“An overnight success that’s taken 20 years...”
That’s how James Hunter describes the outpouring of praise and acceptance for his 2006 album, People Gonna Talk. Issued in March 2006 on GO Records/Rounder, the Grammy-nominated People Gonna Talk was the singer/songwriter/guitarist’s first Stateside release after two decades of performing and recording in his native Britain.
In support of his album, James and his skin-tight band performed everywhere from hole-in-the-wall clubs to the Hollywood Bowl; they headlined in smaller venues and supported the likes of Aretha Franklin, Los Lonely Boys, Boz Scaggs, and Van Morrison in larger ones. The mellifluous R&B of People Gonna Talk, with its affectionate echoes of Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson, became an airplay staple on some of the nation’s most influential radio stations. The Los Angeles Times praised James Hunter’s “extraordinary soul voice”; Rolling Stone called his album “a treat not to miss.”
By the year’s end, People Gonna Talk was among the Top Ten “Best Albums of 2006” as cited by Mojo, USA Today pop critic Ken Barnes, and the WFUV/New York listeners’ poll, to name a few. People Gonna Talk was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Tradi¬tional Blues Album and James himself was nominated as Best New/Emerging Artist in the annual Americana Music Awards.
No wonder James Hunter’s second U.S. album, The Hard Way (due out on Hear Music in June 2008), is among this year’s most eagerly anticipated new releases. In terms of both inspiration and quotation, James has taken much from the musical pastas he will be the first to admit. But it’s his own infectious sound and inventive songwriting, blessedly free of slavish mimicry or retrograde nostalgia, that today’s audiences are responding to.