BY HAL BIENSTOCK
When James Hunter released his first solo album in 2006, he seemed to have perfect timing, putting out a retro-soul album right as Amy Winehouse was taking the sound worldwide. Seven years later, Winehouse is a symbol of lost potential, while Hunter is releasing some of the best music of his career.
Produced by Daptone Records co-founder (and Winehouse engineer) Gabriel Roth, Minute By Minute crackles with energy from the first chords of opener “Chicken Switch.” Like many retro-soul musicians, Hunter isn’t breaking much new ground, but he has mastered the difficult art of writing simple songs that sound like they’ve been around forever. You could stage a carnival game in which you blindfold someone and ask them to guess the year of the danceable “One Way Love” or closing ballad “If I Only Knew,” and you’d wind up printing money.
At the age of 50, Hunter has seen it all, from performing alongside Van Morrison and Aretha Franklin to busking in the subways. He came out the other side with a hard-won wisdom, emotion and sense of craft that, like soul music, never goes out of style.
DOWNLOAD: “One Way Love” “If I Only Knew”