Soul Man: James Hunter at the Rhythm Room on Tuesday, September 11

By Niki D'Andrea Photo slideshow by Luke Holwerda

James Hunter may be one of the best kept secrets of the music world. In fact, Van Morrison called him “the best voice and best-kept secret in British R&B and soul.”

Hunter has long been the critics’ darling, garnering rave reviews from Rolling Stone, The Music Box, Variety, and various Village Voice Media publications. The one criticism the crooner gets is that he’s a “throwback,” but if you enjoy ‘50s and early ‘60s R&B, the smooth tunes on Hunter’s latest album, People Gonna Talk (Rounder) are quite refreshing. This is not an artist seeking to emulate a vintage sound in a modern world, but rather a man whose music serves as a veritable time machine. The only contemporary touch on Hunter’s latest album is the ska-flavored title track. His other songs, like “Kick It Around” and “I’ll Walk Away,” are pure, popping soul, punctuated by Hunter’s bluesy guitar licks (he actually played on some of Van Morrison’s albums) and wrapped up in warm saxophones.

The album was cut live in the studio, but the CD doesn’t come close to capturing the energy of Hunter’s live shows. A consummate performer, Hunter goes all-out at his gigs, hammering away on his vintage gear in front of some backup dancers and moving the audience to do the Twist or the Mashed Potato or whatever other dances folks were doing back in the day at Sock Hops.

Take a look at this slide show to relive Hunter’s performance at the Rhythm Room on Tuesday, September 11.

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