- By Simon Luedtke -
After the critical success of their last project Hold On! (2016), The James Hunter Six has returned in the dead of winter with a glowing effort to warm things up. Whatever It Takes is the third album from the English rhythm and blues band. The band is led by the incomparable James Hunter. His own musical endeavors date back to the mid-1980s. The project is a delightful slice of blue-eyed soul with upbeat lyrics and catchy instrumentals. It is guaranteed to bring a sly smile and a tapping foot to any unsuspecting listener.
A testament to "truer love"
As the 55-year-old singer has said in the months leading up to the album's release, this project is not about unfaithfulness, nor even passing fancies, though these themes are more than common in the genre. Whatever It Takes is a poetic dedication to "truer love." This sentiment shines from start to finish the album rejoices in its fidelity. In the album, there are even tracks throughout. Such as the simple and touching "I Should've Spoke Up." Which expresses a degree of remorse for taking such a love for granted in the past. On the whole, however, the album ranges from jovial declarations of affection to Hunter's quiet contentedness with his current sweetheart, whom he has recently married.
Daptone Records released the ten track album. Daptone is responsible for such modern soul artists as Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Charles Bradley, and Menahan Street Band. The James Hunter Six became the first British artist to sign with label in 2016.
A unique and intriguing sound
Being an ensemble of six members, the band has always had a unique and intriguing sound. Two saxophones, a keyboard, drummer, bassist and Hunter's own guitar and vocals composes The James Hunter Six. In tracks like "MM-Hmm," this collaboration reaches its peak. The call and response dynamic of Hunter's veteran soul voice with the saxophones' grumbling retort gives the wholes song an airy suavity. Pair this with the keyboard, drummer and bassist's token groove, and you've got yourself one charming tune.
Even the somewhat accidental track like "I Got Eyes," inspired by the late Nina Simone, finds a delightful youthfulness in its rhythm. Hunter wrote that while the band was on tour in Washington, this song was hastily arranged and recorded. It acts as a 'raver' to balance out the slower ballads. According to Hunter, it also served as an excuse to hit the highest notes he could muster. The band finds this sweet spot time and time again in the album's 27 minute runtime. This makes for a very memorable listening experience.
In a soul scene that so often lends the spotlight to younger, more experimental artists, it is certainly refreshing to see a group of experienced, weathered musicians still producing high quality work, and getting noticed for it. The James Hunter Six's latest album swings like Ray Charles and sings like Van Morrison. And the best part? There's not a doubt in my mind that this band has much more to offer in the days ahead.