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.