The James Hunter Six - Nick Of Time

The James Hunter Six - Nick Of Time

Recently Retro Reviews: The James Hunter Six - Nick Of Time 

Daptone DAP 061

Release Year: 2020

I have a question. How often do you come across an album that keeps you engaged from start to finish? Besides the obvious choices like Dark Side of the Moon or Abbey Road… something new to your ears that resonates with you unexpectedly. Completely. It happens for me from time to time… ok, rarely, but two records that come to mind for this scenario are Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock and Raphael Saadiq’s The Way I See It… except for the version of “Oh Girl” with Jay Z guest-rapping at the end of side two. Carter really fucked up a perfect song with his uninspired contribution. I feel the same way about the Amy Winehouse “You Know I’m No Good" remix with Ghostface Killah at the end of the US version of Back To Black. It just doesn’t belong on the song or the album. Anywho, the point is this reaction I’m having to JH6’s Nick Of Time doesn’t happen often for me, but when it does, it does.

I’m hopeful that you are new to The James Hunter Six, too. Well, let me rephrase that, because I would love it if it were just me late to the party for the band’s sake. It’s a little selfish, but if you were new to them as well, then there's a chance you might feel the same emotional responses to the music that I did upon first listen… something we can share more than just the hair on our arms standing on end. For example, there were moments that brilliantly nodded to two of my favorite 60s soul songs: Billy Stewart’s “Sitting In The Park” and Barbara Lewis’s “Hello Stranger”. Those two moments were in the same song! That’s track #4 on side one… “Never”. I also have to give props to Rudy Albin for adding the Uriel Jones Motown fill. It’s a great fit for that song. Hooks me in every time.

I waited and waited for something… anything that could be considered filler. Kinda like they did in the 60s if you had a hit single and the label A&R needed you and your band to record as many songs as you can to make an LP… for money’s sake. There’s usually one (at least) on every non-conceptualized full-length LP, and I’m not talking about the band having a little instrumental workout track buried at the end of side two. More like “you’ve got 2 days to learn these cover songs we picked for you cuz all the time we’ve set aside for you in studio B is three-and-a-half hours this Thursday at 2:30AM.” You get the picture. That is not this record.

Why did this end up in a sale bin? My first guess is it was lost in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, when tours and promotions ended abruptly in 2020. Or, maybe it was the hard-dinged top left corner of the cover, but still… how? Also, how did I miss this? This man? This band? James Hunter is the deal, and so is his combo. They’re part Atlantic house band behind Ray Charles in 1959, part RCA house band behind Sam Cooke in 1962, and part Chess house band behind Billy Stewart in 1965. And Hunter? He’s the embodiment of all three superstars fronting those hit-machines, yet he is his own man with his own sound. All of his other albums have missed my ears over the years as well… and I love Daptone. I’ve been buying records Gabriel Roth has had a hand in for decades now. I’m crazy about The Budos Band, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Lee Fields, The Daktaris, Charles Bradley… you get it. But, this group got by me. Thankfully, that has been remedied. I will be getting their other records. Soon.

I’ll leave you with this. I bought this LP. I write this on my own accord with no affiliations. This enthusiasm of mine is genuine as is my admiration of these musicians. The pocket they fill can be heard and felt. This record grooves. It swings. It’s just criminal… criminal that I basically stole Nick Of Time off the shelf for the paltry sum I won't even utter. I mean, I’m on a proverbial tightrope teetering between bragging about my score or not saying anything at all. It doesn’t matter. I’m writing this, so you know what side of the rope I fell off of. In essence, I feel this music in the most positive of ways. I’m not bullshitting in the least when I say it’s good listening. Really good. 



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