With four full length albums and a few EPs already under his belt, Alderney born bluesman Robert J. Hunter has taken the slightly unconventional (for an independent artist at least) step of releasing a live album, capturing his and his band’s live set as it stands in the summer of 2018.
Recorded at The Flying Circus in Newark, something of a regular haunt for the trio these days, it’s clear from the snippets of audience reaction we hear that the band are a favourite in the venue and this is well captured in the energetic and powerful performance.
The focus here is more on Hunter’s more full-bodied power blues style than his more acoustic side, as one might expect, with tracks spanning his time as a musician but the scene is set with an opening shout of ‘Say What!?’ and a trio of songs (Loving Unfortunately, Rumour Mill and Mr Winter) that get things rocking and rolling while still clearly being firmly based in the blues tradition.
The sound produced is astonishingly close to that heard on the band’s records with rhythm section of James Le Huray (bass) and Greg Sheffield (drums) as tight as your likely to find, allowing Hunter’s vocals and guitar work to stand above, though when called on it’s clear both Le Huray and Sheffield can hold their own too.
As well as development and embellishment on the studio versions of the songs, that show Hunter using both his voice and guitar work in a way that feels neither contrived nor indulgent but shows off his skills while continuing the feel and story of the songs, his personality also comes across and is infectiously enthusiastic in his brief and to the point between song moments.
The middle section of the album allows room for the bands more soulful, but none the less powerful, blues side to come out combining modern concerns with classic blues styles particularly on Every Heart Has A Home, When The Winter Comes and The Fool.
The main set is then round dead off by a couple of Hunter’s longer standing songs, Flaws and Hurricane which sound more powerful than ever here before an encore of They Think That I’m Fine closes the set, and the record, in rousing style.
Live albums can, as I’m sure I’ve said before, be a strange beast that often miss the mark or feel like filler between new records.
Say What? though is not one of those as it captures the band at their current height excellently while making it clear that if you see them in the flesh you’ll get even more out of it.
Added to this is that the recorded sound is excellent, again something contrary to the tradition of smaller bands putting out live albums that, for likely technological reasons, are often less than impressive.
So, if you haven’t caught Robert J. Hunter and his band live yet, have a listen to this and I’m pretty sure they’ll soon be high on your list of bands to seek out.
This one isn’t from the same show, but a taste of The Robert J. Hunter Band live: