ON JAMES HUNTER’S last album, 2013’s Minute By Minute, the Essex-born blues and soul man shook things up, recording for the first time with Daptone label owner, producer and Dap-Kings’ bassist Gabe Roth in his Penrose Recorders Studio.
The result was impressive, and so for its follow-up, Roth is back on production duties but is now also Hunter’s label boss (Hunter is the first UK artist to sign to the Brooklyn-based Daptone, alongside US soul singers Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley).
Clocking in at just over half an hour and recorded in mono, Hold On! packs a punch with 10 self-authored tracks that frame Hunter’s expressive voice, reminiscent at times of Sam Cooke, with R&B rhythms tightly executed by The Six – drummer Jonathan Lee, saxophonists Lee Badau and Damian Hand, pianist, organist and percussionist Andrew Kingslow and bassist Jason Wilson.
Hunter’s guitar is a driving force, his solos and flamboyant licks recalling T-Bone Walker and The 5 Royales’ Lowman Pauling. Standouts include Free Your Mind (While You Still Got Time), which pins an anti-religious message to a thumping boogaloo beat. Meanwhile, the snappy arrangements of uptempo numbers such as If That Don’t Tell You, (Baby) Hold On and Stranded, with its stomping Motown beat, conjure the infectious energy of Hunter’s live performances. That he’s not more celebrated in the UK is unfathomable.