It takes you by surprise just how good James Hunter is. Van Morrison called him "one of the best voices and best kept secrets in British R&B and soul.”
In the early Nineties, Van Morrison caught Hunter at a gig in Wales and subsequently hired him as a backup singer for several years of touring and recording. James appeared on Morrison’s live album, "A Night in San Francisco," and on the studio set, "Days Like This."
Onstage, the fifty-one-year-old British singer and songwriter has the energy of a man half his age. He's a former railroad construction worker with a soulful tenor that recalls a range of R & B giants like Sam Cooke, Ray Charles or Bobby Bland. Hunter leads his band, the James Hunter Six, through strict tempos and lightning-quick switchbacks. He is warm,engaging and likely to be telling a joke while checking with the audience to see if they’re having a good time. Hunter’s tight, taut compositions are rooted in American soul music without being bound to it, while his irreverence allows him to evade cliché and keep the genre vibrant. “Often, that’s where the soul revivalists fall flat,” Hunter says. “They invest the music with a mystique that it doesn’t warrant, which destroys it. I was playing in a club once and a very earnest young French couple said to me, ‘Do you feel your music is like a religion?’ ‘No,’ I said. ‘I take it seriously.
It's been 10 years since Hunter burst onto the scene with his U.S. debut "People Gonna Talk" (GO/Rounder 2006), topping the Billboard Blues chart, earning a Grammy-nomination, and attracting universal acclaim from critics and his fans - including Van Morrison, Sharon Jones, and Allen Toussaint. With its affectionate echoes of Sam Cooke andJackie Wilson, the disc became an airplay staple on some of the nation’s most influential radio stations. The Los Angeles Times praised James Hunter’s “extraordinary soul voice”; Rolling Stone called his album “a treat not to miss.” By the year’s end, "People Gonna Talk" was among the Top Ten “Best Albums of 2006” as cited by Mojo, USA Todayand the WFUV listeners’ poll, to name a few. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Albumand James himself was nominated as Best New/Emerging Artist in the annual Americana Music Awards.
Over the last decade, he's toured extensively around the world on the club, theatre, and festival circuits, steadily growing a dedicated audience comprised of hardened gig-goers, old-school baby boomers, and young hipsters alike. His follow-ups "The Hard Way" and "Minute By Minute" (GO/Fantasy), further cemented Hunter's reputation as a soul powerhouse, heralded for his talents both as a live performer and perhaps even more so as a songwriter, with The New Yorker describing his "tight, taut compositions" as "rooted in American soul music without being bound to it."
Now Hunter is back with his fourth album, "Hold On!" marking his debut on Daptone Records, America's premier soul imprint and Hunter's second collaboration with famed producer Gabriel Roth aka Bosco Mann. It also marks a cumulative and consecutive total of 48 original songs written exclusively by Hunter, without resorting to a single covered recording. At age 53, Hunter feels he has finally found his home for making music. "The great thing about working with Gabe is that he can get our tunes on tape exactly the way I heard them in my head when I was writing them," explained Hunter. "It's a rare thing when a producer knows what you're going for before you've told him. It's good to be associated with a record company that 'gets' us."
Watch "Chicken Switch" HERE - Watch James with Sharon Jones HERE
Watch the official HOLD ON album trailer HERE