CD Review - James Hunter Six "Minute by Minute"

One of Britain’s finest guitar players re-defines Rhythm and Blues for the cognoscenti

I first saw James Hunter thirty something years ago in a sweaty cellar when he was performing under the name Howlin’ Wilf and the Veejays I’ve been a die-hard fan ever since.

Hunter famously spent a few years as Van Morrison’s #1 guitar player but that was never going to be a long term career path for a songwriter of his repute and now; on his 8th album he just might have released his finest album to date. It could be argued that the singer sticks to a well worn formula; but that would be unfair; although he never strays too far from the classic R&B template made famous by Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett or even the Five Royals in the dim and distant past.

Never the most prolific of recording artists; this is James Hunter’s first album in five years and MINUTE BY MINUTE gets off to a rip roaring start with Chicken Switch that features some pretty funky guitar and saxophone interplay before the Essex songster lets us know that it’s sometimes ok to stop, and retreat when the going gets tough.

The title track, Minute by Minute has Kyle Koehler’s Hammond cutting through Badau and Hand’s sax’s on a slowish Blues that takes us as low and even ‘dirty’ as Hunter has ever got and boy; do the band sound like they’re enjoying themselves.

Apart from Koehler on organ the other four members of Hunter’s band have been with him for a lot of years and the second sight that this brings can be heard on every track.

One Way Love has a very 60’s Soul-Party feel to it; and that’s probably ace Daptone Record’s Producer Gabriel Roth’s signature coming to the fore and it just could be the song to get the James Hunter Six some serious airplay.
Although he spends a lot of time in the USA these days, this is the first album that Hunter has ever recorded there and Roth has carefully managed to capture the British ‘sharpness’ that the band are famous for, but effortlessly add in a archetypal US Soul sound that creates an unexpected but delightful groove from start to finish.

From the very first time I heard this album my stand out track has been The Gipsy which has a slight Caribbean beat to it; with Hunter’s voice dropping down the register to deliver one of his best ever vocal performances.

The album ends with a beautiful ballad; If I only Knew, that would have done Sam Cooke proud when he was in his heyday.

As existing fans will know the vast majority of songs here are about women in one form or another as the songwriter rings every emotion out of the listener with the greatest of ease and leaves us in no doubt that the world is a better place for having them in it.

What I like best about James Hunter’s albums is the way he uses the classic Rhythm and Blues formula but adds his own flashes of guitar and slides in the two saxophones, organ, double-bass and drums in an unspectacular, but very modern manner to create a timeless sound that will appeal to music fans and casual listeners in equal measures.

Released USA February 26th 2013
Released Worldwide March 25th 2013

Views: 991

Tags: Blues, Daptone, James Hunter Six, R&B, Rhythm and Blues

Comment by Jack on February 20, 2013 at 12:52pm

Very nice write up, Alan. Was unaware of his history with Van Morrison, but the pairing makes perfect sense.  I first saw James during the People Gonna Talk tour, then again a few years later.  I would agree with you that he does not stray from his milieu, but he certainly does interesting work within it.  A great live performer. 

Comment by Joseph May on February 21, 2013 at 2:52pm

  Saw James and his band at the Ark about 3 years ago and it was one of my all time favorite shows. Ended it with a killer version of "All Through Cryin' that 3 minute intro the sax and his pipes still give me goose-bumps just thinkin' of it. Can't wait to get this cd and yea Alan you hit it on the head as I've often compared some of his slow ballads to a Sam Cooke sound also. This guy would have been a major star back in the good old days with the radio play he deserves.  

Comment by Steve Ford on February 26, 2013 at 2:48am

Best blue-eyed soul voice from England since Dusty Springfield. Thanks for the heads up on the new CD, Alan.

Comment by Jack Kidd on March 1, 2013 at 9:53am

You've hit the nail on the head here Al. On just one listening, so far, I love Minute by Minute. Five years has been too long a gap, but perhaps understandable, considering the tragic loss James suffered when his wife Jacqueline sadly passed away.  But, you can't keep a good man down and his take on early 1960's R&B is both infectious and authentic. Being able to make his voice sound like a cross between Sam Cooke, James Brown, Marvin Gaye & Clyde McPhatter and then add his own mark to a remarkable, soulful, vocal delivery is what has made "Wilf" stand out for years now.  His guitar playing is also not too shabby and the core of his band have remained extremely loyal, wherever the gigs. So, me for one, genuinely hopes that Minute by Minute becomes the resounding success that James deserves. Now I need to listen a couple more times to decide which are my favorite tracks.


You need to be a member of No Depression Americana and Roots Music to add comments!

Join No Depression Americana and Roots Music


If you enjoy this site please consider helping us with a small donation!

Don't like PayPal? Mail a check to: No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108

When you shop at Amazon please enter through this search box and No Depression receives a referral fee



Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.