Watch The James Hunter Six perform “(Baby) Hold On” for BalconyTV! (An Editor’s Pick!)
This may be James Hunter’s fourth album, but it is his first Daptone record. Produced by Daptone’s own Bosco Mann (Gabriel Roth) at Penrose Recorders (Daptone West) near his home in Riverside, California, ‘Hold On!’ is a perfect portrait of an artist at the top of his game. James Hunter has been on the scene for enough years to acquire plenty of feathers in his cap. Billboard charts, Grammy nominations, and Van Morrison collaborations aside, he has earned an international reputation as a Rhythm and Blues troubadour for his command of the microphone both on stage and in studio. This album, however, is something far deeper than just another notch in his belt. It is truly an artist’s vision come to fruition.
Though tunes like “(Baby) Hold On,” “If That Don’t Tell You,” and “Stranded” carry the buoyant energy, crackerjack arrangements, and tough soulful pulse for which the band has become renowned, the true treasures of this LP may lie in the deeper grooves. Rumbas, boleros, bossanovas, and easy rockers, each one swinging more than the last: “This Is Where We Came In”, “Something’s Calling”, “A Truer Heart”, “Light of My Life”, “In The Dark” — no clichéd throwback nods to a-time-gone-by here. These are forever songs crafted with immaculate care and ingenuity, sung with an effortless balance of tenderness and grit. Many will be tempted to describe it as “authentic,” but the word really has no place here. Hunter’s words are truly his own and though at moments his voice may “evoke” Ray Charles or Sam Cooke, there lies an inherent naturalness in these songs that bucks any comparison past or present.
New Album Due Early 2016 On Daptone Records
Daptone Records is proud to welcome James Hunter to the Daptone Family of artists. James is an accomplished rhythm and blues singer and songwriter who has earned an international following with a career built on solid, soulful live and studio performances. In today’s R&B world, littered with retro-soul cronies, ear-twisting melisma and hollow affectations, James has a voice that stands out not only for its natural beauty and grit, but for its honesty. His songwriting shares the masterful architecture and the inspired creativity of Smokey Robinson, each rhyme and rhythm crafted meticulously, somehow twisting familiar themes into unfamiliar new shapes. And though his voice is unmistakably his own, he delivers his songs with the kind of soulful abandon that often evokes Ray Charles and Otis Redding.
Hunter, who has supported the likes of Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison, Etta James, and Willie Nelson, emerged as a soul powerhouse in 2006 with People Gonna Talk, which hit #1 on the Billboard Blues chart, landed on year-end lists from Mojo to USA Today, and was nominated for a Grammy. His next album, The Hard Way, was another Billboard Blues #1, but it was 2013’s Minute by Minute, that brought James and his band, The James Hunter Six, to the states to team up with Daptone producer, Bosco Mann for the first time. Though it was released on GO Records through Fantasy, the Daptone staff was so impressed by the sessions that the vinyl rights were licensed by Daptone for exclusive distribution.
This past May, James and his band returned to the studio to cut what will be his first record as a Daptone artist, due early 2016. From the driving stompers to the bubbling rumbas, the record drips with the rawness and feeling that Daptone fans have become accustomed to, and cuts straight to the soul of the man who James Hunter fans have come to love. “It’s good to be associated with a record company that ‘gets’ us,” chimes James. Well, it’s good to be associated with you too, James. Now let’s make some hit records!
On September 7th, Daptone will release a 45 single, which will feature two hits from Minute by Minute, “If I Only Knew” b/w “Heartbreak.”
“The great thing about working with Gabe Roth is that he can get our tunes on tape exactly the way I heard them in my head when I was writing them. It’s a rare thing when a producer knows what you’re going for before you’ve told him. A good indication of this kind of empathy is he’ll dig a record out (and he’s got a few) and say, “You’ll like this,” and be right every time. He and I have both had our respective battles to make music that evokes the style and feel of the records that grabbed us and both have resisted the well-intentioned journalistic shorthand of terms like ‘vintage’ and ‘retro’ that sometimes greeted our efforts, as if antiquity was a plus point in itself. The fact is, some time ago, recording techniques changed in a way that enhanced some styles of playing but not others and then became THE method of no choice. Gabe once said he doesn’t want to make ‘old records,’ he wants to make good records and his definition of ‘good’ chimes with my own.” – James Hunter