Europeans often display greater appreciation for American soul and blues than does the average U.S. citizen. Yet English singer-songwriter James Hunter takes his love of these genres to startling extremes, channeling the sound and style of vintage R&B in a manner that transcends mere imitation. The Hard Way, his new disc on the Hear Music imprint, is a joyous act of fealty to the forms, from the spot-on production style and snapping grooves to jagged guitar runs and vocals so authentic-sounding that it's hard to believe he grew up in Colchester, Essex, not Clarksdale, Mississippi. The delight Hunter takes in rendering ditties such as "Don't Do Me No Favours" (note the British spelling) helps explain why so many domestic artists have embraced him; he appears at the first two dates above with Chris Isaak before joining George Thorogood & the Destroyers and Buddy Guy at the third. No import ever seemed more homegrown.
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