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England's James Hunter reinvents vintage American R&B at the Dakota

Posted by: Jon Bream under Music Updated: April 25, 2012 - 3:16 AM

A few thoughts on British retro soul man James Hunter’s return engagement at the Dakota Jazz Club this week:

* He is certainly schooled in American R&B of the 1950s and ’60s but he creates his own modern-day version of it.

* His five-man band is tight and talented. The two saxophonists got plenty of solos during Tuesdays’ 85-minute set. How bout more solos for the B3 organ player?

* Hunter can shine on guitar but he doesn’t take enough solos — and they’re all pretty concise.

* The singer sparkles whenever he does material by the 5 Royales. Highlight: "Baby, I’m Doing It."

* Hunter loves him some James Brown, though he didn’t cover any Brown songs.

* Vocally, Sam Cooke may be Hunter’s strongest influence. But, after some Canadian gigs, his voice sounded all raunched out Tuesday. Let’s hope it’s something temporary and not nodes.

* Hunter, who hasn’t released an album of new material since 2008, did a couple of new numbers. "Chicken Switch" was Wilson Pickett-meets-James Brown southern funk. "Gold Mine" felt like Brown on the boardwalk.

* Hunter dedicated two consecutive songs to "the missus." He didn’t mention that she died of cancer in October.

* Hunter, 48, looks like he could be John Mellencamp’s kid brother.

Hunter performs again at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Dakota. Boston soul man Jesse Dee opens.

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