James Hunter
happened to have a trio gig at The Fridge Bar in Brixton. So that's where we met for the first time in '98. Not exactly the regular R&B circuit but more of a youthful bar, the speakers providing a loud mixture of modern jazz, reggae and dance stuff. Big Joe Louis introduced us to him.

The trio opened up with "A Lover's Question" (a bit of a culture shock for the kids more likely, James said later), continuing with "Hallelujah I Love Her So", then a Johnny Burnette song, an early James Brown vehicle... All delivered with an impish enthusiasm. That voice just killed me. Sam Cooke lived! Great backup too with Jason Wilson on standup bass - I do not remember the drummer's name.

I had heard James sing on stage before back in the 80's at the Dublin Castle pub in London. At that time he was leading a 50's style R&B outfit called Howlin' Wilf & The Vee-Jays. Playing Chicago blues of course, but often a bit tongue-in-cheek. The lead guitarist was NOT James incidentally - it was a girl named Dot.

James was a great vocalist then, sure, but since then he had refined the whole approach. His talents as a soul singer had developed immensely, and the ACE album he released in '96 (featuring two duets with his longtime friend Van Morrison) proved once and for all that he, himself, was a true ace in the British R&B deck of cards.

We met again - and again. James is excellent company, entertaining you with weird stories from the world of music - or by sitting on his bed, singing his latest songwriting effort accompanying himself on his unplugged Les Paul. Strange thing is: in that setting he still sounds exactly like on his records. That voice - how does he do it?