James Hunter - The Hard Way (Hear Music, 2008)
James Hunter is a British soul and blues musician who has been knocking around for a while (originally as bluesman "Howling Wilf!") before really hitting his stride with a mix of strong R&B and weak string laden ballads. When the strings back off and the tempos ramp up, he knocks out a couple of real winners like the boogie piano fueled "Believe Me Baby" which mines a rock solid "What I'd Say" groove to excellent effect, and the roadhouse rocker "Don't Do Me No Favors" which has some snarling electric guitar to wake things up a little. While this disc will primarily be marketed to and appeal to the latte sipping crowd on the Starbucks affiliated label Hear Music, there's just enough grit and dirt under the fingernails to appeal to fans of old school R&B heroes like Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and Van Morrison. Recommended with reservations. We need less string burdened ballads and more gritty music that puts the blues in rhythm and blues. If Hunter can accomplish that, he'll really be onto something.
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