© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

James Hunter Delves Into '60s Soul

On his new album, The Hard Way, British singer and guitarist James Hunter delves deep into retro-sounding soul and R&B, creating songs that sound like they could have been played a long time ago.

Channeling the influence, and perhaps even some of the spirit, of old songs by Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and Van Morrison, Hunter found success (and a Grammy nomination) with his 2006 album People Gonna Talk. While on tour in Austin, Texas, Hunter recently spoke to Weekend Edition Sunday's Liane Hansen about his music and how he came to discover his love for soul.

Hunter says it was his "permanently borrowed" grandparents' collection of 78s that first started him off on discovering the music of the past. He says he was attracted to it, in part, because "it was a bit simpler and more direct. When I was starting to grow up, I think what was prevalent — at least what my brother was listening to — was what was laughingly called progressive rock, and that's when I decided that my tastes were rather more retrogressive."

Permeating the songs is Hunter's distinctive, smoky voice, which he says he didn't find until his 30s. His songwriting, Hunter says, took him longer to master. He turned to not only the music but also the lyrics of artists such as Cooke.

"As writers, there are people like Sam Cooke, who certainly had a concept," Hunter says. "In a literary sense, Sam Cooke was one of the few that really was a writer. Of course, when I was growing up, I got different stuff to say from what he has — I have to write from a more general perspective. I could never have written 'A Change Is Gonna Come,' because that really is a black man's song. It would sound a bit phony for me to try to write something with that exact point of view."

As with Cooke's work, Hunter's songs are often inspired by his youth: They pull from relationships in his own life, but they aren't necessarily true stories. "They're real names, but fictitious stories," Hunter says. "I think they're the opposite of what most novelists do. They protect the guilty with pseudonyms, but I do real names but make the whole story up. I'll probably have a few court cases coming up."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.