A permanent fixture in the world of rhythm and soul, James Hunter follows up five critically acclaimed albums with his latest recording, Whatever It Takes, for New York City's renowned label, Daptone Records. At the height of his famed recording career, Hunter and Daptone co-founder and producer Bosco Mann recorded an elegantly crafted collection of 10 originals that are evermore poignant and compelling than the singer's previous works. The James Hunter Six and Mann recorded Whatever It Takes straight to tape at Daptone's Penrose Studios in Riverside, CA.
The needle drops on "I Don't Wanna Be Without You" with saxophones grabbing your collar, pulling you close and moving you over the undulating curves of a rhumba. The mood and tempo then climb up into the swaggering backbeat of the title track. Drums then tear into the bottom of the groove with the full-throated rapture of "I Got Eyes." Hunter is egged on by complicit background singers here and there. They ease in and out of Whatever It Takes, serving harmonies like tuxedoed waiters in an expensive restaurant, offering perfect pairings for each melodic course.
"Mm-Hmm," suddenly a tender mood hits. Verses of regret cascade in delicate shapes over dancing rhythms. A word-less chorus paints a painfully detailed picture of misfortune with an eloquently barren hum. Then, a bang. "Blisters," an instrumental cigarette before you have to get up and turn the record over. Hunter's guitar work is fearless like a buck knife carving initials into the knobby bark of a Freddy King shuffle. "I Should've Spoke Up" comes pitter-patting down a rain-soaked sidewalk, lost in sweet, soft, sentimental regret. Then come the talkings-to. "Show Her," with ostinato bass, drums and organ scrawling "actions speak louder" dutifully on the chalkboard behind Hunter's lessons.
The frenetic tutorial of "Don't Let Pride Take You for a Ride" practically tears itself apart in its final cautionary refrains. "How Long" is a yarn spun out on a porch with its gospel harmonies and foot stomping. And stepping out just as he stepped in, "It Was Gonna Be You," an affectionate simplicity and sincerity that defies the quirkiness of the tim-tom clockwork over which it's delivered.