I don’t give a fuck who you are, but when a good soul record comes on, something inside you melts like butter inside a heaping pile of hot mashed potatoes. There’s an unspeakable satisfaction to soul music. I would willingly give up a leg, or any appendage, to sing like Sam Cooke. I wouldn’t give up my left pinky toe, let alone let someone take a look at it, to sing like Steven Tyler or AC/DC. There’s a very obvious reason for this. The problem with making a soul album now of days is that it’s incredibly difficult to do. You either have to make a whole new sound or you’re competing with the likes of Ray Charles, Issac Hayes, James Brown, Al Green, and Aretha Franklin. And honestly … good fucking luck.
Thank God that James Hunter isn’t competing. He’s carved out his own sound and he’s been unapologetically carving since the ’80s. He’s got this craft so honed that, from the first snare shot, the first single sound on the album, I know it’s a soul record. That’s fucking impressive. But I can’t blame this on James Hunter: that’s Bosco Mann’s (the producer) handiwork. This shit was recorded on an eight-track audiotape and transferred onto a disk. That’s some old school motherfucking shit. And the sound pays off in spades. Back in the day, James Hunter’s sound drew in the ear of Van Morrison. So now Van the man is on this motherfucker’s first album “Believe What I say”. They toured together in the ’90s as well. And, in 2006, James Hunter won a Grammy from best traditional Blues album. He’s opened for Tom Petty, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, and Willie Nelson. This dude has nothing to prove. Arguably, he’s the UK’s greatest soul singer.
On this album, James deals with the subject of love, as any Soul record should. Difference here is that James met a gall named Jesse a little while ago and got hitched. She’s the inspiration for most of these songs. I don’t know why, but when an album is personal there’s some type of air that you just can’t fake. There’s something in James’s dirty and cracky falsetto that has a tenderness to it. But, on top of this, James is just a fucking pro. The interplay between the instruments can only be made from years of practice and knowhow; the horns, organ, guitar, percussion, are all placed perfectly.
There’s a new span of modern soul records coming from people like Charles Bradley, Michael Kiwanuka, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, and Curtis Harding. The difference here is the authenticity of James’s message, the complete professionalism and understanding of instrumentation and arrangements for soul, and this motherfucking production work. It just throws this album on top of so many other attempts at making a soul album. It’s honest, it’s real, and an ear can pick up that shit. There’s no con here, it’s just authentic soul being sung by a man in love. And in days such as these, it’s exactly what I wanted to hear.