James Hunter has certainly paid his dues. Over the span of 30 years, he’s worked on the railway, busked in the streets of London, provided backup vocals and guitar for Van Morrison, played clubs and theatres all over the world, written scores of original songs, and recorded some of the most original and honest rhythm & soul albums of the last two decades. By 2006, Hunter was recognized with nominations for a GRAMMY® Award (“Best Traditional Blues Album” for People Gonna Talk (Rounder)) and an American Music Award (“Best New/Emerging Artist”). He and his band then hit the road for a decade of extensive touring and recorded three additional critically-acclaimed studio albums— The Hard Way (Concord), Minute by Minute (Concord) and Hold On! (Daptone). By 2016, MOJO magazine had crowned him “The United Kingdom’s Greatest Soul Singer.”
On February 2, 2018, renowned soul label Daptone Records will release James Hunter’s most ambitious album to date, Whatever It Takes, offering ten new and original songs written by Hunter and recorded live to 8-track tape by Daptone's two-time GRAMMY® Award-winning Gabriel Roth.
At age 16, Hunter left school in Colchester, Essex and began working for the railway, while honing his blues guitar and singing skills. Six years later, he played his first paid gig at the Colchester Labour club (as “Howlin’ Wilf and the Vee-Jays”). In the decades since, James Hunter has gone from singer/songwriter to labourer and back again. After releasing one album in 1986, Hunter and his band became a popular fixture on the UK club circuit and radio waves. His gritty, soulful voice has matured well along with his musicianship and song writing.
In the early 90’s, Van Morrison recruited Hunter to sing backup on the road touring and on two albums, A Night in San Francisco and Day's Like This. In the years to follow, Hunter opened shows for Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Willie Nelson, and Tom Petty, and headlined clubs and theatres in England, Europe, Australia and the United States.
Throughout his celebrated career, Hunter has remained true not only to his musical roots, but to his loyal bandmates—the newest of which joined him over 20 years ago. As always, he steps into the studio as one of the irreplaceable "The James Hunter Six": Jonathan Lee, drums; Lee Badau, baritone saxophone; Damian Hand, tenor saxophone; Andrew Kingslow, keyboards/percussion; and Jason Wilson, bass.
Hunter’s latest album, Whatever It Takes, was inspired in part by his new wife, Jessie. Originally from New Jersey, Jessie met James when – after hearing him on the radio – she turned up at a show in New York City. A year later, they were married in New Orleans and now live in Brighton on the south coast of England. James dedicates three songs in particular to Jessie: “I Don’t Wanna Be Without You,” “I Got Eyes,” and “Whatever It Takes”—a song written to cheer her up during a rather grueling application process for UK residency.
Whatever It Takes is The James Hunter Six’s third album working with Roth (AKA Bosco Mann,) who has long been a fan of Hunter's songwriting and appreciates his voice “not only for its natural beauty and grit, but for its honesty.” And Hunter, an equally uncompromising stickler when it comes to his music, notes that, “it’s a rare thing when a producer knows what you’re going for before you’ve told him. It’s good to be associated with a record company that ‘gets’ us.”
Greyhounds are the Austin trio of Anthony Farrell (vocals, keyboards), Andrew Trube (vocals and guitar) and Ed Miles (drums). Many music fans remember Farrell and Trube as key members of JJ Grey's band MOFRO for many years. After parting with Grey in 2016 to focus full-time on Greyhounds, the band has only left the road to record and release two full-length records.’
In 2016, while recording at Sun Studios for the PBS series "Sun Studio Sessions", Greyhounds met Memphis native and acclaimed engineer, Matt Ross-Spang. Soon afterwards, Matt moved his operation to the newly refurbished Sam Phillips Recording studio. Greyhounds were familiar with the studio, and its deep history, and had always wanted to record there. It is the type of space that transports you to another era; the perfect place to make the type of record Greyhounds were interested in making: a less produced, and more spontaneous style of recording, all straight to tape like many of the classic music that was made there in its heyday. And Ross-Spang, is the perfect engineer, steeped as he is in the old school style of making records.
Pulling from 17 years of songwriting, Trube and Farrell had plenty of material to choose from. "It was a chance to look back at some of our favorite tunes that we had never recorded" says Trube. Because there were only 3 days in which to record and mix the record, Greyhounds knew they would have to be ready to perform these songs seamlessly, just like they would at a live show. "When recording to tape you have to make commitments. It is a lesson in letting go and not getting hung up on things. Its liberating."
13 songs were recorded and mixed over the course of those three days. There were special guest appearances from some of their good Tennessee friends Dante Schwebel, Will Sexton, Amy LaVere, and Art Edmaiston. "When you are going at that pace, you don't get a lot of time to second guess yourself. You learn to trust your instincts and be more present in the moment." says Farrell of the breakneck pace of recording.
Cheyenne Valley Drive is a product of a band at the height of their game, making music in a studio that has been virtually untouched by time, recording in the style that many of their musical heroes used. Basically a dream come true. A dream they want to share with you.