I could not honestly believe that any artist that Van Morrison
liked and supported would be anything short of amazing. James
Hunter plays soul music the way it is meant to be played
the old school way. His style is reminiscent of Sam Cooke's
in more ways than one, and his voice has a similar smoky spirit. The
songs on his American debut record People Gonna Talk are full
of the hopping depth that made Motown the driving musical force that
it most assuredly was. The record was recorded on purely analog equipment,
and was recorded live in one room, musicians all playing together
the way true rock music should be brought about. This approach to
the recording is instantly recognizable. There is a depth and purity
to the album that lacks on many modern recordings - that stable character
of musicians responding to the nuances of the others in the room.
It's incredible, and should be an eye-opener for the younger crowd
who has never known records produced this way.
The songs don't stray far from their soul roots, which in this case
enhances the experience of People Gonna Talk. This is not a
record one would listen to for a trip through many stylings and genres,
but rather a focused compendium of neo-classicism. From the opening
notes of "People Gonna Talk" it is clear that there is something
magical in the deeply charactered voice of Hunter. The jazzy hop of
songs like "You Can't Win" is captivating and instantly
familiar, sidling up to the listener's soul like an old friend. "Riot
In My Heart" capably showcases Hunter's guitar playing abilities,
demonstrating that he can not only write and sing instant classics,
but can riff the 6-string like the best of them. His playing is sparse,
with just the right amount of flair and flavor, and reminds me of
Steve Cropper's playing with the amazing Booker T. And The
MGs. The gentle swing of "Mollena" draws forth memories
of early Stax soul, with its gentle guitars and stirring saxophone
ensemble over brushed drums that seem to shine.
James Hunter has been a near-underground sensation in Britain for
nigh on a decade. It seems about time for him to break out on this
side of the pond, giving us classic music fanatics another clear and
deep voice to add to the libretto's of R'N'B music. People Gonna
Talk shines with the same brilliance that so many Motown classics
continue to contain, and renews my hope that modern music isn't a
lost art, but rather a carefully continued craft that can be as beautiful
and pure as any of the world's great works of art.
1. People Gonna Talk
2. No Smoke Without Fire
3. You Can't Win
4. Riot in My Heart
5. Til Your Fool Comes Home
7. I'll Walk Away
8. Watch & Chain
9. Kick It Around
10. Don't Come Back
11. It's Easy to Say
12. Tell Her for Me
13. Talkin' 'Bout My Love
14. All Through Cryin'
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