinny organ to the double bass and the tenor sax. And while Hunter is a revivalist he is no copy cat. His use of voice and the way he sometimes uses his guitar like a bongo drum definitely set this man on his own track.

Packed in so they could barely move, the audience swayed, some fans reminiscing the style while others were wowed by a sound that was so ‘fresh’. It seemed almost like cruel and unusual punishment to see James Hunter without a dance floor. Meanwhile, poor James and the boys were practically melting on stage.

Hunter’s band is young but they are so tight. By the end of the first song I was looking for poodle skirts and duck tail hair but ironically the mirror ball wasn’t spinning. By the third song I wished I was sock-footed and doing the twist with John Travolta.

“The Very Thought of You” a Frank Sinatra classic written by R. Nobel and “Don’t Come Back” were the two big crowd favourities of the night. Both showcase the very talented band: Jarrod Samuel (organ), Chris Mullek (Baritone Sax), Jay Colinson (tenor sax), Rene Hart (double bass) and Aaron Beckett (drums) backing Hunter up. The title track of his new album People Gonna Talk and “Mollena” made me want to find a man for a good old fashioned slow dance with one hand in mine and the other at the small of my back.

Hunter’s voice is not quite gravelly but simultaneously having such smoothness when he’s singing the slower songs you could float away. The singer he is most often compared to is Sam Cooke. Hunter also trills with his tongue, squawks like a Macaw and jumps from one octave up a few in one leap. Let’s just say he could make Jerry Lee Lewis proud.

Photo of James Hunter
Strangely, last night the crowd hurled questions at him from the floor. He likes Toronto and he’s happy to be here doing his thing. His humour abounds asking if we all have room to dance when he can plainly see we’re sardines for the duration. It tickled him that a few girls took advantage of some room near the side benches but it was too hot for them to dance for the whole show.

Van Morrison is a man of few words so when he describes Hunter as one of the best secrets of the U.K. you can believe it. James Hunter will not be a secret for long. I am hoping however on this one occasion that there is some bandwagon jumping. You can never have too much of the ‘real’ thing. This show was too short — but oh so sweet.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Sue Bullas
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Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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