James Hunter Six
WHATEVER IT TAKES
The Hottest Rhythm, Blues & Soul Album of The Year By FAR!
Oh dear Lord! It appears that I’ve been a fan of James Hunter for over thirty years!!!! THIRTY YEARS! And he still looks so handsome and so young; life’s just not fair, is it?
James; or Howlin’ Wilf as we knew him then was and still is a regular visitor to the Jumpin’ Hot Club on Tyneside and I’ve not missed many gigs in that time, plus I’ve seen him and the band in London Town twice; first at the Jazz Cafe and also on my birthday at Ronnie Scott’s club which was a dream come true for me and Mrs Magpie.
So here we have his his sixth album under his own moniker and second on the majestic Daptone label; and (spoiler alert) there’s not been a lot of messing about with that winning formula at all; the James Hunter Six are as smooth and double-cool as ever; as opening song I Don’t Wanna Be Without You proves…..the notes actually melted as they seeped out of the RMHQ office stereo.
Freshly married; James serenades his lady with a sublime love song that will make even the coldest of cold hearts skip a beat.
The title track Whatever It Takes follows; and the songwriter takes a step back as he woos the woman in his life by apologising for some unknown misdemeanour with a love song deluxe and a simply swinging groove from the boys on saxophones, as is to be expected.
Next out of the traps is I Got Eyes is a jumping jive of a track, with Hunter performing his trademark strangulated yodel on each and every chorus, in a way only he can make ‘cool.’
If I’m wrong I’m sure James will quickly be on my case, but I can’t remember an instrumental before but we get an absolute doozy here; Blisters allows the boys in the band to show case their sublime skills on a track that’s worthy of any of the Blue Note albums in my collection.
Without ever being saucy in the slightest but this is very much a record of ‘grown up’ love songs; ones that ‘actually mean something’ and make ‘you think’ about your own relationships; which is the power of the man’s timeless songwriting; as Show Her and How Long will prove to even the casual listener.
As is the case with all of the James Hunter/Howlin’ Wilf albums in my collection there’s not a single bad track here; with a couple lifting themselves above the others to the for the RMHQ Favourite Track accolade; MM…Hmm and Don’t Let Pride Take You For a Ride. The former is a lovely slipping and sliding smooth as silk late night smoocher and the latter is a rip-snorter of an R&B dance tune, and a mighty fine song that we can all take heed from.
To the uninitiated I’ve never been sure who to compare The James Hunter Six to (Van Morrison? Not really, BB or Freddy King? Again, no); or even pigeon hole their music…..it’s Rhythm & Blues for sure, and it has found a perfect home at Daptone Records; but our friend from the badlands of Essex has a voice so soulful you’d swear he was born and bred in Harlem; and the band are as tight as a badger’s bum; which is what you’d expect from guys who have toured the world together for as long as I can remember, bringing joy to audiences far and wide; which is just what this album will do too.
Released February 2nd 2018