People Gonna Talk

James Hunter. <i> Rounder/Go.</i>

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It may be star time for James Hunter, whose irresistible third album brings a new sparkle to dusty old styles. A protégé of Van Morrison, with whom he’s shared stages and studios, this affable Briton is a hardcore R&B junkie, yet you don’t need to be an expert on Jackie Wilson or Georgie Fame to feel his smoldering love songs. While Hunter’s crisp grooves offer everything from rubbery ska rhythms to swinging shuffles to chunky, James Brown-inspired raveups, his voice is the main attraction. Like John Hiatt, an equally commanding singer from a different neighborhood, Hunter is a master of controlled intensity, hinting at volcanic reserves of emotion even when crooning in a mellow mode. Playing off his fine band, which features swift drummer Jonathan Lee and a pair of passionate saxophonists, he sounds as though he’s thoroughly enjoying himself.

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