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James HunterJames Hunter, Kick It Around (Ruf Records) - James Hunter is a British import who does a serious turn on early 60s Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers. The result is Kick It Around, a retro release if ever there was one.

In fact, Kick It Around sounds like it could have been recorded 35 years ago. Dig the James Brown instrumental turn on "Night Bus." Kick It Around was recorded during a five-day session, and includes James Hunter on vocals and guitar, Damian Hand on tenor sax, Nick Lunt on baritone sax, Dave Lagnado on double bass, and Preston Prince on drums.

It's interesting to find the Englishman Hunter recording classic American soul for a German record label (Ruf). The Continent respects some of our roots traditions better than we do Stateside; witness Willy DeVille's awesome Backstreets Of Desire, released on the French Fnac label.

James HunterIn 1993, Hunter played "The Big Bopper" in the musical Buddy. In addition to his acting talents, Hunter appears on the Van Morrison live album, A Night In San Francisco (1994) and the 1995 studio release, Days Like This (in which he is credited as "James Huntsman").

Hunter recalls his roots: "Then I'd read the back of an LP by Chuck Barry about John Lee Hooker or Muddy Waters, and I'd think, 'Who's this?' and get into that. So in my early 20s I was getting into Chicago blues. I bypassed some of the more deep, depressing stuff and got into lighter things like Little Walter - he had a lighter, jazzy feel and it swung better."

From tracks like "It's Easy To Say," to "Strange But True," Hunter shows a drop-dead Sam Cooke style. Retro rockers will look for Kick It Around.

- Randy Krbechek © 2001

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