Whatever It Takes (Daptone)
James Hunter remains the epitome of old-school in his unerring dedication to blue-eyed, British soul. Over the relatively short course of seven releases, he’s skirted ’50s R&B, early rock’n’roll and the retro soul of his upbringing.
His tireless regimen of constant touring works to perfect the material he champions while his band’s masterful technique leaves nothing to chance in his pursuit of authentic groove. Faithfully recorded in mono, this true-to-form dynamo was knighted “the U.K.’s Greatest Soul Singer” by Mojo in 2016—an honour richly deserved—and he’s done everything but rest on his laurels.
This well-oiled soul machine features a leader whose love for life is revealed through his approach to the music he loves. Recently remarried, Whatever It Takes is as much a love letter to his wife as it is deep tribute to the sounds that got him there.
His stand-out vocals and less-is-more guitar playing take more of a front seat than usual, it seems—his energy buoyed by his skin-tight horn section atop a crack rhythm section that adds spring to his every step.
All 10 tracks are Hunter originals, mirroring the strengths of his heroes—Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Brooke Benton, and others. Look to the ‘Six’ for newfound heroes as the chemistry between his bandmates: keyboards, drums, bass, and double-sax (Les Badau, baritone; Damian Hand, tenor) is other-worldly under their leader’s direction and their long gestation together. The background vocals of Alex Désert, Gregory Lee, and Malik Moore serve Hunter’s suave, croon-like extended family.
Clocking in at a mere 28 minutes total, you’ll find yourself so immersed in this heady brew you won’t know what time it is. Few bands can accomplish magic like this.